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Vegan Protein

Vegan protein is a question most non-vegans pick up on when I tell them I'm a vegan. They will often ask me how on earth I get enough protein if I don't eat eggs and meat.

beans If you do a bit of research into vegan protein, you can see that it really isn't a problem.

Plant based protein sources also have the added benefit of having no cholesterol or animal fats to pollute your body either.


We need protein in our diet to help our body repair itself. Our body tissues are constantly repairing themselves, breaking down and re-forming and protein is needed to help things along. When we digest foods containing protein, the protein is broken down and turned into amino acids which make the protein in our bodies.

There are 20 known amino acids and we make some of them in our bodies. However, there are nine amino acids that we need to get through our diet. These are what we call "essential amino acids" and if we do not get enough of these essential amino acids in our diet, then the proteins in our bodies break down and we lose body protein. In the long term, this will lead to a feeling of weakness and eventually serious illnesses.

The proteins we eat are made up of various combinations of these amino acids and are split into two groups. There are "complete proteins" which contain all 9 essential amino acids, and there are the "incomplete proteins" which have one or more amino acids missing.

Below, I have listed a group of complete plant proteins which contain all 9 amino acids, and below that is a list of incomplete protein foods. You can incorporate the incomplete proteins in your diet as well as the complete proteins as this will give you a good mix of all the proteins as well as ensuring you have a varied diet, which is important.

Complete Protein Sources:

Algae such as chlorella and spirulina
Soya beans and products such as tofu and tempeh

The amino acids that are missing in some plant based food items tend to vary from protein food item to protein food item unless you are eating the complete proteins as listed above. This is where protein combining comes into play which some people like to do although it isn't neccessary.

When you eat various foods which contain protein, one food item will usually make up for another food item lacking in one or two amino acids and vice versa. But it is generally accepted that we shouldn't get too hung up on this because if a vegan eats a well balanced diet, they will naturally be eating a combination of protein foods that compliment one another without any planning.

Incomplete Plant Proteins:

Legumes Nuts and Seeds Whole Grains
Bean sprouts Almonds Barley
Black eyed beans Cashew nuts Brown rice
Kidney beans Nut butters Corn
Lentils Seed Sprouts Oats
Peas Sunflower/sesame/hemp/pumpkin seeds Wholegrain pasta and bread

Here are a few examples of protein food combining:

  • Hummus and pitta bread

  • Beans on toast

  • Peanut butter on wholegrain bread

  • Muesli and soya milk

  • Rice with peas or beans

  • Corn and beans


    We need 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. Based on this, an average male who weighs 154 pounds should eat around 56 grams of protein per day. Females who weigh 110 pounds should eat on average around 40 grams of protein per day.

    Some examples of vegan protein would be:

  • 3/4 cup of lentils = 13 grams

  • 150 grams of firm tofu = 21 grams

  • 1 slice wholemeal bread = 3 grams

  • 1/4 cup of almonds = 8 grams

  • 1/2 a cup of hummus = 8 grams

  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = 7 grams

  • 1 cup of brown rice = 5 grams

  • 1 cup cooked spaghetti = 8 grams

  • 1 cup of soya milk = 7 grams

  • 1 cup of baked beans = 12 grams

  • 1 cup tempeh = 41 grams

    You can see from the above listed food items that it is fairly easy to get enough vegan protein. Most nuts, grains, beans and seeds contain a high amount of protein - and nearly all vegetables contain good amounts of protein too.

    A vegan diet will easily meet or exceed the RDA of protein but will typically be lower than that of someone who eats a meat and dairy diet (the average American consumes around double the RDA of protein). But the good news is that this lower intake will also benefit you as a high protein diet has been linked to osteoporosis and aggravating poor kidney functioning.

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