Putting the Protein Myth to Rest

08.09.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course How to go vegan by Karina Inkster

The myth that vegans don’t get enough protein is still—unfortunately—prevalent. Today, we’ll go over why that’s completely false, how much protein you actually need, and how easy it is to get your protein needs met on a plant-based diet.

The key is to eat a varied, whole foods-based diet and you’ll get enough protein. All foods contain amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and most foods contain at least some ready-made protein.

So, how much protein do we need? Government health organizations recommend that we get between 10% and 35% of our total calories from protein. On the low end, that’s about 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. This is extremely simple to achieve. Did you know that 100g of rolled oats contain 16g of protein? Or that one cup of tempeh has between 30 and 40 grams of protein?

Highly active people, especially those engaged in strength training, require higher protein intakes than sedentary people. I interviewed Susan Levin, the head sports dietician at the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine:

“If you follow a vegan diet and start exercising the minimal recommended amount, your natural hunger cues tend to take care of your increased needs. For athletes who train regularly, carbohydrates should always be the bulk of the diet. Endurance and strength training both call for increased protein, but only slightly for endurance training (from 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight to 1.3-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight per day). For strength training, those needs range from approximately 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Athletes should keep in mind that most of us consume about twice our needs in protein without even trying. Protein is not hard to get!”

So, a female who weighs 140 pounds (63.5 kilos) and strength trains regularly would need 114 grams of protein per day at the high end of the scale. If she eats 2,000 calories per day, that’s 23% of her total calorie intake coming from protein.

There are many excellent plant-based sources of protein! Here are just a few:

• Edamame (soy beans, either steamed or dry roasted)
• Quinoa
• Beans (e.g., kidney, navy, fava, pinto, cannellini, chickpea)
• Lentils (e.g., red, green, brown, French)
• Nuts (e.g., almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, cashews, walnuts)
• Seeds (e.g., hemp, flax, chia, sesame, sacha inchi, pumpkin, sunflower)
• Nut butter (e.g., peanut or almond)
• Non-dairy milks (soy has the highest protein content)
• Tofu
• Tempeh

As you can see, it’s not difficult to get the protein you need—even as an athlete—from a completely plant-based diet.

In tomorrow’s lesson, I’ll share some practical, easy-to-prepare vegan meal options for lunches and dinners.


Recommended reading

How Much Protein Do You Need?


Recommended book

“The Vegan Sourcebook” by Joanne Stepaniak


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