How Do Vegans Get Protein? A Guide To Getting Enough
Protein is an essential nutrient that our bodies need for many important functions, including building and repairing tissues, making enzymes and hormones, and transporting nutrients. Animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy, are considered to be complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids in adequate amounts. However, consuming animal proteins can also come with some adverse side effects. Plant foods on the other hand can provide complete proteins without the negative impacts associated with animal proteins - today we're looking into how vegans can get enough protein.
Firstly it's important to dispel a longstanding myth that plants don't contain all of the essential amino acids. They do! All plants contain all 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own. They do this by synthesising the amino acids from the nutrients that they get from the soil.
The confusion about whether or not plants contain all nine of the essential amino acids likely stems from the fact that some plant foods are lower in certain essential amino acids than others. But even though a single plant food may be low in a particular essential amino acid, it's still possible to get all of the essential amino acids that you need by eating a variety of different plant foods throughout the day - So this is your daily reminder to eat the rainbow!
Here are some specific examples of plant foods that are good sources of protein:
Beans: black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas
Nuts and seeds: almonds, peanuts, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds
Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, oats
Vegetables: tofu, tempeh, edamame, spirulina
By eating a variety of these plant foods, we can easily get all of the protein that our body needs - If you want to know where to get more plant proteins you can read 'Which Vegan Foods Are High In Protein?'.
Proteins aside, plant foods also provide a wealth of other important nutrients for our health, including fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This means that by eating a variety of plant-based foods we can help meet our daily nutrient needs and reduce our risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer - That's something that carnivores simply cannot claim. In fact, the negative impacts of eating animal proteins extend beyond the body.
The production of animal products contributes to climate change, water pollution, and deforestation.
Animal agriculture is a major source of antibiotic resistance.
Factory farming conditions are cruel and inhumane to animals.
Eating animal products can increase our risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Making the switch to a plant-based diet can be a fantastic way to improve your health, minimise animal suffering and reduce your impact on the environment. With a little planning and effort, you can ensure you're covering all of your bases.
Here are some additional resources that you may find helpful:
The Vegan Society: https://www.vegansociety.com/
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: https://www.pcrm.org/veganstarterkit
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: https://www.eatright.org/
Happy eating :D