I used to be one of those people who thought that in order to eat vegan, one must eat rice and beans at each meal. Does anyone else remember this mumbo jumbo myth, too? Growing up in South Carolina, I was always taught that if you didn’t have chicken or a burger at the table, then you weren’t getting enough protein in your diet. And breakfast sure wasn’t “complete” without the eggs and bacon. These days, however, we’ve all gotten smarter than that, and burgers and bacon haven’t touched my lips in over 10 years.
Complete plant-based proteins do exist, and you don’t have to eat beans and rice together, or even at all, to obtain enough protein on a vegan diet. Plant-based foods are chock-full of protein, and if you’re concerned about the myth that these proteins aren’t “bio-available” or complete, then not to worry. That idea is likely just a lie someone made up somewhere along the way to make the animal-based food industry a ton of money.
The Real Deal on Protein….
I’m not negating the importance of protein- it’s incredibly important in a major way. Check this out: Protein is basically just a huge string of 20 amino acids, all delicately formed to provide our bodies with support, energy, and sustenance. Fat and carbs do the same, just in different ways. Protein builds our muscles, fuels our brains, keeps our skin and hair healthy, and keeps our organs running properly. It triggers neurotransmitters in the brain to improve our moods, lower our blood sugar, and even help us focus. Protein is an important nutrient, but you don’t need a tub of whey protein or a piece of chicken to get your fill.
The idea that all essential amino acids must be eaten together at each meal isn’t true like we used to think. One can eat a variety of foods that are rich in essential and non-essential amino acids, and completely get their fill of protein. Many plant-based foods are filled with all essential amino acids (hemp, chia, sprouted brown rice, and spirulina, just to name a handful).
Plus, think about this: cows and gorillas grow big and strong from eating nothing but plants (or at least in their natural habitats, that is). Considering that a cow needs nothing more than grass to grow big and strong, why should we think any differently for ourselves? Even vegan bodybuilders know that getting enough protein is absolutely no problem.
The good news is, you don’t have to graze like cattle or be a gorilla to have access to nature’s finest sources of protein. It’s much simpler than you think, considering that so many vegan foods are packed with high-quality protein.
Besides, too much animal protein is also a bad thing. It can trigger kidney issues, blood sugar problems, and even weight gain if you eat too much of it. While everyone’s protein needs are different, none of us require animal protein to obtain enough.
Take a look at these awesome plant-based, protein-rich foods:
- Broccoli: 5 grams per cup
- Spinach: 5 grams per cup
- Rye Grains: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Rolled Oats: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Millet: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Amaranth: 6 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Freekah: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Teff: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Buckwheat: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Almond Butter: 7 Grams per 2 tablespoons
- Spirulina: 4 grams per teaspoon (!!)
- Chlorella: 2 grams per teaspoon
- Chia seeds: 10 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Flax Seeds: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Cacao Powder: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Maca: 3 grams per tablespoon
- Acai: 5 grams per 3 ounce frozen puree
- Kale: 5 grams per cup
- Lentils- 18 grams per cup
- Black Beans- 13 grams per cup
- Chickpeas- 13 grams per cup
- Tofu: 10 grams per 3 ounces
- Tempeh: 10 grams per 2 ounces
- Endamame (Soybeans) – 16 grams per cup
- Romaine Lettuce: 3 grams per cup
- Sunflower Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
- Almonds: 7 grams per 1/4 cup
- Pumpkin Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
- Coconut Flour: 3.5 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Quinoa: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
- Plant-Based Protein Powders (hemp, pea, brown rice, cranberry bean, soy, etc.) : 17-25 grams per scoop (depending on the brand)
- Green Peas: 8 grams per cup
Even most fruits and the common white potato have a little bit of protein. One would have to eat refined white bread all day to hardly be short of protein (which I don’t think you would want to do, nor would I even advise it!)
No matter what kind of diet you eat, it’s always best to eat one filled with whole foods. When you eat a whole foods, plant-based, healthy diet, you can be rest-assured that you won’t be protein deficient (or carb and fat deficient for that matter either.)
How to Get Enough Protein and Find the Right Amount for You
If you’re still a little antsy and unsure about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet, just figure up how much you need. Multiply your body weight times .40 and that’s the recommended amount of protein you need for everyday functions. If you’re athletic, eat a little more and divide it up evenly between meals – simple as that.
Here are some awesome plant-based protein-rich recipe ideas to give you a boost: 10 Protein-Rich Quinoa Recipes, Sugar-Free Vegan Protein Bars, Brain Food Porridge, All About Tempeh and 7 Tasty Recipes, Creamy Millet and Cashew Pudding, The Ultimate Superfood Detox Smoothie, Mediterranean Strength Millet, Veggie Burgers, Banana Oatmeal with Hazelnut Butter, Raisins, and Baobab Powder, Supremely Green Power Smoothie, Crunchy Raw Vegan Protein Balls (Gluten-Free).
Mother Nature’s got it covered for us in all areas of nutrition; we sure don’t need to insult her and go through the poor cow or chicken to get our protein. Eat your plants people and rock on with your protein-rich selves!
Image Source: Veganbaking.net/Flickr