Are you a vegetarian concerned about adequate protein intake? Are you concerned about health issues that may result from high meat consumption? Are you obligated to prepare a meal for a loved one who is vegan? Are you considering embracing a vegan lifestyle, but not sure where to begin? Then this article is for you.
"Where do you get your protein from?"
This was almost always the first thing people asked me when I first began my journey in veganism. The truth is, every food has some amount of protein, and if combined right, quality vegetable proteins can provide your daily needs, depending on your lifestyle.
Quality Vegetarian Protein Sources
- Almonds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
- Cashews, ¼ cup – 5 grams
- Pistachios, ¼ cup – 6 grams
- Peanuts, ¼ cup – 9 grams
- Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup – 6 grams
- Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
- Flax seeds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
- Hemp hearts (Shelled hemp seeds), 3 tablespoons – 10 grams
- Chia, 3 tablespoons – 6 grams
- Lentils, 1 cup dry – 18 grams
- Black beans, 1 cup – 15 grams
- Kidney beans, 1 cup – 15 grams
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), 1 cup – 15 grams
- Oats, 1 cup – 10 grams
- Brown rice, 1 cup – 5 grams
- Quinoa, 1 cup – 8 grams
- Buckwheat, 1 cup – 6 grams
- Sprouted grain bread, 1 slice – 5-6 grams
These are just a few examples of quality vegan protein sources. Be sure to eat them with greens like kale, spinach, or broccoli to aid digestion. Soy and wheat products were purposely left out because of the potential health problems associated with them.
Beans and grains combine well. There’s a reason why people around the world eat beans and lentils with rice. Morning oats taste great when combined with flax seeds. Peanut or almond butter on whole grain or sprouted grain bread is an awesome snack.
However, too many carbohydrates can lead to unwanted weight gain. To reduce carbs you would get from your grains, you can combine your legumes with nuts or seeds. That way, you can have low glycemic meals with all the protein you need, plus healthy fats.
For example, the following combine well for complete protein:
- Black beans and pistachios
- Kidney beans and almond slivers
- Lentils and hemp hearts
Author, The Thrive Diet, Ironman and two-time Canadian 50k Ultra-Marathon Champ.
How much protein do you need?
Protein is essential for overall body function and health. It is vital for repair of red blood cells, growth of hair and fingernails, regulation of hormone secretion, muscle contraction, digestion, maintenance of the body's water balance, protection against disease, transport of nutrients to and from cells, the carrying of oxygen, and regulation of blood clotting.
There is lots of conflicting information about how much protein people should consume. According to the American Dietetic Association, a sedentary person should consume no more than 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. If you are physically active, you will need more protein than that to repair muscle and build bone density. That number should be closer to 0.7-0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
I was able to maintain a lifestyle of Olympic weight lifting, trekking/backpacking, and practicing mixed martial arts all on a vegan diet. If you plan on pursuing an active lifestyle like this, you may want to supplement with vegan protein powders. There are some great manufacturers on the market, including SunWarrior, Growing Naturals, and PlantFusion.
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