The first thing I would like to emphasise about protein, is that too much of it can cause problems. People should eat a moderate amount of protein, and not an excessive amount. A diet that has too much protein can contribute to:
- certain cancers
- impaired kidney function
- heart disease
For more information, please refer to the following link that explains the protein myth. It is from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Both T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D. are advisers for the committee, who you may recognise from the documentary ‘Forks over Knives’ (which I highly recommend). PCRM advocate preventative medicine, with a focus on nutrition.
Where does a vegan get their protein from?
- Beans (chickpea, adzuki, mung, black-eyed etc)
- Lentils (green, brown, red)
- Soy products (e.g. tofu, tempeh, soy mince, soy milk)
- Nut milks (almond milk, hazelnut milk)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame)
- Grains (quinoa, oats, wheat)
- Even fruit and veg have protein (though not much)
From the average UK diet, cereals (bread, pasta, rice, wholegrain cereals) contribute to 22% of protein requirements. So already, without having eaten any particularly protein rich foods, you have already got 22% of your daily requirements.
Below, a figure to show the amount of protein per 1 serving of vegan foods. What constitutes a serving is defined on the Vegan Society website. I didn’t include it because I thought it was rather boring to write a list of each serving e.g. 1 serving = 40g dry green lentils; 60g of oats; 75g of pasta. After all, I doubt that anyone likes to weigh out their food meticulously. So use it as an approximation. Please click on the image below to enlarge if you can’t see it clearly enough:
As you can see, soy products are very high in protein. However, many people have concerns with soy. This is fine, because soy is not essential for the vegan diet; neither is wheat. I personally try not to rely too heavily on soy and wheat products (in other words, I eat them approximately once or twice a week). Processed soy products, such as faux meats, faux cheeses, faux sausages aren’t very healthy, but they are fine as a treat. On the other hand, minimally processed, traditional soy foods such as tofu, edamame and tempeh have been eaten for centuries in countries such as China, with no obvious ill effects.
Men need approximately 55g of protein per day, whereas women require approximately 45g.
Breakfast: oats (10g) with sunflower seeds (5g)
Lunch: 2 slices of toast (10g) & baked beans (1og)
Dinner: lentil soup (10g)
So already I have got my 45g per day- but this is not including any other foods such as veggies and fruit, which also contain protein. I do not think it is important that a potential vegan/vegetarian should get concerned about ensuring they get enough protein, and using my bar chart too seriously. So long as you are eating pulses, beans, seeds, nuts, and grains daily, you will be getting enough protein. Some people are allergic to nuts, but it is still perfectly possible to still be a healthy vegan without them. I personally am not a huge seed fan, and haven’t eaten them for quite some time (apart from sesame seeds which are very tasty).
Dr. T. Colin Campbell stresses that variety is key, and that ‘because protein is found in fairly generous amounts in many plant foods, it’s virtually impossible not to get enough‘.
In short, as a vegan, I do not worry about protein. Which is ironic, because once I tell people I am vegan, the first thing that they ask is if I get enough protein, and what foods do I eat to get it from. One individual I met insisted that eating animals is ‘necessary’ for protein requirements. I asked, how could she say that? Was I not standing there before her, a vegan of almost four years? Are there not millions of vegetarians and vegans in this world?
All nutritional info from this page comes from the Vegan Society.
Do you think that animal protein is essential for humans? Do you think that dairy or eggs are essential for humans? If you are still unconvinced, I would highly recommend you check out ‘Forks over Knives’