We all need protein and the usual recommendation is about 0.8 grams per a kilo of body weight a day, or about 0.36 grams of protein per pound. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, high levels of physical activity and illness increase these requirements to some extent.
There’s a common misconception that vegetarians and vegans easily get deficient in protein, but it is surprisingly easy to fill and even generously exceed this requirement even without any meat, dairy or other animal-based proteins.
Protein is needed to help the body build strong muscles, repair tissues and maintain an effective immune and hormonal system.
The best sources of protein would be:
– Nuts and seeds, especially when eaten raw (almonds, cashew, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, filberts, etc.)
– Soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, miso, and soy milk.
– Sprouted seeds. Sprouts are often part of a raw food diet. They do require a slight amount of work, but not necessarily a lot. The easiest sprouts to make are lentils. The easiest way to make them is simply to soak them in a large plastic cup for 8 hrs, then drain and keep moist by spraying and occasionally rinsing. They can be eaten as soon as they get soft enough, though sometimes hard seeds might still exist for 8 hrs or more. Each type of sprout has differing proportions of nutrients, so it’s best to eat a variety of them.
– Grains, especially amaranth and quinoa, are highest in protein and are high-quality proteins.
– Beans and legumes, especially when eaten raw. There are more than 13,000 varieties of legumes growing in the world, but only about 40 types are commonly consumed. Because they are an inexpensive, easily grown source of protein, they have been central to diets around the world for 12,000 years. Introducing legumes into menus offers a chance to explore different ethnic cuisines. Use legumes as main dish items rather than side dishes. A good way to introduce beans to the diet is to decrease meat in favourite dishes, like casseroles and chili, and replace it with beans. Because of their many health benefits, beans should be eaten often.
– Blue-green algae, which are over 60 percent protein (spirulina, chorella, marine phytoplankton).
The table below shows the amount of protein in various vegan foods and also the number of grams of protein per 100 calories. To meet protein recommendations, the typical adult male vegan needs only 2.5 to 2.9 grams of protein per 100 calories and the typical adult female vegan needs only 2.1 to 2.4 grams of protein per 100 calories. These recommendations can be easily met from vegan sources.
Table 2: Protein Content of Selected Vegan Foods
|Soybeans, cooked||1 cup||29||9.6|
|Lentils, cooked||1 cup||18||7.8|
|Black beans, cooked||1 cup||15||6.7|
|Kidney beans, cooked||1 cup||13||6.4|
|Veggie burger||1 patty||13||13.0|
|Chickpeas, cooked||1 cup||12||4.2|
|Veggie baked beans||1 cup||12||5.0|
|Pinto beans, cooked||1 cup||12||5.7|
|Black-eyed peas, cooked||1 cup||11||6.2|
|Tofu, firm||4 ounces||11||11.7|
|Lima beans, cooked||1 cup||10||5.7|
|Quinoa, cooked||1 cup||9||3.5|
|Tofu, regular||4 ounces||9||10.6|
|Peas, cooked||1 cup||9||6.4|
|Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked||1/2 cup||8||8.4|
|Peanut butter||2 Tbsp||8||4.3|
|Veggie dog||1 link||8||13.3|
|Spaghetti, cooked||1 cup||8||3.7|
|Soy milk, commercial, plain||1 cup||7||7.0|
|Soy yogurt, plain||6 ounces||6||4.0|
|Bulgur, cooked||1 cup||6||3.7|
|Sunflower seeds||1/4 cup||6||3.3|
|Whole wheat bread||2 slices||5||3.9|
|Almond butter||2 Tbsp||5||2.4|
|Brown rice, cooked||1 cup||5||2.1|
|Spinach, cooked||1 cup||5||13.0|
|Broccoli, cooked||1 cup||4||6.8|
|Sources: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18, 2005 and manufacturers’ information.
The recommendation for protein for adult males vegans is around 56-70 grams per day; for adult female vegans it is around 46-58 grams per day.
Eat a variety of unrefined grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables throughout the day, so that if one food is low in a particular essential amino acid, another food will make up this deficit.