You probably already know how protein plays a major role in the human body. Well, I mean aside from bulking up your muscles. But do you have any idea how much protein you need every day?
And more importantly, if you’re vegan, do you know where and how to get them? Yes, I’m talking about plant sources only, not animal sources!
Protein intake is often seen as a challenge when you can’t eat meat or eggs. How true is that? Can vegans meet their RDA for protein? Yes! And quite easily too! Check out the vegan protein sources chart below and be blown away!
Protein For Vegan Men and Women
RDAs are simply an estimate of the amount of nutrition we should get each day. The figures are a rough guide so we know if we need more or if we’re beyond the limit already.
Perhaps that’s why from RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance), it was renamed DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) by the Institute of Medicine. Sounds more appropriate, right?
Most people believe that the you need high amounts of protein every day, but the fact is that you need less than you probably think. And vegan or not, the same applies to everybody.
In general, under a sedentary lifestyle, the DRI for men is 56 grams of protein and 46 grams for women.
To be more exact, adults (age 18 and above) should have 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
To make it easier, that’s:
0.8 g per kilo (e.g., your weight is 52 kgs X 0.8 = 41.6 grams of protein/day)
0.36 g per pound (e.g., your weight is 80 lbs X 0.36 = 28.8 grams of protein/day)
Now you do the math for yourself.
Your protein intake should also make up 10-35% of your total daily caloric intake. Let’s do some math again :
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
So, if you consume, let’s say 2,500 calories per day, 250-875 calories should come from your protein intake. That’s between 62.5-218.75 grams of protein.
Before you realize it’s now confusing, I’ll tell you where to use both:
- Protein by weight basis – if you have a sedentary lifestyle
- Protein by calorie basis – if you need more calories
But when do you need more calories?
Well, there are many instances, which change the RDA for protein in each case.
Changes in DRIs (RDAs) for Protein
The standard RDA for protein generally applies to adults with a sedentary lifestyle. So if you don’t do many physical activities then that’s for you.
So when does the RDA change? It’s simpler than you think. It changes when your activities or health changes. These types of individuals are an example:
- Individuals who work out
- Workers with a physically demanding work
- Sick or ill individuals
- Pregnant and lactating women
If you are in any of the above situations, then you need more protein than the average person. Because these changes will also require more calories, the amount of protein you need will increase as well. Makes better sense, doesn’t it?
Functions Of Protein
Macronutrients are like the gods of nutrients. Along with carbohydrates and fats, proteins make all other nutrients work, and without them, good health will seem impossible.
This is why they are the macros — we need them in LARGE amounts. And that’s because they have large, or I should say MANY functions.
Specifically, we vegans need lots of protein for the following:
- Acid-base (pH) balance
- Back-up source of energy
- Conduction of metabolic activities
- Creation of antibodies for immune function
- Development, maintenance, and repair of body structure from cells and tissues to organs and body systems
- Maintenance of fluid balance
- Physical growth
- Regulation of systemic functions
- Synthesis and mobilization of enzymes and hormones
- Transportation and storage of nutrients to the cells
Benefits Of Adequate Protein Consumption
If all the functions of protein described above are not enough to convince you of the importance protein, then know that protein can benefit your vanity too because it does the following:
- Aids in weight loss (or maintenance) by suppressing appetite (If you would like a step-by-step guide on how to lose weight on a vegan diet Click Here).
- Boosts metabolism
- Develops and preserves muscle mass
Too Much Protein: What Can Go Wrong?
Just a reminder that no matter how good something is, abusing it will always turn out bad. If you’re thinking to get more protein than what your body needs, here are the risks you can be in:
- Bad breath
- Calcium loss
- Cancer risks
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Weight gain
You might want to remember your DRIs now. Don’t go over it!
Vegan Protein: Is There Such A Thing?
One of the many negative connotations about vegan diet is that protein is hard to find. This is probably only true for new vegans who are yet to meet all the protein-rich plant sources available to them!
Most people get their protein fix from meat and dairy products, which has been the norm in basic nutrition. This is why it is common to think that going on a vegan diet will leave you deficient from protein. Big lie!
In case you don’t know, there are plenty of nutritious vegetables that are abundant in protein. The amount of protein in these plant foods may even surprise you!
Vegan protein is real!
Vegan Foods With The Highest Protein
Now that you know how much protein you need, why you need it, and why you should stick to your DRIs, I can finally tell you WHERE to get it. Yes you have now unlocked the protein sources stage! Haha. Way to go!
First, I will be a boastful vegan and give you the top vegan sources of protein according to USDA. These are the protein giants in the plant food world!
Vegan Protein Sources Chart
To help you with your meal planning, here are all the vegan sources with the highest protein content in their food category.
Check how much protein each one has and consider them for your everyday meals. This will help you reach your daily protein target easier.
Nuts and Seeds
BONUS: To learn more about where you, as a vegan can get your protein source, check out the video below!
Plant Vs Animal Protein
Another argument against veganism is the quality of protein found in plants versus that of the protein from animal sources. Is there really a difference?
If you have seen this comparison before, it is said that animal protein is better than plant protein because of its amino acid content. To make it short, the claims state that plant protein is simply incomplete. But how can this be?
To answer and understand this argument, let’s talk about amino acids first.
Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein. When protein from food enters our body, the digestive process breaks it down into amino acids. Now there are 2 types of amino acids:
- Essential – amino acids that our body cannot produce, so a food source is a must
- Non-essential – amino acids that our body can produce by itself
Proteins, depending on its source, will contain different amino acids. The more, the better, because if you can get all the amino acids, then you’ve hit the goal.
This is especially true for essential amino acids since we can only get them from the food we eat.
The truth is, most plant proteins are complete but some of the amino acids are present in small amounts only. While a lot of animal proteins are complete, there are only some plant proteins that are complete: quinoa, buckwheat, soy.
Now let’s make a fair comparison:
Both plant and animal protein sources obviously have their own benefits that the other doesn’t have. However, if you look at the disadvantages of meat consumption, this means you can’t have a lot of it.
Since most meats have saturated fat and cholesterol, eating meat on a regular basis can lead to many health issues.
As for consuming plant proteins, you can easily make up for the lower amino acids with a good variety.
For example, instead of just consuming one type of plant for protein, add other types like seeds, nuts, and legumes. That can easily complete your protein.
According to Dr. McDougall in the AHA Journal, “5-6 servings of whole grains and 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables can supply all the amino acids necessary for health.”
More importantly, the many health benefits that you can get from plant varieties just win over animal protein. If the only alternative to plant protein comes with cholesterol and saturated fats, I honestly wouldn’t want it.
I personally think that there is no question about the advantages of consuming plant protein instead of animal protein.
Because, in the case of meat consumption, you must consider quantities carefully to avoid health risks.
For plant protein, it’s much simpler: variety is key.
A common question vegans ask is if whey protein is vegan. To find the answer to this question in addition to learning about other plant-based alternatives, read my blog post “Is Whey Protein Vegan? The Truth Plus All Its Vegan Alternatives”.
Contrary to popular belief, vegans can get more than enough protein from plant food sources.
With careful meal planning and by knowing your plant sources, getting your daily allowance of protein is easily achievable.
Aim within your range to keep your protein at optimum levels, and be careful not to go over it!
Getting enough vegan protein is easy, right?
So next time a non-vegan asks you how you get your protein, show them the vegan protein source chart above!
What are your favorite vegan protein sources? Let me know on the comment section below. And don’t forget to share this article in your favorite social media platform.