PROTEIN; as a nation we consume way too much protein. If the extra protein we eat is not utilised by the body for growth, repair or for energy it is simply excreted in our urine. You may have been asked "where you get your protein from?" or "are you sure you're getting enough? - the simple answer is, probably yes.
If you ensure to include the major sources of plant based proteins at each meal and eat a balanced diet then it is likely your minimum requirements will be met.
One peanut butter sandwich made with seeded bread is 18g of protein, for instance. If you weigh >80kg then consider introducing a couple of protein snacks into your day such as nuts, seeds, yoghurt, soya milk, houmous, nut butters or vegan protein bars. Or simply increase the amount of protein during mealtimes.
One of the positives to plant proteins is that they also contain fibre, which is vital for gut and heart health. Signs you may not be getting enough include poor healing or muscle aches and pains, but these can also be attributed to other health issues.
MYTH - You'll become protein deficient when you go vegan.
FACT - Healthy people need just 0.75g of protein per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 80kg thats 60g of protein daily.
Which is easily obtainable on a plant based diet:
2tbsp peanut butter = 8g
slice of seeded bread = 5g
1/2 cup of chickpeas = 14.5g
1/2 cup of lentils = 9g
250ml of soya milk = 8.5g
100g extra firm tofu = 19g
It's a common misconception that meat and other animal products are the only sources of complete protein. There are 9 essential amino acids, which are called 'essential' because we are unable to synthesise them ourselves. This means it is vital they are present in our diets.
As long as you eat a varied diet and include a wide variety of plant proteins it is highly unlikely you will be deficient in one of the essential amino acids.
MYTH - Only animal products contain all 9 essential amino acids (aka a complete protein).
FACT - All 9 essential amino acids can be found in tofu, quinoa, soy beans, chickpeas, buckwheat and sunflower seeds. (Plus, many more plant foods contain 8 out of 9.)
And here lies the reason why it would be very difficult for someone to become protein deficient on a vegan diet - because protein is found in virtually everything we eat.
Having a side of broccoli can increase your protein intake by another 5g.
Sprinkling seeds onto salad or nuts into your morning porridge can give you an additional 3-10g protein boost.
Even foods we don't associate with protein, such as pasta and breads contribute a decent amount of protein to our meals.
Which is why if you are eating a balanced diet, based on carbohydrates (breads, pasta, rice), including vegetables and at least one portion of high protein plant foods such as beans, legumes, tofu, wheat gluten, soya products, nuts and seeds then there shouldn't be a problem.
MYTH - Protein is only found in things like lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds and soya products.
FACT - Whilst the above foods are all great sources, protein is present in virtually all plant foods.
(Bread, cereals, rice, pasta also contain good amounts of protein, which contribute towards meeting your daily goal).
By our resident registered dietitian: Sam Gould RD PgDip BSc @the.vegan.dietitian.