How Do Vegans Get Protein?
If every vegan had their own personal FAQ packet, I can guarantee the question, “Where do you get your protein from?” would be top of the list.
I remember asking vegans that myself before I was vegan, but not because I knew anything about protein or was particularly concerned about their personal intake levels of the stuff.
It was probably because one of the biggest myths that I believed was that you need to eat meat or other animal products to get protein. So, when someone cuts it out of their diet, most non-vegans can’t help but wonder, “Are they going to grow weak, lose tons of weight, or lose muscle mass?”
This powerful myth has people all over the world believing that more and more protein is better for them.
So, if you hold value in the concept that you can only get protein from animal products and you believe this myth, of course you’ll believe vegans are crazy for giving it up.
We need to address this widespread belief that vegans are protein deficient from a lack of meat consumption and talk about the truth behind protein and how it jives with veganism.
What is Protein?
Let’s talk basics.
Protein is a macronutrient, which is a foundational element to sustaining life.
Macronutrients are made up of amino acids.
The amino acids in protein are organic compounds comprised of oxygen, sulfur, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, which are essential building blocks for muscle and tissue in the body.
Ultimately, protein is an energy provider to living creatures.
When humans get the right amount of protein, side effects may include feeling good, fit, strong, and full.
Bingo! We like that.
Overall, in a nut shell, long story short…protein is great for us!
But, like any good story, there is more than meets the eye.
So, How Much Protein Do We Need?
Somehow in today’s world we’ve evolved into a protein-obsessed society.
We’re straight up addicted, y’all.
Humans tend to over-consume the amounts actually needed for our bodies, which is why there’s no surprise we’re at an all-time high of obesity rates across the world.
Before we cover vegan-specific proteins, you should know how much protein you actually need.
According to Reed Mangels, a nutritional advisor and dietician, a vegan male needs approximately 63 grams of protein per day and a vegan woman needs approximately 52 grams per day.
Another study, not indicating veganism, states that adults should get 20-30grams of protein per meal per day.
That averages out to about the same as Mr. Mangels has declared.
These numbers appear to align across various studies and science-based articles, which means we often consume far more than we need to if you really look at a standard Western diet.
Most of us believe that because protein helps fuel our muscles, the more we consume, the better off we’ll be.
Protein = good, so we want more, more, more.
This, unfortunately, is a huge misconception — one that’s dramatically affecting the health of humanity.
So now the question is, which proteins are better than others?
What Are The Best Foods to Get Proteins From?
I’ve just gotta pause for a second to let you know why exactly I’m not advocating for people to consume animal proteins.
First, if you aren’t already familiar with why eating meat is seen as unethical from a vegan perspective, take a peek at the second section of this article.
Secondly, if you haven’t introduced yourself to the truth about what animal products do to your body, check out the first section of this post.
And, lastly, if you aren’t aware of the damage animal agriculture is having on the planet, please read the third section of this blog post. Please!
To be frank, the benefits of the protein you may get from animal products will never outweigh the negatives.
You can, in fact, get all the protein you need to meet the daily recommended amount from plants.
That’s right; every last gram of it!
Plant-based proteins are hiding in plain sight, you may just not know it yet.
Some vegan protein sources are:
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, etc.
Chia, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, flax, etc.
Peanut butter (even though it’s a legume, we’ll just count it here), almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia butter, etc.
Beans & legumes
Edamame, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, green beans, adzuki beans, chickpeas/garbanzo beans, peanuts, lentils, peas, kidney beans, soy beans, etc.
Plant-based meat substitutes
Is the Quality of Vegan Protein The Same As Animal Protein?
If you’re not already vegan, I’m sure this question has popped into your head once or twice while reading this article.
The truth is that people have placed more value in animal proteins because of their similarities to the human body’s biological makeup.
Plant-based proteins are not to be dismissed, though, despite the differences at a cellular level.
Because amino acids make up proteins, the body is clever in how it absorbs them when one consumes plants.
When animal protein is called “complete protein” and plant protein is called “incomplete protein” it doesn’t really give plants a fighting chance.
What it means is that complete proteins have all the amino acids your body needs in one shot.
Incomplete means that it may be missing an amino acid, but you can just get the rest from other plants.
While I’m not a certified nutritionist or dietician, I do know that as long as you eat a well-rounded, plant-based, vegan diet, you’re going to get all the nutrients you need.
If you have more questions about veganism and protein, pop them in the comment box below!