Can I get enough protein on a plant-based diet? Yes, you can get an adequate amount of protein on a plant based diet. I’m often surprised by how many people are concerned about this. Protein is definitely an essential building block in any proper diet. However, meat, poultry and dairy are not the only sources of protein. One can find a plethora of great plant based protein sources. Before we do, let’s figure out how much protein we actually need.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
For starters, who was first the person to start investigating protein standards. This man was Max Rubner. Max Rubner was a German physician who specialized in the physiology and metabolism of the human body. He established the concept of anabolism and catabolism for human tissues and created the wear coefficient. That is, how much protein per day our muscles use.
In his research, he found that a person needs only 0.3 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight to avoid catabolism. According to his data, oddly enough, for a 70-kilogram person, only 23 grams of protein per day is required. It corresponds to a little less than a bottle of milk. It is clear that if we lack protein, then our tissues will wear out faster than we recover. It will lead to a deterioration in well-being. Many people face fragile hair, problematic skin, poor health, etc. Lack of protein causes most of those problems.
Keep in mind that all this happened about 100 years ago. Today, this amount of protein is considered to be not enough. Rubner’s coefficient was calculated for a person at rest, lying in bed without movement.
In the United States, there is a standard that defines the daily norm of protein (RDA). In general, these standards recommend that the average person consume 0.80 g of protein per kg or 0.36g per lb. That equates to about 56g of protein for a typical 155 lb. male, per day.
Can a Plant-based Diet Provide Adequate Protein?
Let’s investigate further to see if the plant-based diet can provide what you need. The perceived lack of protein is one thing that stops people from starting a plant-based diet. Until the 1950’s, most considered meat the best bang for their nutritional buck. It includes nine essential amino acids, and no one believed that vegetable foods could provide these.
It became the central topic of many scientific studies.. In 1954 a group of scientists from Harvard University discovered that a diverse plant-based diet quickly satisfies the demand of protein.
Foods to Include in your Plant-Based Diet for Protein
When planning your meals, pay attention to the following. It’s all about the total amount of nutrients consumed per day and the amino acids contained in them. There are nine essential amino acids that our bodies need. They are essential amino acids because the body cannot synthesize them. So we must get them from food. This doesn’t mean that meat is the only source. Vegetarians have an extensive and large selection of foods full of protein.
Greens and green vegetables are precious and nutritious foods in the diet, as they have nine primary amino acids in their composition. But to get all of those amino acids in a sufficient amount, you should combine different types of greens.
Most people have no idea about the abundance of easily digestible amino acids found in green vegetables. They try to eat foods rich in complex vitamins and minerals. To get the maximum benefit and boost your energy, start drinking green smoothies and include vegetable salads in your diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits are also sources of plant protein. Great examples of these foods are avocados, pears, persimmons, apricots, cherries, kiwi, dried apricots, prunes, dates, figs, bananas, tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli, spinach, celery, and carrots. For example, one avocado contains 10 grams of protein, one cup of broccoli – 5 grams, and one cup of spinach – 5 grams of protein.
Cereals such as wheat, buckwheat, oats, millet, and brown rice provide nearly half of the world’s protein intake. Some grains, such as amaranth and quinoa, growing in South America, contain an amino acid structure comparable to that found in animal products.
It is interesting to note that in cereals, the percentage of protein calories is about 10-15%. And these are precisely the numbers that doctors recommend as an ideal indicator. Moreover, grains are low in fat, and they provide the body with iron, zinc, B vitamins, and fiber.
Buckwheat is especially valuable among the cereals. It contains proteins that are close in nutritional value to animal proteins. So buckwheat is essential if you want to minimize the use of those foods. Recently, Seitan, a product made of wheat protein, has also become popular. Due to its high protein content, Seitan is a vegetable substitute for meat. 100 g of Seitan contains 25 grams of protein.
Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein, healthy fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. You can use them both fresh and in the form of vegetable oils. Flaxseed, olive, sesame, pumpkin and walnut and pine nut oil are considered especially useful and valuable oils in plant-based nutrition. Thus, if you exclude meat and fish from your diet, then you should use nuts, seeds, and fats to normalize your menu. The most valuable nuts are pistachios and cashews.
Legumes are a valuable source of vegetable protein and complex carbohydrates. They contain twice as much protein as cereals. You can choose a vast assortment of plants. The most popular among vegetarians are red and white beans, lentils, green peas, asparagus beans, chickpeas, peas, mung beans, soybeans.
Beans are also an excellent source of iron and zinc. They do not contain cholesterol, are rich in fiber and calcium. Be sure to provide the body with a sufficient amount of ascorbic acid, responsible for the absorption of iron of plant origin.
One cup of chickpea contains -14 grams of protein, a cup of beans contains 12 grams of protein, 1 cup of soybeans – 28 grams of protein and 1 cup of peas – 9 grams of protein.
Until the end of the 20th century, people believed that only foods of animal origin were sources of proteins. However, scientists have proven that soy products also contain all the essential amino acids. Its amino acid composition is identical to meat.
Tofu is a soy cheese, made from soybeans by curdling soy milk protein. Soy cheese is very rich in high-quality protein, contains all essential amino acids, and is also a valuable source of iron and calcium. People sometimes call Tofu the “Chinese cow,” as it provides as much protein and iron as meat. It takes on the taste of other ingredients in any dish, making it a versatile product.
Tofu can be fried, boiled, baked, used in soups, sauces, desserts. Soy cheese itself has almost no taste. So when preparing it, pay special attention to seasonings and sauces that will convey its flavor. 100 g of Tofu includes 0.6 g of carbohydrates, 8 g of protein, and 4 g of fat.
Dairy (Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians, Only- Not Plant-Based)
For Lacto-vegetarians, a variety of dairy products can be the source of protein. Animal proteins are in large quantities in cottage cheese, milk, cheese, etc. For example, 1 cup of yogurt contains 13 grams of protein.
As you can see, the list turned out to be quite impressive. And it would not be difficult to make a varied and rich diet with proteins.
Plant-Based Diet vs. Vegan
Compared to Vegan, the plant-based diet allows eating some foods of animal origin. Veganism is not just a diet; it is a philosophy. Vegans avoid using all animal products, do not wear leather clothes, and do not tolerate cruelty to the animals.
A plant-based diet is a nutrition framework where you base your menu predominantly on plant based foods. You don’t have to fully omit meat and animal foods, such as eggs, milk, cheese all at once. Although, I would encourage you to minimize these ingredients if looking to maximize the health benefits. So it is easier to create your food list that covers your demand. Focus on eating more plant based foods and you will slowly reduce your desire for meat.
The plant-based diet can definitely provide you with all your protein requirements. It helps to plan your meals in advance. Make sure to include power-rich foods in your menu like legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and even soy products like organic Tofu.
Also, for Lacto-vegetarians, utilize dairy products. Cheese, yogurt, kefir, milk, cottage cheese can all be valuable additions. You can add them to familiar dishes and combine them with fruits and vegetables.
You should also be creative in choosing and cooking food. Do not be afraid to try some new dishes. You’ll enjoy the variety of new flavors that come from these new favorites. That, in itself, is something to look forward to. Enjoy!
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Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Veggie Board!!