Many people site health as their reason for eating a vegan diet, and it’s totally normal to wonder about getting enough of certain nutrients, specifically protein.
If you’re working to create a healthier lifestyle, then it’s essential to fuel your body with the proper nutrients. That being said, I think focusing too much on individual macro-nutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) can sometimes do more harm than good because it takes our focus away from the bigger picture.
For example, I were to go on a low-carb diet and eat only packaged foods labeled “sugar-free” I would not be doing myself much good since those products are probably over-processed and filled with artificial and potentially harmful ingredients.
Diets that seek to focus primarily on one nutrient (such as protein) or limit another (like carbs) can wreak a lot of havoc on our bodies by throwing things out of balance.
The truth is, no one nutrient is the enemy. And no one nutrient is the key to health.
Approaching your diet with a more holistic approach will create a balance that is healthful and sustainable.
We can ensure that we’re getting all of the nutrients we need by eating a diet which seeks to exclude animal products and overly-processed items which are linked to higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health issues, while primarily consuming a wide range of nutrient-dense whole foods.
Still wondering where you’re going to get your protein? Ok here’s a little more info on that…
Do vegans get enough protein?
Getting enough protein is always a big concern for new vegans because everyone knows it is an essential part of a healthy diet. The problem is our misconception that animal products are the best, or only, source of protein.
Did you know that all plant foods have protein in them? I bet it would surprise you to find out that there is more protein in 100 calories worth of broccoli than in 100 calories worth of steak.
According to The American Dietetic Association, “Plant protein can meet protein requirements when a variety of plant foods is consumed and energy needs are met.”
So what does this mean?
eating enough calories + eating a wide variety of plant foods = enough protein
Another point of confusion about protein is how much of it we actually need. There are a lot of sources out there promoting the idea that more protein is always better, which is not necessarily true.
Protein increases the acidity of our blood which causes our bodies to leech calcium from our bones, which is then excreted. So by eating too much protein (animal proteins specifically), we’re actually reducing our calcium levels, which and that increases our risk of bone fractures as well as creating an acidic environment in which cancers can thrive.
So don’t be concerned about getting enough protein as a vegan. You’ll be consuming as much as your body actually needs, simply by eating a wide variety of plant foods!
Vegan sources of protein:
- legumes(such as beans and lentils)
- 3 ounces of firm tofu has about 9 grams of protein
- Tofu is obviously an easy replacement for eggs (tofu scramble) and meat and is super versatile since it can easily be seasoned to fit almost any dish. You could make Kung Pao Tofu, sushi rolls, indian-style pan fried tofu, and even vegan meatballs. Tofu can also be used as a binding agent for baked goods, a thickening agent in creamy sauces (like ricotta “cheese” for lasagna) or creamy pie fillings. The possibilities are literally endless!
- One serving of tempeh has 20 grams of protein
- Tempeh is also a great replacement for meat. I use it frequently for vegan bacon to have with breakfast or added to sandwiches, salads and side dishes (like brussel sprouts!). Similar to tofu, tempeh is very versatile and will take on whatever flavor you marinate or cook it with. Use for these delectable reuben sandwiches, vegan meatloaf, Jamaican jerk sandwiches and sesame orange tempeh.
- nuts and nut butters
- 1 ounce of raw almonds has 6 grams of protein and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 7 grams.
- Nuts make great snacks. Add almonds to you smoothies, walnuts and pecans to baked goods and even to salads. Make a peanut butter and banana sandwich, or pair with an apple or carrot sticks. Almond butter is a great addition to oatmeal, smoothies, sandwiches and baked goods.