The health benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet are plentiful. Plant-based meals can be cheaper, nutrient-rich, environmentally sustainable and better for animal welfare. Despite that many people worry that they won’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet, and this is far from the truth.
Whether you are solely vegan, vegetarian, transitioning into either of these, or simply choose to reduce your animal intake for better health for yourself and the environment, you can be sure that protein requirements can be readily met on a vegan or vegetarian diet. These protein requirements can be met for any goals, whether that be overall health and wellness, fat loss or even muscle growth (just google vegan bodybuilders and athletes if you’re still unsure).
For vegetarian’s eggs and dairy are excellent sources of high-quality protein and can be added alongside a plant-based diet. For vegan’s there are a number of plant-based proteins that are incredibly healthy (more below). However, there are two things to be mindful of. Firstly, the protein digestibility and secondly that you are consuming “complete proteins”.
Complete vs Incomplete Protein Sources
A complete protein is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of the nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are termed “essential” as they can’t be produced by the body, or produced in adequate amounts. Therefore, we must get them from dietary sources.
Some plant-based sources of protein are complete proteins, whereas others may be missing one or more of the essential amino acids. Some of the incomplete protein sources can be combined in a meal to create a complete protein. For example – rice and beans – which make a great vegan chilli dish or Mexican inspired meal! However, there is no need to get caught up in ensuring EVERY meal has complete protein sources; the trick is to ensure you are consuming a variety of sources over the day.
Complete Protein Sources (g = grams of protein / per):
• Quinoa, cooked (8g /1 cup)
• Tofu, cooked (8-10g /100g)
• Tempeh, cooked (18g /100g)
• Buckwheat, raw groats (23g /100g)
• Rice & beans, cooked (10-15g /1 cup)
• Soybeans, raw (36g /100g)
• Hemp seeds (11g /30g)
• Chia seeds (4g /2 tablespoon)
• Spirulina (4g /1 tablespoon)
Incomplete Protein Sources:
• Grains (e.g. brown rice = 5g /100g cooked)
• Nuts and seeds (average: 6-9g /30g)
• Legumes/beans (average: 7-9g /100g)
• Vegetables (e.g. Green Peas = 8g /1 cup. Spinach & Broccoli =4-5g /1 cup)
• Nutritional Yeast (4g /1 tablespoon)
Plant-based vs. Animal protein sources
The protein digestibility between plant protein (70-90%) and animal protein (85-100%) sources differ slightly. Therefore, when consuming a solely vegan diet, your protein requirements may increase.
Written by Tristen Van Der Kley
Balanced Body Nutrition
IG: @balanced.body.nutrition https://www.instagram.com/balanced.body.nutrition/