One of the most common questions we get asked within the community and via email is; How do vegans get their protein and how much protein do you need?
Well, bring momma an apple because you’re about to be schooled.
There are lots of reasons why I focus on the Whole Food Plant Based diet, but mainly, I want to inspire you to throw some healthy meals into your eating routine.
Whether you’re totally vegan, you eat meat, or your love affair with cheese runs deep, it’s perfectly fine with me.
I’m here to give you some healthy food options while shedding some light as to why you might want to consider these options. Take the info that you want, leave the stuff you don’t. Ask questions when you have them, and don’t be afraid to cheat. Cheating is totally allowed in my class. Ha!
Take out your notebooks and get ready to learn about protein.
This can be a snooze of a topic, but I’ll do what I can to help you learn something without falling asleep and shunning me from your life forever.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Protein is a macronutrient, along with fat and carbohydrates and it was discovered in 1839.
Historically, protein has been considered the top dawg of all the nutrients.
Protein is made up of 20 different amino acids and these amino acids are the building blocks for every structure and function in the human body. Pretty important stuff, indeed.
There are 8 or 9 amino acids that our body doesn’t make on its own. These are called essential amino acids and we must get them from food since our is bod isn’t dishing them out.
Each protein has a different arrangement of amino acids and when we nosh on protein, our body breaks it down and puts the amino acids back together to form whatever proteins we need.
Think of Protein as the alphabet. The alphabet is made up of letters (amino acids) and those letters can be rearranged to form new words, just like amino acids can be rearranged to form new proteins.
Are you with me so far or do I need to take a break and insert some toilet humor?
Okay, click here and then come back to me.
Let’s continue and find out why animal protein has always been so sensationalized and epic.
Here’s the deal.
When we consume proteins that have a similar amino acid arrangement to those in our body, we synthesize that protein very effectively.
Not surprisingly, the amino acid arrangement in animals is most similar to ours.
Cha Ching – this is what made animal protein the most superior, “high quality” protein on the block.
My Austrian Step-Grandma probably didn’t even know this information, but it’s responsible for her panties getting in a twist when I would visit her and politely decline her homemade schnitzel and stick with the veggies. She thought there was something very wrong with me and that I would surely waste away and die from starvation before long.
But hold the phone.
Just because animal protein’s amino acid structure is similar to ours, it does not make it “high quality”. I’ll explain, but first…
Tell me you didn’t need that!
There have been huge epidemiological studies and loads of clinical studies done on the link between animal protein and degenerative disease. The results are rather shocking. What’s more shocking is that most people know nothing about it.
Dr. T. Colin Campbell is a scientist who has been studying nutrition and protein since the 70’s. He was one of the scientists who helped conduct the biggest Epidemiological study to date on humans and diet.
This study was called The China Project and the best-selling book he wrote about it is called The China Study.
Here’s a recap of just some of what he and his colleagues observed over the course of the study.
1. Eating animal protein leads to elevated blood cholesterol levels.
Even more so than from saturated fat. High cholesterol is one of the precursors to heart disease.
2. Eating animal protein enhances the likelihood of osteoporosis.
But wait, doesn’t milk build strong bones? Actually, it’s the opposite. Animal protein creates an acid-like environment in our tissues. The body cannot tolerate too much of this acid-like environment and is always trying to neutralize it. To neutralize this effect, the body draws from the most alkaline substance it can find which happens to be the calcium in the bones. This of course, weakens our bones, and potentially leading to osteoporosis.
3. Eating animal protein helps initiate Type 1 diabetes.
Especially when casein, the protein in dairy, is consumed.
4. Eating animal protein increases the production of growth hormones.
Growth hormones have been shown to elevate cancer growth.
5. Animal protein increases the rate at which cells divide and is strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease, kidney stones and many other degenerative diseases.
During the study, they found that the source of animal protein didn’t matter. Animal protein is animal protein, whether it’s in the form of chicken breast, ground turkey, roast pork or a tall glass of milk.
You want to know the really interesting thing about all this? During the study they found that dropping the animal protein and swapping it out with whole plant foods showed to have the exact opposite effect on every single one of the points mentioned above.
Not only did way more whole plant foods and way, way less animal foods protect against degenerative disease, it also reversed disease in many cases as well, even when there was a genetic predisposition factor involved.
AND even though the people who ate a diet of whole plant foods consumed more calories per day than the people who got their protein from animals, the first group were considerably leaner and had less body fat than the people getting their protein from animals.
Like I always say, it’s all about the quality of the calories, not the quantity.
And now that we know animal protein isn’t so quality after all, it’s time to take a look at the alternative, and that alternative is plants.
Go look at this and then come back and we’ll wrap up.
And we’re back!
Did you know that every single plant has protein and unless you’re starving yourself, it’s virtually impossible not to get enough and in the arrangement that your body needs. If you eat a wide variety of plant foods, your body will get all the amino acids it needs and then some.
How much is enough you ask?
I have you covered.
We need about 8% – 10% of our calories to come from protein each day. Put in another way, we need around 0.8 grams of protein each day for every kilogram, or 0.36 grams of protein each day for every pound we weigh.
(why the fuck didn’t the U.S. switch over to metric, btw? There are currently 3 countries left in the world which use the Imperial system; Liberia, Myanmar and U.S)…I know! WTF?)
As a side note, ironically, people who follow a WholeFood Plant Based diet get exactly 8%-10% of their calories from protein. Things that make you go hmmm….
I’ll take myself as an example and break this down.
I weigh 135 pounds, so I would take 135 x 0.36 to get 48.6.
This means that I need around 48.6 grams of protein each day.
48.6 x 4 (because there are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein) = 194.4 calories from protein.
194.4 divided by 2,000 (my average daily calorie intake) = .0972.
So there it is. I need almost 10% of my daily calories to come from protein, or 48.6 grams per day. This falls right in the 8-10% range.
To get 48.6 grams I would need to eat:
1 cup of garbanzo beans (39g)
1/2 cup of quinoa (4g)
5 oz. of tofu (12g)
Or I could eat:
1 cup of collard greens (4 grams)
2 pieces of sprouted grain bread (14g)
1 cup of mushrooms (5g)
1/4 cup of raw almonds (7.6 grams)
1 cup of lentils (18g)
The possibilities are endless to get more than enough protein while munchin’ on a diet made up of plants.
And here’s another thing to consider. Unlike hot sex, more protein is not better.
On average, Americans are getting 18-20% of their calories from protein and this is a conservative figure. Even with this number being conservative, it’s still is way too high.
Too much protein taxes our liver and can lead to gout, along with certain types of cancers and a slew of other health issues.
So here’s the deal.
I can tell you from personal experience that there is physically no need for animal protein in the diet. I’ve never eaten meat in my life and I’ve been Vegan since 2008 and I’m doing just fine.
I can assure you that getting protein from plants is not only possible, it’s damn tasty when done right.
Follow my weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans and I’ll show you how.
In the meantime, here’s a plant protein packed recipe for you to try. Eating plant protein is tasty. Just ask our Private Facebook group!
Your beautiful bod will thank you.
Protein Packed Plant-Based Meatballs
Protein Packed Plant-Based Meatballs
- 1 cup dry lentils 180g
- 1/2 cup dry millet 95g
- 1 cup yellow onion 130g
- 1 cup walnuts 90g
- 1/4 cup tomato paste 60g
- 1 cup fresh parsley 20g
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons salt 12g
- 1/2 cup water 120ml
- 1/4 cup rice flour 40g
Cook lentils by bringing 4 cups of water (945ml) to a boil.
Add 1 cup of lentils, turn heat to low and simmer for 50 minutes until lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally.
Place cooked lentils in a large mixing bowl.
Cook millet by placing 1 cup of water (250ml) and 1/2 cup of millet in a pot.
Bring to a simmer, turn to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place cooked millet in the mixing bowl with the lentils.
Add the remaining ingredients, except for the rice flour to the mixing bowl (onion, walnuts, tomato paste, parsley,garlic, oregano, basil, salt and water).
Stir mixture so that all of the ingredients are combined.
Place the mixture in a food processor and process until smooth (you may have to do this in two batches depending on the size of your food processor).
Once all of the meatball mixture has been processed, place it back in the large bowl and sprinkle in the rice flour.
Stir until the rice flour is mixed in.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Take the mixture and roll into whatever size meatballs you like. (if you make them about the size in the picture, you will get around 25 meatballs)
Place them on a very lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes.
You can cook the lentils and millet a day in advance to help cut down on time.
Have a beautiful week and remember, what you truly desire, desires you just as much.