In many discussions, meat is synonymous with protein. However, veganism is a type of vegetarian diet that excludes meat, eggs, dairy products and all animal-derived ingredients. Many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products- for example, refined white sugar. Even though animal protein is “more complete” than many vegetables, that does not automatically make the animal better.
I know what you are thinking: animal-based products (meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, fish, etc.) are complete sources of protein. Incomplete proteins come from plant-based foods, such as beans, rice, grains, legumes (except soy) and vegetables. However, complete proteins can happen, for example, by combining rice and beans. The rice and beans do not have to be eaten at the same time in order to be used by the body. The vegan just needs to eat these complementary proteins within a 24 hour period.
Our body is amazing because it uses amino acids from foods to make protein. This occurs during the digestive process. There are twenty (20) amino acids in our body’s protein, nine (9) of which are essential to our diet. These nine essential amino acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be supplied by the food we eat.
There is no shortage of good sources of protein for vegans. The four food groups in your eating lifestyle should be fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. All four food groups contain amino acids. The best sources of protein will be found in legumes – beans, seeds, nuts and products made from them. By the end of the day, your goal is to reach the daily allowance of protein.
Let’s look at some vegan sources of protein.
Beans and Legumes and their Products (per 1 cup) – Tofu (31g), Lentils (18g), Chickpeas (12g)
Nuts and Seeds (per 100 grams) – Walnuts (24g), Almonds (22g), Pistachio (21g), Cashews (18g)
Cereals and Grains (per 1 cup) – Oats (26g), Quinoa (8g), Whole wheat pasta (7g), Brown rice (5g)
Vegetables (per 100 grams) – Raw garlic (6g), Brussels sprouts (4g)
Fruits (per 100 grams) – Raisins (4g)
Remember that when you consume more protein than your body needs, the excess is used to provide your body with energy or turned into fat- no matter where it is coming from. You cannot store extra amino acids for later use. So, if you consume too many calories in an effort to increase your protein intake, you will gain weight.