Where do Vegans get their protein from?

This is the big question that vegans are faced with whenever they let people know about their lifestyle: where do vegans get their proteins from? It’s actually quite silly that this is where most of our minds drift off to when we meet vegans. So, let’s get educated once and for all. Cayley and Nicole are the faces behind Banana TV where they’ve already produced hundreds of videos aiming to educate people about the vegan lifestyle. So, of course they know this question very well,  and here’s how they respond to it. 

What is protein?

For starters, it is a polypeptide, which simply is a long chain of amino acids. While there are 20 different amino acids, the body is capable of producing 11 of them all by itself. This leaves the other 9 essential amino acids to be obtained through our diet. So when we eat proteins, it gets broken down into these individual amino acids which our body then uses as building blocks for what we need. “Think of it as a beaded necklace. Our body takes that necklace, cuts the string and all the beads go everywhere, and then it goes and collects the beads it needs and uses that”.

High Biological value VS. Low Biological Value

Meats are considered to have high biological value, while plants are considered to have low. This is because meats contain an amino acid chain that’s pretty similar to our bodies, which makes it more easy to be used by our body. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good for us. While it’s similar to us, yes, it also means faster body growth rate, faster cancer growth rate, and more growth factors. With all the proteins taken out of the meat, the body gets excited by the excess proteins leading to growths, because it doesn’t know what to do with all that protein.

On the other hand, you have plants. When you get your protein from ‘low biological value’ foods like plants, the protein gets synthesized in a slow and steady manner. The body absorbs the amino acids it needs to build what is necessary and that’s the end of it. All plant protein have the essential amino acids that you need, but with different ratios, so what you get from carrots, you won’t get from bananas. In other words, if you eat a variety of whole foods from a vegan lifestyle, you will get those 9 essential amino acids.

Okay, but how much protein do people even need?

While it seems everyone has been taught in school about how it’s necessary to get proteins, what’s missing is the education on just how much protein we actually need. This usually leads to us eating more than necessary. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is actually 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight per day, roughly adding up to 8-10% of our total calories for the day. Which, really isn’t that much. For an average woman who isn’t very active, this amounts to about 46 grams per day.  That’s truly not a hard number to reach.

Once you break it all down, there really is no point in asking this question anymore. You can get your necessary proteins without eating animal products, since there’s protein in basically everything – Rice, broccoli, carrots, bananas, pasta, lentils, beans, quinoa and so much more!

Easy vegan food swaps

Are you trying to cut back on animal products, or are you just curious about a more plant-based diet? Whatever your reasons, we have selected some easy vegan food swaps so you can experience how easy and yummy plant-based options are!

Vegan food swaps and tips:

  1. Very important if you want to try a more plant-based diet; eat more legumes. Legumes, like chickpeas, lentils and beans, are a good source of protein and also provide fiber, important minerals and B-vitamins.
  2. Swap your eggs for flax or chia ‘eggs’ in baking recipes (think pancakes, muffins, cookies). For flax eggs, mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal (just put flax seeds in the food processor or blender) with 3 tablespoons of water; for chia eggs, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Let it sit for about 15 minutes before using.
  3. One of the easiest vegan food swaps is to add nuts and seeds; especially hemp seeds are a great source of protein. They also provide important other nutrients such as good fats, fiber, minerals and vitamins.
  4. Milk is an easy product to swap; try plant-based milk like almond milk, rice milk or oat milk. There are many options available in organic food shops! Look for unsweetened versions (always check the ingredient list; there are some ‘almond milks’ consisting of 2% almonds and 98% crap) or make nut or seed milk yourself; what about hemp milk, hazelnut milk or sunflower seed milk?
  5. Quinoa is called (pseudo) ‘super-grain’ for a reason; it is high in protein and gluten free. Quinoa contains all nine of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein and a great meat substitute.
  6. Leafy greens like spinach and kale, and green veggies like broccoli are also packed with protein and contain B-vitamins as well as other important nutrients. For example, broccoli contains more protein per calorie than a steak! So you better drink that green smoothie 😉
  7. Skip the processed soy foods. Unprocessed soy products are a great and maybe even necessary addition to a vegan lifestyle, but there are a lot of creepy soy stories, so try to skip the faux meat. Also, there are a lot of other unwanted ingredients in processed foods, so it’s better to skip them anyway. Moderation is key, also in a vegan lifestyle!

Do you have some other tips or additional vegan food swaps? Let us know in the comments.