Plant-Based Protein: How To Eat Enough On A Vegan Diet
“But, where do you get your protein?” A question almost every vegetarian or vegan is asked at some point along their plant-based journey. It is a common concern by people who eat animal products, because without sufficient amounts of protein, you risk not meeting all of your nutrient needs. Protein is a building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin, and every cell in the body contains protein. It also plays a critical role in repairing and strengthening muscle tissue after exercising. Protein can be found in a variety of foods stemming from animals to a variety of plant-based sources for individuals who don’t eat meat.
Why is protein important?
We’ve all heard that protein is important, but why exactly is that? As stated above, proteins are the building blocks of life and nearly every cell is made up of them. Your body requires protein in order to grow and maintain its tissues. Without enough protein in your diet, you risk becoming protein deficient. Being protein-deficient may result in unexpected weight loss, muscle weakness, nutrient malabsorption, anemia, slow injury recovery, as well as constant food cravings.
How much protein do I need?
According to the Dietary References Intake report for macronutrients, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for sedentary men and women is .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight, or .36g per pound. Meaning that a man who doesn’t get much physical exercise throughout the day should aim for about 56 grams of protein a day, and a woman with a similar lifestyle should eat around 46 grams daily. However, the amount each individual needs depends on their activity level, age, and overall health. The more you exercise, for example, the more protein your body needs as a result of the burned calories.
Is there protein in plants?
In short – yes! Keep in mind that there are several large animals who eat a meat-free diet and live big and strong, healthy lives. This list includes cows, camels, elephants, gorillas, horses, and rhinos just to name a few. While many people believe that protein can only be obtained through meat, fish, and eggs, this is simply untrue. There are several plant-based sources of protein to ensure that you reach your daily recommended intake.
Fruits & Vegetables
Albeit small amounts in comparison to most meat-based sources of protein, all fruits and vegetables do contain this vital macronutrient. Fruits and vegetables can be eaten in several ways including raw and eaten as is, or tossed into smoothies and salads. They can also be enjoyed steamed, roasted, and even grilled. A few high-protein produce sources are brussels sprouts, avocados, broccoli, and asparagus.
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Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are naturally rich in protein. Introduce more into your diet by eating nut butter and using it to top toast, a bowl of oatmeal, blended into smoothies, or as a dip with bananas or dates. They can be added to trail mix, granola, and chia seed pudding to increase the amount of protein per serving. High protein nut and seed sources include almonds, cashews, and walnuts, as well as chia, hemp, and pumpkin seeds.
One of the richest protein sources for people consuming a plant-based diet is legumes. This list includes different beans, quinoa, lentils, and peas. You can add them to salads, burritos, wraps, and soups, or serve them as a simple side dish. Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils make the high-scoring legume protein list. Eat up!
Did you know you can use your favorite grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and even oats to create delicious plant-based burger recipes? That’s right! The plant-based community certainly doesn’t shy away from creativity. You can also stuff bell peppers with grains and use them in salad recipes for an extra boost of protein. When adopting a diet free of animal products, lunch or dinner can be as simple as your favorite roasted vegetables, alongside a legume and grain-source, and voila – a simple, protein-rich plant-based meal.
There you have it ladies and gentlemen. Eating protein on any diet is necessary for maintaining a healthy weight, having the energy needed to carry out physical activities, as well as making sure your cells have the neccessary amino acids to support bone, muscle, and skin-health. Make sure when eating a plant-based diet that you prioritize protein sources in each meal and snack so that you hit your daily recommended allowance.