Maybe you know that too: When I “outed” myself as a vegan, one of the first worried questions is usually “Where do you get your protein from, if you do not eat any meat and dairy products?”
Even from doctors and athletes, so people who should know about nutrition and metabolism, I hear this question again and again.
Presumably, it is because an animal’s diet is often considered to be particularly high in protein.
Conversely, it is assumed that a purely plant-based diet does not have much to offer in this respect.
But, is this really the truth?
Let’s get to the bottom of it a little bit more.
What are proteins?
Okay, let’s see what protein is.
I bet most people who ask you will not be able to explain it to you.
At best, they have a vague notion that proteins are “something to do with the muscles” and “grossly important to the body.” Aha!
The two are not completely wrong, but you are not really that smart.
What are proteins?
Now it gets a bit more complicated, but not so complicated that I did not understand Dummie – so you probably understand that with ease!
Essential amino acids
Proteins are made up of amino acids. All naturally occurring proteins, including your body, are made up of 20 amino acids.
Eight of these amino acids can’t be produced by the body itself. These are called “essential” amino acids – just as well they could be called “indispensable” amino acids. Maybe you can remember that a bit better.
These essential amino acids must be supplied to your body through nutrition.
Which amino acids that are exactly, so I do not want to burden you now, because you certainly forget the names anyway.
If, contrary to expectations, you’re interested, you’ll find a list here below:
Essential amino acids include:
Proteins = important
In any case, you already know what proteins are made of.
That’s all well and good, but are they really that important to the body that all normal eaters have to drive us vegans crazy with it?
First, a clear “Yes!”
Yes, because proteins are so important!
They are involved in many vital processes in the human body.
For example, they are of immense importance for the transport of oxygen and fat in the blood, as well as for the production of antibodies and hormones and many other things.
The most important point, however, is that protein is the building block of all human cells. Point.
If that’s not important, I do not know …
Proteins are everywhere
And these cells not only build your body once and keep it for a lifetime.
No, many parts renew again and again, such as the skin cells, red and white blood cells or the cells of the gastric mucosa.
Other cells need to be repaired.
Your body needs proteins for both processes.
Overall, it is estimated that humans are about 15 percent protein.
Since it stands to reason that with a lack of protein diverse and also serious disturbances and clinical disorders can arise.
This may be tissue problems, but also hormonal and muscular disorders or vulnerabilities of the immune system.
The combination does it
In terms of its structure, protein of animal origin is actually first of all more valuable than vegetable because it is more similar to our body protein.
Therefore, it has long been assumed that a supply of the body with pure vegetable proteins can’t meet the needs.
However, according to current findings, this is nonsense, because in the corresponding experiments on rats at the beginning of the 20th century was completely ignored from which amino acids, the added proteins were composed, because only on the combination of it matters.
Today, it is known that a combination of, for example, wheat and soy proteins, for example from seitan and tofu, achieve a particularly high valency and even exceed that of animal proteins.
No wonder even bodybuilders now swear by this compilation …
But now for daily needs. So, as a vegan, do you have to worry about your protein intake?
There is only one answer and that is a pretty clear “No, but!”
Note: BVS – Balanced, Varied, Sufficient
First of all to the “no”:
Basically, you cover the protein requirement of your body with a balanced and varied diet with a sufficient calorie intake almost automatically or even exceed it probably.
And here is the little “but”:
“Balanced”, “varied” and “sufficient” are the keywords that you should remember and remember.
Why is that so important to you as a vegan?
Almost all vegan foods contain protein to some extent, so you take it with you with virtually every bite you eat.
However, the amino acids of plant proteins are usually not complete, so it requires a combination of multiple protein sources to form complete chains of amino acids.
Most of the time you do that anyway, if you eat potatoes with spinach or falafel with pita bread, for example.
It does not matter to your metabolism whether you eat the various foods during a meal or throughout the day.
Rather, the value of the individual components, the variety and the amount ultimately crucial.
As a positive side effect, plant proteins are much easier to metabolize by and thus bring you much more power to the human body.
In addition, compared to animal protein sources such as sausage or cheese, they usually do not come in combination with larger amounts of fat.
So, we hold: even with a vegetable diet, it is not a problem that you cover your protein needs.
Your protein requirement is not something you have to worry about if you feed yourself decently – but I’ll go out of it anyway, otherwise you would hardly have landed on my blog.
The protein intake is then regulated automatically.
But let’s take a look and see which plant foods are particularly high in protein.
Can’t hurt to know that, right?
The top 5 protein sources
So here they come, the top 5 protein sources for every vegan. Applause, please:
Pulses: these include peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans, as well as products made from them (soymilk or tofu and tempeh). Of those you certainly should have them on the table with you every day.
Nuts & Kernels: not all nuts that you know as such (eg peanuts) are botanically too. That’s why this point is called “Nuts & Kernels”. No matter, because they are a great snack in between and great protein donors, especially almonds, walnuts, Chashews, pistachios and hazelnuts. However, they usually also have a high fat content and many calories. That’s why they are so satiating.
Cereals: oats, wheat, rye, spelled, millet, barley, but also rice and corn are good sources of protein. These include wholegrain cereal products such as oatmeal, wholemeal bread, pasta or seitan, which is made from wheat protein.
Green leafy vegetables: in fact, kale, spinach or even broccoli contain relatively high levels of protein. Added to this is the health-promoting effects of the micronutrients it contains. However, since the amino acids in green leafy vegetables are rarely complete, you should combine it with other sources of protein for a complete supply of all the essential amino acids.
Potatoes & sweet potatoes: as a classic side dish, potatoes contain the complete range of all amino acids. As a result, the potato has a significantly higher biological value than many other frequently consumed plants.
Quinoa & Co .: quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, hemp or chia are also called pseudo-cereals. These are grains that are similar to cereals and rich in starch, protein, minerals, fat and gluten free. Most of them contain all essential amino acids or a very large proportion of them.
How much protein do you need?
So, now “Butter with the fish, as we say in the old country”.
You may still wonder if, as a vegan, you may be afraid of being bed-bound for the rest of your life due to protein deficiency with brittle nails, hair loss, depression, and a never-ending flu.
Then let’s see how much protein you actually need, so that the horror scenario does not occur.
The Vegan Society for Nutrition recommends for adults 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight and day.
So, assuming an average man weighing 80 kilograms, that’s 64g of protein per day. In a 60-pound woman corresponding to 48g.
If you want to calculate, if you really cover your needs, then I recommend you to Google and you will find tables with all the information needed. There you will learn about the protein content of many plant foods and, for comparison, that of dairy products.
I’m curious to see what result you come from.
Conclusion and an extra tip for athletes
So, how is it going? Panic of protein deficiency? Can you save yourself by making sure that your diet is balanced and varied and that you are eating the necessary amount of nutritional energy?
In this way, proteins should also be sufficiently present in a purely plant-based diet.
Likewise, you do not have to worry about the combination of different amino acids under these conditions.
Although vegetable amino acids are not always complete, you will always meet your needs by combining the various sources of protein. Whether at the same time in a meal or gradually over the day according to the current state of knowledge it does not matter.
However, if you are an athlete and therefore have an increased protein requirement or would like to build additional muscle mass, I have a final extra tip for you: There is now also vegan protein powder based on peas, rice or hemp.
After the workout, you can use it to aid regeneration, and it provides an additional saturation effect. Especially for bodybuilders and strength athletes, this supplement can make sense.
So, that’s all you need to know about protein needs for now. So, if somebody asks you about your protein deficiency as a vegan, you should be well prepared now.
What are your experiences? Write them in the comment box below! Thank you for taking the time and reading my article.