Updated: May 26, 2020
No, please, don't ask me this.
Everyone asks you this when they discover you don't eat meat - I think they are only concerned for you but you could confidently reply -
“Plants! The same place your protein gets theirs!”
- because when you eat meat you're simply eating the protein that the animal ate, but second-hand.
Proteins play an important role in the body, forming the basis of your muscles, hair, nails and the connective tissue that holds your body together. They are also required for the synthesis of various metabolic products, including neurotransmitters, thyroid hormones, haem (found in red blood cells), and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). DNA and RNA determine the inherited characteristics of every living thing and play an important role in protein synthesis.
Let's start with how much protein you actually need - that is all people, not just vegans. The British Nutrition Foundation states 'The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) is set at 0.75g of protein per kilogram body weight per day in adults. This equates to approximately 56g/day and 45g/day for men and women aged 19-50 years respectively. There is an extra requirement for growth in infants and children and for pregnant and breastfeeding women.'
Sources of Protein from Plants
Quinoa - 1 cup of cooked quinoa provides 8g of protein
Brussel Sprouts - 1/2 cup = 2g protein
Tofu - 100g = 8.1g protein
Pumpkin seeds - 28g = 5g protein
Tempeh (fermented soya beans) - 100g = 19g protein
Chickpeas - 1/2 cup = 19g protein
Brocoli - 1 cup = 3g protein
Lentils - 1 cup cooked = 18g protein
Mushrooms - 1/2 cup = 1.1g protein
Almonds - 28g = 6g protein
Oats - 1/2 cup of oats - 13g protein
A sample vegan day's menu could look something like (approximate amount of protein in brackets):
Breakfast: Porridge (13g) with pumpkin seeds(5g), cinnamon, apple plus fortified oat milk
Lunch: Black bean veggie burger(12g), steamed broccoli(3g)and sweet potato wedges(2g)
Dinner: Mushroom lentil loaf(12g) with cauliflower(1g) and green beans(1.8g)
Snack: pistachios(6g), oat energy ball(5g), walnuts(4g)
This would provide around 64g of protein and there is nothing particularly unusual about any of the food eaten.
Most people consume more protein than they can process, from meat, eggs and dairy sources. Taking in excess animal protein can actually be toxic to your body as it can overtax your liver. Organic acids that come from animal proteins have to be disposed of by the liver whereas the proteins from plants do not need to be processed in the same way.
Plant proteins can do a better job of meeting your protein needs than animal products, both because they are less concentrated sources of protein (making it less likely that you’ll get too much) and because they are more likely to be present with other nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and healthy fats.
It can be easy to get enough protein on a vegan diet! If you are on the fence about trying a vegan diet, don’t be scared off by talks of “lack of protein”. It’s all about getting enough food in your body and making sure you are focusing on a variety of whole-food nutrition.
More soon xx