Are Vegans Getting Enough Protein?

Jessica Lin
I'm a ESL teacher, writer and freelance translator in Vancouver, British Columbia. Jessica grew up bilingual and is able to speak, read, and write in Mandarin Chinese. She moved extensively as a child and has lived for significant periods in both North America and Asia. Writing has always been one of her passions, and in her free time if she isn't reading or spending time with family and friends, she is home trying out a new recipe.
Vegan Protein

If you’re a vegan there’s a good chance that at some point you’ve been asked ‘‘are you getting enough protein?”

Most of us are used to a more omnivorous diet and question the methods of this relatively new life choice.

A follower of the vegan diet will exclude any animal products from their diet, which also includes eggs and dairy products.

Now this begs the question of how healthy this diet is.

Arguably one of the most hotly debated topics in the health and fitness world, whether or not veganism is healthy is largely dependent on each individual’s beliefs.

Today, we will look at the information relayed to us by doctors and dieticians to see if the vegan diet really does provide enough protein.

First of all:

What Does It Mean To Be Vegan?

Veganism is defined more as a way of life, much like Buddhism.

The purpose of this is to liberate animals from human exploitation.

            “If they don’t consume anything derived from animals, then what do they eat?”

Well, vegans get their nutrients from different kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and beans.

There is a large assortment of vegan recipes on the internet and existing vegan restaurants all over the globe that promote and accept this way of living.

It’s not only about dietary habits.

Vegans avoid using animal products in their daily lives.

From clothing, makeup and household items, they refrain from using products that contain any animal derivatives or have been tested on animals.

Why Is Protein Important?

Protein is made up of amino acids and is essential for muscle growth and repairing body tissue.

Protein is a fundamental building block of muscles, bones, cartilage and even your skin and blood.

When you work out, train or body build, protein is a vital part of your diet.

It promotes a healthy and strong body and supplies us with energy.

Protein is what we call a ‘’macronutrient’’ which means it is a nutrient that the body needs an abundance of, while a ‘’micronutrient’’ is the opposite.

You Don’t Need As Much Protein As You Probably Think

The recommended daily intake of protein is around 0.8 grams per kg of body weight.

This translates to roughly 1 calorie out of 10.

However, this equation does not pertain to growing children and active teenagers, as they need more nutrients and calories to make up for their expended energy.

For an average woman, 2000 calories a day is sufficient for maintaining.

This means that she only needs 200 calories from protein!

I bet that is much less than you initially thought.

The Views of Dieticians/Nutritionists and Doctors

Cons Of A Vegan Diet

The German Nutrition Society fuels claims here that attest a vegan diet cannot provide you with adequate protein.

A diet that is purely plant-based isn’t able to give you B-12 vitamins, which is largely found in meat and eggs.

Vegans need to rely on supplements to obtain this healthy vitamin.

German nutritionists add that it may pose as a challenge in a vegan diet to obtain iron, calcium, zinc and the omega fatty acids.

Vegans are advised to get physical checkups frequently and veganism is not recommended for pregnant women, and developing children.

Other nutritionists contest that it’s easy to hit the recommended daily intake of protein by eating meat.

A chicken breast contains about 30 grams of protein.

Your daily quota is hard to hit by only eating vegetables, beans, and nuts.

Protein provides more energy, and it may be easier for vegans to feel lethargic.

The protein substitutes that vegans choose need to be of high quality.

Cereal over quinoa can lead to extra fat in the midsection.

If fake meat is consumed, the preservatives and sodium are detrimental to their health.

An Australian dietician also claims here that vegans miss out on key nutrients essential to the body.

Some say veganism is a way of life, an ideology and not evolutionary or based on human physiology.

Vegans appear healthy when they first adopt this new diet, but that is largely due to cutting out all the processed food and turning to plants, which we already know are healthy.

But in the long run, without animal-based protein, vegans could suffer from deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. 

B-12 deficiency is often seen among vegans and can cause neurodegenerative diseases and blindness.

People do not go after vegetarianism as often as they do veganism because vegetarians still get the necessary vitamins and minerals through egg and fish intake.

Plant-based omega-3 sources have fewer carbons than the marine-based ones.

This makes a great difference to a person’s health.

As not many vegans are aware of, their advocacy against animal cruelty may be in vain.

Unless you endeavor to grow and cultivate your food on your own, industrial agriculture has a hand in the destruction of animal habitats and farm machinery kills small rodents and animals when in operation.

If you do not make conscious efforts to keep up your daily protein quota, it may trigger muscle deterioration in your body, which can have detrimental health effects.

The Pros Of A Vegan Diet

In contrast, there are many who sing the praises of a vegan diet.

Vegan doctors claim that a plant-based diet can prevent and treat many chronic diseases we see today.

To address the claim that vegans do not get enough protein, an Dr. Garth Davis, American doctor claims that this is a lie and has no evidence to support it.

A regular intake of beans, nuts, and grains can cover the allotted amount of protein every day (0.8g/kg).

Doctors claim that vegans live longer, and diet and health studies correlate animal protein with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Apparently, carbs do not directly lead to fat accumulated around the mid-section.

Professor Mark Hegsted’s studies show that carbs cannot turn into fat as easily as we think.

Processed fake meats are agreeably unhealthy, but Dr. Garth Davis claims that it is still better than eating actual meats.

Dr. Davis says he is more worried about people who eat animal-based protein because vegans and people in countries where less meat is consumed tend to live longer.

Cooking meat can release harmful chemicals that are directly linked to many diseases and illnesses.

Dr. Milton Mills attests that there is no need to fear a protein deficiency if your vegan diet is well planned out.

You can more than definitely hit your daily protein requirement without any animal-based-products.

He believes animal-based protein can deliver toxins into our bodies. 

He also claims that all protein comes from plants.

All the protein you consume in animal tissue is just recycled plant protein.

Many doctors advocate for the vegan diet saying they not only prevent and treat chronic illnesses and degenerative diseases, but they actually reverse the effects.

Where Do Vegans Get Their Protein?

  • Soy: Soybeans and soy originated products like tofu and tempeh are often found in a vegan diet. Soybeans are great for the body whether you are vegan or not. They provide the body with all the essential amino acids.
  • Lentils: Lentils can be cooked in a wide variety of ways and add a little twist to your vegan diet. Due to their high-fiber content, they are great for gut health. Studies have also shown they reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and prevent some types of cancer.
  • Beans: Beans are an amazing food that is made up of complex carbs, fiber, iron, potassium, and manganese. Beans help lower blood pressure and control blood sugar levels while reducing belly fat!
  • Green Peas: Rich with vitamins A, C, and K, green peas are also high in fiber. Satisfy your iron and magnesium need with these green veggies.
  • Quinoa: I personally love quinoa. It is a good source of healthy carbs, fiber, iron, and manganese.
  • Chia Seeds: These healthy seeds taste great in a fruity drink, too! You can get your iron, calcium and magnesium minerals from them as well as omega-3’s and antioxidants to look young!
  • Protein Rich Fruits and Veggies: Vegetables such as broccoli and spinach as well as potatoes are a good source of protein. Fruits that contain the most protein include guava, blackberries, nectarines, and bananas.

What About Supplements?

Supplements are needed to enhance your diet, especially if you are lacking a certain kind of vitamin or mineral.

What is dangerous about supplements is if the intake is not regulated, you could be getting too much of a good thing, which could lead to toxic levels.

Doctors suggest getting vitamins and minerals straight from the source.

Improve your diet before turning to supplements.

Natural is always better.

Fresh and healthy food could be less expensive than supplements, why not save some money while you’re at it?

Work with a doctor, nutritionist or dietician to identify the level of consumption for your individual needs.

As a general rule of thumb, supplements should only be taken if you are unable to obtain them from natural sources.

Vegan Protein VS Animal Protein

There are 9 essential amino acids our bodies need.

There are 20 found in protein, which means 11 of them are non-essential.

Animal-based protein closely resembles that of human cells, which means they are more suited to our biological needs than plant-based ones.

This doesn’t mean plant-based protein is any less effective.

As long as you keep your diet balanced, you can get all the essential amino acids from a vegan diet.

However, it can’t be denied that certain nutrients are more apparent in animal protein, this includes vitamin B12, D, DHA (omega-3’s), heme iron and zinc.

On the other hand, Vitamin C and lots of dietary fibers are not generally found in animal foods.

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