Where to Get Protein on a Vegan Diet

Getting a sufficient amount protein in a day is an extremely easy task for a vegan. People today are very misinformed about protein and it is becoming more apparent as every vegan is repeatedly faced with the question “where do you get your protein?”. Protein is extremely easy to come by, and it actually might be the case that you are consuming far too much of it.

Unfortunately, we have been told by bias solely profit driven industries (such as the meat and dairy industry and protein powder companies) that you need a lot of protein in order to be healthy, stay lean, build muscle and thrive. We have also been led by these companies to believe that is it is a difficult process to obtain protein so that you become dependent on the products that they sell. Being high in protein is the only thing that animal products have going for them, so it is a point that these industries have driven home to all consumers so that people will continue to buy their products.

Many people don’t know that protein is actually hard to digest (more so when it comes from an animal, but even plant protein isn’t easy digesting). Protein powders and isolates are even worse because they are not whole foods. Why does this matter? slow digesting foods require a lot of energy and resources to break the down. That’s why carnivores such as cats sleep all day; their bodies need to rest so that they can break down and digest the protein. What essentially happens is when your body isn’t working on digesting, it will begin to allocate its resources elsewhere such as wound healing, detoxifying and supporting proper organ function. Thats why when you eat whole foods such as fruits, vegetables or whole grains that are fast digesting, full of fibre and move through your body quickly, you will feel light and energetic. You will also look healthier, brighter and more vibrant because your body put it’s energy towards healing and repairing skin cells and tissues and your organs won’t be taxed. You will start to glow from the inside out.

When you go vegan, automatically you will be incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet to replace the foods that you have cut out. If you are eating enough fruits and vegetables, you will reach your daily protein requirements without a doubt. All plants have protein, if they didn’t they wouldn’t have once been alive. Even lettuce and watermelon have protein. And unlike protein powders, when you eat the whole food, take for example, a bowl of rice, with all of its intricate and synergistic components, each part of the plant will help your body assimilate the nutrients and break down the food. When you isolate just one part of the food (protein) and throw out the rest, (fibre, enzymes, nutrients, etc.) that is not an optimal food source. Whole foods are natures perfectly designed and packaged foods for real health.

We actually need very little protein for our bodies to thrive. Too much protein makes your body acidic and that can cause a variety of health issues and diseases. Protein from animals (red meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt etc.) cause your body to go into a state of acidosis, an unbalanced acidic bodily state. Your body doesn’t like being unbalanced and cannot remain in this state for long because it is damaging. However, because your body is your number one fan and is always working endlessly for you to keep you healthy and alive, it begins to work and try to buffer the acidity and rebalance itself. How does it accomplish this task? It leaches calcium phosphate from your bones. The phosphate is used to reduce the acidity and return to a more healthy alkaline state, and the calcium gets expelled through your urine. This incredible process is why eating cheese, yogurt, butter and consuming milk for calcium to prevent osteoporosis is counter intuitive. Consuming any form of animal product actually contributes to calcium deficiency and diseases like osteoporosis. If you are at risk of developing osteoporosis or know someone who is suffering from it already, one of the most important things you can do for you health is to go plant-based, eat whole foods and up your greens intake.

Another myth that we have been led to believe is that plant protein is not complete protein, meaning that it doesn’t contain all the amino acids that make up protein. While is it true that only some plants only offer you complete protein on their own, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able obtain all the different amino acids easily in a day and thus consuming complete proteins. When do people only eat one food the entire day? (people doing banana island maybe, but that doesn’t count) Simply by combining different whole foods in a meal, or eating different foods with different amino acid profiles through out the day, you will get complete protein. Let me stress that this is not complicated, it is super easy. For example, a bowl of rice and beans make a complete protein together. Most beans are low is methionine and high in lysine. Rice is high is methionine and low is lysine, making the perfect complete protein combo! All essential amino acids can found in plants. By eating tons of variety, think “all the colours of the rainbow” in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nut, seeds, beans and legumes you get can easily consume all the nutrients required for your body to thrive with a few exceptions. Those being, B12 -which you CAN get from nutritional yeast, and fortified nut milks (but that likely won’t be enough, so you might want to consider taking a sublingual supplement which is very affordable), and Vitamin D, which you can get from full body sun exposure for 20 minutes. If you don’t live in a sunny climate, again you can get the vitamin D through supplementation, drops are what I would recommend due to its superior absorption. Easy peasy. By the way, the only reason meat would contain B12 is because the cows are either injected with B12 or because they are eating foods that have soil and bacteria on it such as grass. So there should be no shame in supplementation, everyone (vegan or not) can benefit from these.

So back into the protein talk. 1 cup of brown rice is 5g of protein, pair that 2 cups of broccoli which is another 5g of protein, and 200g of some tofu 16g of protein and you are already at 26 grams (nearly the entire recommend amount for a woman) in one meal without any animal products. It is actually really important to make sure that you’re not getting too much protein. When I tell people this, they have a hard time believing me until I lay it all out for them. We have been told time and time again, by money hungry businesses such as the meat, dairy and protein powder companies to increase your protein intake blindly with their products instead of researching the facts. Why? Because they want your money! Their entire business relies on brainwashing you to believe you need more protein. All the people who have asked me where I get my protein on a vegan diet didn’t even know how much protein they should be consuming in a day, and they couldn’t name me any food source other than meat and cheese as a protein source. This whole misunderstanding exists because people don’t do their own research. If this was you before reading this article, don’t feel bad because it is most people before their take their health into their own hands.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that men and women obtain 5% of their calories as protein.  This would mean 38 grams of protein for a man burning 3000 calories a day and 29 grams for a woman using 2300 calories a day.  This quantity of protein is impossible to avoid when daily calorie needs are met by unrefined starches and vegetables.” (Dr. John McDougall)

When you think about these numbers, people who are having a 30-40 gram scoop of pure protein powder in one sitting, are not doing any favours for their body. That quantity of protein (a full days worth) all at once is hard on your digestion, and maxing out your protein needs before you even start to consume any other real food. The only way to not get enough protein in your diet, is to not consume enough healthy food. The only way to be protein diffident is to be calorie deficient.

So the bottom line is that getting protein as a vegan is a very simple task. It doesn’t require any extra thought, it will just happen if you’re eating enough healthy whole foods. However, if you are curious about high protein sources on a vegan diet, listed below are some of the plants that are high in protein. Complete proteins will be marked with an *.

Nuts and Seeds
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds
chia seeds*
flax seeds
hemp seeds*
nut butters
almond yogurt

Beans and Legumes
kidney beans
pinto beans
adzuki beans
lima beans
green peas
split peas

Whole Grains
brown rice
wild rice
black rice
whole wheat pasta
whole grain bread

collard greens
mustard greens
dandelion greens
beet greens

So next time someone asks you where you get your protein on a vegan diet, you can reply, “Plants” and ask them where they think Gorillas and Elephants (some of the strongest and largest animals in the animal kingdom) get their protein.

Leave a comment below and share what your favourite plant based protein is!

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