Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle. You need it to build and repair muscles, make hormones, and fight off infection. So, is vegan protein enough to give your body everything it needs? This is such a common question when it comes to a vegan diet. Keep reading to find out how a well-planned vegan diet can help you meet all your protein needs to stay energized, healthy, and fit.
- Why Does Your Body Need Protein?
- Can You Get Enough Protein on a Vegan Diet?
- Six Vegan Sources of Protein
- How to Get Enough Vegan Protein on a Plant-Based Diet
Why Does Your Body Need Protein?
First off, what is protein? Protein is a macronutrient that your body needs to perform a ton of tasks. As a macronutrient, your body needs to consume relatively large quantities of protein to stay healthy. The general recommendation is that you consume 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight each day. For example, a 185lb man should aim to eat at least 65kg of protein per day.
Protein performs several roles in the body to keep you fit, strong, and healthy. To start with, you need protein for a robust immune system. Protein plays an essential role in combating viral and bacterial infections. Antibodies are one of your immune system’s star players and rely on protein. If you get too little protein in your diet, it may result in weakness, poor immunity, and tiredness.
You probably already know that to build and repair muscles, you need protein. But the nutrient’s benefits go beyond your muscles. Protein is a crucial part of the synthesis of enzymes and hormones. It influences the release of hormones that control how much you eat and when you feel hungry. Research shows that eating protein can lower levels of the hunger hormone and increase the hormone that makes you feel full.
Can You Get Enough Protein on a Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet consists of plant-based foods only. Think fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, and grains. Often, when you think of protein sources, your mind goes to animal-based foods such as chicken, eggs, and fish. It’s easy to think that you can’t get enough protein without animal foods, but this isn’t the case. It’s entirely possible to meet your protein needs on a vegan diet with some extra planning.
Proteins are large molecules that consist of hundreds of thousands of smaller molecules, called amino acids. There are twenty different types of amino acids. The sequence of amino acids determines the structure of the protein and how your body uses it.
Out of twenty amino acids, humans can build eleven on their own. However, there are nine essential amino acids, which means that your body can’t produce them. So, you have to get them in your diet through either complete or incomplete protein sources. Complete protein sources have all the essential amino acids you need, while incomplete sources don’t include all of them.
Generally, people think you need to eat complementary proteins in one meal like rice and beans and hummus and pita. This way, you eat all your essential amino acids in one sitting. However, the body is smart. You don’t need to eat all your amino acids in the same meal.
Throughout the day, your body maintains an amino acid “pool.” This means that you can eat proteins at different meal times and snacks throughout the day, and they will combine later in the day to a proper amount of protein.
Six Vegan Sources of Protein
With a vegan diet, there is a risk of protein deficiency. But, if you plan and meal prep for vegan food, you can take proactive steps to minimize the risk of developing a deficiency. If you’re very active and have a high protein requirement, you may want to consider plant-based protein powders, especially after a workout, to help give you that boost you need.
Here are six vegan sources of protein to up your intake and fuel your body.
1. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are a great source of protein. They are a low-fat and affordable source of protein that you can easily add to a meal. A rich source of iron, fiber, B vitamins, manganese, and copper, here are some of the best foods to add to your diet:
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
Soybeans are considered a complete source of protein, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids. They belong to the legume family and come in several varieties like tofu, tempeh, and edamame.
3. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant. They are a complete protein rich in iron, magnesium, omega fatty acids, zinc, and calcium. You can add hemp seeds to a smoothie or sprinkle them on top of a salad.
Nuts are not only a great snack, but they pack a powerful protein punch. They are nutrient-dense, high in fat, and considered heart-healthy food. The nuts with the most amount of protein include:
5. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
Dark leafy green vegetables are a fantastic source of protein as well as other nutrients. Many leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamins C, K, and B. Some of the most nutrient-dense vegetables you can add to your diet include:
- Collard greens
- Brussels sprouts
Mushrooms are low-calorie and a good source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Roughly one cup of mushrooms provides one to two grams of protein. Interestingly, mushrooms offer a small amount of vitamin D. When you expose mushrooms to sunlight, they produce vitamin D just like humans do. No other vegetable can do this. They are also delicious and massively versatile.
How to Get Enough Vegan Protein on a Plant-Based Diet
With such a variety of foods to choose from, you can easily get enough protein on a vegan diet. By planning and making sure you’re eating the right types of foods, you can satisfy your protein requirements.