Hazel Thornicroft

VI Owner, Foodie, Blogger & Planet Enthusiast

Hazel Thornicroft

VI Owner, Foodie, Blogger & Planet Enthusiast

Eating Protein on a Vegan Diet

This is one of the biggest worries of people who are new to a vegan diet. But there’s nothing to fear. Just consider some of the largest animals on the planet, such as elephants, rhinos, horses, cows. These all eat a vegan diet…and they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves ;-). 

Read for yourself why protein is so important, what we get wrong in a western diet, and how we can get plenty of protein from plants, without any detrimental affect to our bodies. Not just that, but why top athletes have taken to a whole food plant-based diet. If it’s good enough for tennis stars, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovich, Body Builders, Torre Washington and Dominick Thompson, Ultra Athlete, Rich Roll, NFL player, Tony Gonzalez and professional Wrestler, Laura Dennis, I guess plant protein is good enough for us ordinary folks!

What is Protein?

Protein is a macronutrient, made up of a variety of amino acids, connecting together like a string of pearls. You’ve probably heard of essential amino acids. Unlike nonessential amino acids, these compounds are unable to be produced by the body, and therefore must be obtained through our food. 

It used to be thought that plant proteins were inferior to meat and that we needed all the essential amono acids in every meal we ate. That meant, combining ‘complimentary proteins’ such as rice and beans. These have long since been disproven as myths. Our bodies are clever and keep reserves of amino acids which can be broken down and reassembled to form that string of pearls we need. So, as long as we get all the essential amino acids we need throughout the day, then the body will recycle when required.

Why Do We Need Protein?

Protein is absolutely essential for our everyday survival. Every cell in our body contains protein. It is the building block for building and repairing muscles, bones, blood, skin and cartilage. So, it is important and even more so for growing children, pregnant mothers or if you are recovering from an illness or injury that you get the right amount of protein. Not getting enough could have terrible concequences.

Where Do Vegans Get Protein From?

We’ve been told since childhood that we need to eat meat and dairy for protein, and that protein from these sources are far better for you than from plants. But, this isn’t true. These days there are so many plant-based sources of protein available to us that we no longer need to eat meat or dairy to give us the protein that our bodies need. 

So, what are they? Take a look at the chart below. You might be surprised to find out how many great sources of protein there are. In fact, almost every food has protein in it, so these are just our chart toppers!

In the chart above we’ve included typical portion sizes for an adult to give you a good idea of what you can expect. For example, eating oats and soy milk for breakfast, with nothing else, will already give you 13.3g of protein. Try adding some nuts and seeds and you’re really powering up your day.

How Much Protein Do We Need?

The amount of protein each person needs can vary widely, depending on your size, age and physical activity. However, Western diets usually contain far more protein than is needed. When this happens, the excess protein will turn to fat, with the additional amino acids, being washed down the toilet. On top of this, there are long-term health effects of consistently consuming too much protein. These may include increasing your cancer risk, causes to bone and calcium imbalance, liver and kidney disorders and more.

So, how much is the right amount, and how much is too much?

Studies indicate that the optimum daily intake for protein is 0.8 grams for each kilogram of body weight. (This is for healthy bodyweight and doesn’t include excess fat you may be carrying). This equates to, on average 56g for men and 46g for woman. For children, please check out the kids pageHowever, for particularly active people, building muscle, this study suggests that a daily intake of between 1.4g – 2.0g per kg of body weight is required. 

There is a lot of discussion as to how much is too much, but most seem to agree that 2g per kg of body weight or more could be dangerous long term. This means, on average, consuming 140g or more protein for men and 115g or more protein for woman. 

Take another glance at the chart above and you’ll see how easy it is to reach your daily protein levels.

Support & Suggestions

If you’re new to plant-based food or you not sure what to cook or how to get enough protein, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place! I have lived with a vegan 6’5″ rugby player and know plenty tricks to make sure you get enough protein. 

Firstly, take a look at some of my recipes here

Secondly, send me a question in the comment box below (that way others can see it and they may have the same questions you do) or, send us a direct message here and we can chat through any concerns you have and come up with a solution to fit you. 

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