5 Ways Vegans Get Their Protein
Photo © Brooke Lark
The big question for us vegans out there is, “how do you get your protein intake each day?” I always find myself laughing at this question -- we get our protein the same way as everyone else. Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle was an easy one for me, practically seamless.
I didn’t notice any change at all; it made me question why I was even anxious to do it in the first place. My energy levels are higher, and my skin is clearer, what more can a girl want. One big thing I don’t miss out on: protein.
I think that’s one of the misconceptions people have about veganism. There are many ways to get protein.
The average human's protein intake varies depending on your weight. Let me break it down for you; I’m no mathematician, so I’m going to keep it pretty basic. The RDA suggests that we intake 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram that we weigh or about 0.41 grams per pound. So theoretically let’s say a man weighs 174 pounds, you would take 174 x 0.41/grams which would come out to 71 grams of protein. 71 seems like a lot of grams, but realistically with three substantial, whole meals a day you can quickly obtain that amount.
What do I mean by whole? I mean actual food, food that is less processed and not refined. Food that doesn’t have any extra additives or artificial substances.
Here are my five ways that us plant eaters get our protein.
Beans are the magical fruit
Beans, lentils, peas are such a good, and cheap, protein source. One cup of beans (black, kidney, chickpea, etc.) has 15 grams of protein, not mention being higher in fibre and containing a healthy amount of carbs. On top of that, they are a powerhouse of nutrients including antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals, such as copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive meal, throw some beans, rice, and veggies in a bowl and call it a day. They are so versatile; there isn’t a wrong way to consume them.
One of my favourite ways is to roast chickpeas; toss them in whatever seasonings you want, roast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 25 minutes, and you have a delicious treat. Throw them on salads, in bowls, or even snack on them. If you’re not a fan of beans (but I mean who doesn’t like them?) incorporate them into homemade soup, they’ll soften up, and you’ll barely know they are there. Another good thing about beans is that they will keep you full for a long time, no need to be snacking extra in between meals.
Don’t Neglect Soy
I’m not talking about soy milk, miso, or soy sauce; I’m talking about tofu, tempeh, and soybeans. These are exceptionally high in protein, most having upwards of 10 grams per serving, and raw soybeans contain 68 grams of protein per one cup. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese, selenium and phosphorus. Also, tofu is an excellent source of magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1. Okay, now, put outside all the scientific stuff, tofu can be jazzed up quickly to make it seem like you are eating actual meat. You can soak them in the same marinade as you would chicken or beef, and turn your favourite dish vegan in a breeze.
Soy products have been given a bad wrap over the last few years. Websites are out there that claim that consumption can cause thyroid disruption, even problems with the female reproductive system. Now there are also websites out there that share for someone with high blood pressure, they should be eating red meat three times a week, so you choose. I have not found any difficulties while consuming soy products; I devour them at least 2-4 times a week.
Load Up That Plate With Veggies
Growing up we all have memories of our parents forcing us to eat our veggies. At the time we were not okay with that, constantly questioning why they were torturing us with this terrible food, but we really should have listened. Vegetables are high in nutrients, such as vitamins, fibre, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are plant chemical compounds that have many potential health-promoting properties. You’re probably tired of me saying fibre, over and over again, but fibre is essential for our bodies. To put it bluntly, it makes you regular, simple as that. High fibre foods also help provide a feeling of fullness with much fewer calories. Would you rather have one fast food hamburger and feel barley satisfied, or eat a huge plate of veggies and feel full, but not look full? I’ll let you choose. Broccoli and asparagus both have about 3 grams of protein per cup. Potatoes are as tasty and perfect, containing a little over 4 grams. I prefer Japanese Sweet Potatoes myself, they have a rich chestnutty flavour and are a perfect addition to any meal.
You always hear, “eat your green vegetables.” It’s true, seriously, eat them up. They are particularly packed with amazing healthy nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, E, and K; you can find these in kale and spinach. The B complex vitamins are found in broccoli, bok choy, and mustard greens. A vegetable that has been on the rise these past few years, brussels sprouts, is another delicious addition to your diet. Having 3 grams of protein per cup, it is something that a vegan should always include. Roast ‘em, sautee ‘em. However, you enjoy them your body will thank you.
Nuts are a Power House
Where do I even start? Nuts are just something that should be something that everyone has in their diet. Now I’m not just talking good ‘ol sugary peanut butter; I think we all may be thinking about which brands particular. Broaden your horizons a bit, try almonds, pecans, and cashews. All nuts are high in unsaturated fats, don’t scream and turn away. These are healthy fats; they help lower bad cholesterol levels. They also have significant levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and Vitamin E. In a standard one-ounce serving, 28 grams, almonds have 6 gram of protein, cashews have 5 grams, and pistachios have 6 grams. The best way to enjoy nuts is raw or dry roasted, rather than roasted in oil. Always be on the lookout when purchasing large bulk nuts, most of the time they are packed full of excess sodium and added flavours. Never just pick up something and go, check the ingredients, is there anything that shouldn’t be there?
Let’s face it, if I'm honest, being vegan will change your life. It makes you realize exactly what you are putting inside your body. It takes us back to the whole food craze. As a vegan, we eat vegetables, grains, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, all which can be sold as is. Our diets contain fresh ingredients that will nourish that body with the right nutrients. A vegans diet provides more fibre, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds than a diet full of meat and cheese. It can be hard to resist but stay away from nutrient-poor, fast-food vegan options. Base your diet around nutrients rice whole plants and fortified foods. One thing I have also noticed since transitioning is that I stopped holding onto excess weight. I noticed that I was looking leaner, and I could see muscle tone. Besides the amazing health benefits, going vegan will help the planet as well. As studies have shown, livestock production has been known to cause uncontrolled land use, water depletion, and even produce more pollution into the environment.
You can always find sources of protein as well, don’t be closed minded and think that we can only get protein from animals. There are so many options out there to choose from; it takes some research to find out. Protein is not impossible to obtain while living a plant-based lifestyle.
All in all, transitioning to a vegan lifestyle will make your body and our planet happy. If you’re thinking about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, JUST DO IT.