The vegan foods that bust the protein myth
High protein? Vegan? Now those are a few words that don’t get thrown around together often. But we often wonder (with some frustration), ‘why not?’ Did you know the common claim that a diet devoid of animal products doesn’t contain enough protein is a total myth?
The actual facts
People who choose to exclude meat and animal-derived products from their diet could be in it for any number of reasons, including ecological responsibility, ethical reasons, religious beliefs, or even taste. A vegan lifestyle is no fad, nor are its potential health benefits.
We’re not saying there aren’t some challenges that vegans face when it comes to nutrition. The main vitamins and minerals that could be lacking in a vegan diet are iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12. Protein also comes under this umbrella, but with some basic knowledge of quality and quantity, protein needs can be easily be met as a vegan.
Now let’s separate protein fact from fiction, shall we?
Quality vs. quantity
You may have heard the term 'high quality' or 'complete' protein. This refers to the composition of amino acids within a protein. Some proteins contain all of the essential amino acids (i.e. amino acids that can only be supplied by diet). These are the ones considered to be higher quality; in other words, complete proteins.
The quality of protein in plant-based foods is not as high as those from animal origin. But with planning, and a balance of different ingredients and food combinations, you can easily ensure that your protein needs are met on a vegan diet.
According to Advanced Sports Dietitian Lisa Middleton, “the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for protein is, on average, 0.8-1.0g per kilogram (0.01 oz per lb) of body weight.” To put that into perspective, an adult woman weighing 70 kg needs around 56-70 grams a day (that’s 1.5 oz for a 150lb woman), which is about two servings of meat, or three to four servings of beans or soy. Lisa also states that “protein needs will, however, be higher if you are regularly training, potentially up around 1.5g of protein per kilogram (0.02 oz per lb), per day.”
Protein is an important structural component for many body systems and is the building block for muscle. “If you are training regularly then you are in a state of constant muscle breakdown and synthesis,” Lisa explains. “Having the right variety and timing of protein is essential to see results from your hard work.”
Following a carefully formulated, dietician-approved meal plan in this case is very helpful. The vegan meal plan on Centr takes into consideration your fitness goals, whether it be weight loss, fitness or even muscle gains, while doing all the calculating for you. This is a simpler way for you to meet your body’s nutritional needs while still hitting your goals – minus the steak dinners and bacon breakfasts.
Now for the protein
When creating our vegan recipes on Centr, our chefs and dietitians include at least one of these delicious, protein-rich plant foods in each meal:
Tofu and tempeh – delicious in stir-fries or to replace traditional meat recipes.
Legumes – think curries, falafels, salads and fritters.
Nuts – sweet or savory, nuts are versatile and the perfect on-the-go snack.
Nut butters – delicious in baked goods, and even better on toast.
Seeds – the missing ingredient in your weeknight salads and breakfast oatmeal.
Plant-based milks like soy, rice, oat, coconut and hemp – don’t tell us you thought you’d have to give up smoothies, pancakes and coffee?
Nutritional yeast – kind of nutty, some say cheesy, even creamy; it’s high in B vitamins so try adding it to stir-fries, soups, sauces and more.
Vegan protein powders – a useful addition to a vegan diet to ensure your high-quality protein intake is up to scratch, especially if you’re active. See your health professional for some individual advice on protein needs.
Whole grain carbohydrate foods, such as oats, seed/grain breads, brown/wild rice, pasta and quinoa will also provide small amounts of protein. So don’t underestimate them – your protein intake from these foods can add up throughout the day.
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