Where do vegans and vegetarians get protein? Do they really get enough? Although science has clearly shown that its completely possible to live (and thrive) on a plant-based diet, myths about the lifestyle’s protein inadequacy continue to circulate. It’s time to do some major plant-based diet myth-busting…
Plant foods don’t contain protein.
It’s not only possible to survive on a plant-based diet – we can thrive. When compared with meat-eaters, they tend to have lower levels of inflammation and are less likely to suffer from diseases like diabetes and cancer. We veggies can also build some serious muscle. If you don’t believe me, check out these inspirational plant-powered athletes and vegan bodybuilders.
Why do we need protein?
Protein is absolutely essential to life – it makes up hormones that send chemical messages, enzymes that carry out chemical reactions, antibodies that protect us from infection, transporters that carry important molecules, and structural components that allow us to move. It’s safe to say that protein and its smaller amino acid components definitely take on a heavy workload.
Do we need “complete” proteins?
A “complete” protein is one that contains all of the essential amino acids that we humans need to survive.
It’s true that many plant-based foods are considered “incomplete” (they do not contain each essential amino acid on their own) but luckily, we can get all of our amino acids from plant foods without too much effort. We don’t need to get every amino acid at every meal – we can get all of our amino acids just by eating a varied plant-based diet rich in beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. (Plus, some veg staples, like tofu, tempeh, and quinoa, are even complete proteins all on their own.)
How much protein do we actually need?
The average person only requires about 0.4 grams or protein per pound of body weight. This equates to about 60 grams a day for a person who weighs 150 pounds. Athletes and those with a severe injury or illness require a bit more – but can still easily meet needs on a plant-based diet.
What does 60 grams of plant-based protein look like?
Here’s an example of what a vegetarian could eat in a day to meet protein needs:
Breakfast: oatmeal made with soy milk and topped with slivered almonds and berries
Lunch: 2 black bean tacos on whole wheat tortillas
Dinner: tofu and green pea stir fry with quinoa
Plant-Based Protein Sources
Where can you find protein in the plant world?
Some of my favorites include:
Beans (black, pinto, kidney, white, chickpeas, etc.)
Nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc.)
Seeds (hemp, pumpkin, flax, chia, etc.)
Need some recipe inspiration? Here are some favorites:
Did you find this post helpful? Share it with your veg-friends (or anyone that has asked you where you get your protein!)