Every vegetarian and vegan’s favourite question: “But… where do you get your protein?”. The first time I was asked this I was at a loss of what to say. I’d never thought of asking my vegetarian friends this question, however most people ask me when finding out I don’t eat animal products. In the past years I’ve watched documentaries, read books on nutrition and now know the answer, which is… everything!
How many people have you heard of with a protein deficiency? How are 40% of the Indian population with vegetarian diets doing? As long as you eat enough calories each day and a variety of food, it’s easy to meet recommended protein intake on a vegan diet.
The Australian Ministry of Health states that ‘all of the necessary amino acids can be provided in the amounts needed from plant sources.‘ Thanks guys! Here’s some more ammo to answer this all time favourite question!
Recommended daily intake of protein
Protein intake recommendations vary depending on age, height, weight and physical activity, but the Australian recommended protein intake is 0.75 grams to each kilo of body weight for women and 0.84 for men. This is on par with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations. For me that would mean eating 47 grams of protein per day. Let’s see if I can do it!
A day in the life of a vegan
I went back through My Fitness Pal (from when I used to count calories) and found one of the last days I used it. So let’s put my diet to the test to see if I’m getting enough protein shall we?
Breakfast: Weetbix, fruit & nut muesli & soy milk – 13 grams
Lunch: Iku green pea soup & fruit salad – 23 grams
Dinner: Wholegrain pasta with broccoli and cashew ‘cheese’ – 14 grams
Snacks: Small raw food bar, raw cashews & (gasp!) Skittles – 8 grams
Total protein: 58 grams from 1550 calories
Well would you look at that – I ate enough protein without even trying!
What about athletes?
For vegan athletes, some research has shown that 1.3–1.8 g of protein per kilo of body weight may be needed. For me that would mean about 81.9 grams of protein today which can easily be reached with some extra high protein snacks or a protein shake. Looking at My Fitness Pal I did reach around 80 grams on my strength building days and having a Sunwarrior shake. Sweet!
Good vegan sources of protein?
Protein is in nearly everything we eat, but here are some great vegan sources:
- Soy products – soy milk, tempeh, tofu
- Nuts, nut butters & seeds
- Legumes – chickpeas, beans, lentils etc
- Seitan (gluten mock meat)
- Brown rice
- Vegan protein powders (Sunwarrior, Vega etc)
- Veggies – mushrooms, spinach, kale, peas… all of them!
If you really can’t be bothered trying to educate the person asking you the question, here’s some alternative answers!
- “Protein? Oh, I’ve adapted, so I don’t need it anymore.” – The Flaming Vegan
- Or just simply…. “Plants.”