Lots of people worry about getting enough protein on a vegan diet but there's really no need! A vegan diet provides a plentiful array of protein. Indeed, there are many sports people enjoying the benfits of a vegan diet who certainly don't suffer from a protein deficiency. They range from body builders to ultra marathon runners, tennis players, football players and everything in between!
Although protein is vital for our survival, we don’t need as much as is commonly believed. Recommended amounts have more than halved in the past 20 or so years and in fact, several chronic diseases have been linked to eating too much animal protein. The good news is that plant protein is much more gentle on our bodies.
So how much?
The average adult needs to consume between 45 and 55.5 grams of protein per day (COMA, 1991).
In fact, most Westerners eat far more protein than they need. According to leading health bodies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), we only need about eight per cent of our energy (calories) from protein (Hegsted, 1968; Irwin and Hegsted,1975; Scrimshaw, 1976; COMA, 1991). Even this value includes a large safety margin, so most people’s real needs are even lower.
Put simply, you practically have to be starving to be protein deficient!
It is also important to remember that you don't need one 'big fix' of protein, as is the case with meat-eaters and there is no 'magic bullet' in animal protein. Neither does all your protein intake need to come from a 'complete protein' such as soya. Most foods contain protein to some extent, including pulses - peas, beans and lentils - wheat, nuts and seeds, green vegetables and many other things. So a well-balanced plant-based diet is more than adequate. There is no need to food combine at meals either - if you eat a wide enough range of foods in a twenty-four hour period, your clever body puts all the building blocks of protein together for you!
- For a useful chart and a bit more detail and science, click on our link Where do you get your protein
- For a comparison of the protein in meat products and vegan products click on this What's meat and where else can I get protein
Here are some super easy ways to get your recommended daily amount of protein when you're out and about!
- Beans: baked beans or bean salad
- Black beans (tinned for convenience): Add to a salad or soup for an extra dose of protein!
- Breakfast cereals (muesli, Ready Brek, Shredded Wheat, Weetabix)
- Chia seeds: Soak them in soya milk for 20 minutes for the ultimate protein hit. You can also add them to smoothies, cereal or soak in water for 20 minutes and drink!
- Chickpeas (falafel or add chickpeas to other lunch option/salad)
- Edamame beans
- Hemp seeds
- Lentils: dahl or lentil salad
- Mockmeats e.g. sandwich slices
- Peanut (or other nut/seed) butter
- Protein bars: Bounce Vegan Energy Balls/Trek Protein Flapjacks/Pulsin Protein Booster/Nakd Protein Crunch/ Clif Bars
- Quinoa (ready to eat)
- Soya milk
- Spinach: If you cook spinach, you'll be able to eat more because it wilts, therefore giving you more protein!
- Sunflower and pumpkin seeds: Add them to salads, soups, toast or just have them as a midday snack!
- Tahini: Add a layer of tahini to your toast with avocado or have it with toast, maple syrup and cinnamon!
- Tofu (pre-marinated and ready to eat): Available in nearly all independent health food shops and some supermarkets, giving you a ready-to-eat protein hit (and tastes lovely too!). Eat hot or cold.
- Wholemeal bread: Switch your regular white bread for lovely wholemeal for extra vitamins and protein!
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