"Where do you get your protein from?"
The most common misconception out there when it comes to vegan or even vegetarian diets is that you have to consume meat in order to get enough protein, but actually, there's protein in all foods. Some of the higher protein foods are soy products (edamame, tofu, soya mince), nuts and seeds (cashews, walnuts, chia seeds or pumpkin seeds), beans and legumes (black beans, chickpeas, lentils). There is also protein found in staples like bread, rice and even fruit and vegetables such as broccoli have protein in them. If you eat a balanced varied diet then your risk of becoming protein deficient is extremely low. Look at cows or elephants for example, they eat plants and they are huge!
If you are an athlete though you will need a higher intake if you want to build muscle. Don't worry though, there are plenty of plant based protein shakes (pea protein is a very popular alternative to whey) that you can use as an additional supplement. As I'm not a qualified doctor or health professional, if you are concerned about protein, see a veg-friendly nutritionist or dietician who can help you work out an eating plan to make sure you are getting enough. Often GP doctors don't have much nutritional training and won't be able to advise on how to build muscle using plant sources only.
What actually is protein and why do I need it?
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) tells us "Protein is an important nutrient required for the building, maintenance, and repair of tissues in the body. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, can be synthesized by the body or ingested from food. There are 20 different amino acids in the food we eat, but our body can only make 11 of them. The nine essential amino acids, which cannot be produced by the body, must be obtained from the diet."
Vegans can obtain all amino acids from a plant based diet as long as you eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
How much protein do I need?
According to their website, PCRM advises that the "Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.”
For example, 58(kg) x 0.8 = 46.4 grams protein a day. This means my recommended average intake is 42 grams a day which is quite easy to do.
Vegan sources of protein:
· 1 cup tofu - 18g
· 1 cup cooked lentils - 18g
· 1 cup beans - 13 - 15g
· 1 cup boiled peas - 9g
· 2 tablespoons nut butter - 8g
· 1 cup soy milk - 7g
· 1 cup cooked spinach - 7g
Meal ideas that include protein:
· Porridge with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds
· Peanut butter on toast
· Toast with a nut butter (such as cashew or almond butter)
· Tofu and spinach scramble
· Hummus with falafel
· A creamy alfredo or carbonara pasta made with a cashew based sauce instead of dairy
· Avocado and white bean salad
· Tofu soba noodles
· Tofu and vegetable stir fry
· Traditional curries made with soya mince or chickpeas instead of meat
· Mexican rice bowl with red kidney beans
· Coconut curry lentil soup