Most people tend to associate protein mainly with animal products, which makes them think that vegans suffer from protein deficiency, which is not true at all. In fact, most vegans consume almost the same amount of protein as meat eaters. This is because plant-based proteins are abundant, which makes protein deficiency in vegans very rare.
Next time someone asks you: Do vegans have protein deficiency? You can tell them that vegans can obtain an adequate amount of protein by including beans, tofu, lentils, vegetables, legumes, soy, whole grains, seeds, nuts, etc., in their diet.
All of these sources of plant-based protein usually contain more dietary fiber and comparatively less saturated fat than animal-based protein sources. Besides high fiber load, plant-based foods usually have higher content of vitamins and minerals as well.
However, vegans need to know that they need to consume more food than their meat-eating counterparts because animal protein gets digested easily compared to plant-based protein.
But nevertheless, obtaining the right amount of protein from vegan foods is quite easy as plant-based protein sources are abundant, cheap, and tasty.
You can learn more about nutrient profiles in NIH article – click here.
Symptoms of Protein Deficiency in Vegans
It is not easy to recognize protein deficiency in vegans unless it has been developing over a longer period of time. Some of the most common symptoms of protein deficiency are:
- Fatty liver
- Flaky and red patches of skin
- Weak nails and hair
Since these symptoms are not easily recognizable, you should start tracking your meals if you’re worried about any possible protein deficiency.
You can easily track your protein intake using a free calorie tracker like Cronometer.
How Common is Protein Deficiency in Vegans?
While animal products are widely considered rich in protein, the adequacy of protein content found in vegan products has been long controversial.
When we talk about veganism, people’s biggest concern is protein deficiency. But how common is protein deficiency in vegans? Vegans would probably say it is nonexistent, and meat eaters would say vegans are skinny, and their muscles lack quality protein sources like lean beef.
Protein is one of the most misunderstood and radically misinterpreted food components. Still, it’s not as complicated as you think, and it is almost impossible to have protein deficiency on a well-balanced vegan diet.
Although research shows that protein deficiency in vegans is not common, it may happen in some rare cases where a vegan with lower protein intake appears to be at a higher risk of protein deficiency. These are mostly the people who switch to veganism and try to subsist on purely fruit or junk food without following the concept of a healthy diet.
An average vegan diet is packed with enough protein to avoid deficiency. It is only the vegans with an eating disorder or a poorly planned diet that lacks diversity are more likely to develop a protein deficiency.
The myth that veganism leads to protein deficiency is finally getting dissolved as the leading health organizations have highlighted the benefits of plant-based protein over animal-based protein.
How Much Protein Do Vegans Need a Day?
If you’re planning to go vegan, and you worry you might not consume enough protein, you should first know the answer to the question: How much protein do vegans need a day to fulfill their body’s requirements?
That goes especially for athletes with higher requirements for protein due to the strenuous exercise and the need for their body to repair muscle tissues, which is exactly what protein does.
For the general population, 10-15% of daily calories derived from protein are sufficient to meet the body’s requirement for protein. The US government’s protein RDA is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, whereas WHO recommends 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
When it comes to protein intake, there is a huge disparity between how much we need and how much we actually consume.
Let’s look at some numbers. In 2013 the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published the largest study of all time that compared the nutrient intake of about 71,000 vegetarians, omnivores, and vegans.
The study found that, on average, vegans and vegetarians consume 70% more protein than the average dietary requirements, while omnivores consume even more than that, almost 80%.
Although vegans need to consume a higher amount of food than meat eaters, they can easily meet the dietary recommendations for protein, as nearly all beans, vegetables, grains, and seeds contain protein. Not just that, but most of those have a complete amino acid profile.
You can learn more about protein and amino acids in NIH article – click here.
Does Vegan Food Have Protein?
Protein is one of the most important nutrients our body needs and keeps almost all the cells in the body functioning. It is required by our body for structural support and for the repair of tissues.
Everybody knows that meat and dairy are the most common sources of protein and that they contain even more protein than our body might need. But many people are still wondering: Does vegan food have protein?
Yes, vegan food has more than enough protein. A vegan diet that involves whole grains, legumes, and vegetables is best for providing a great deal of protein with all essential amino acids.
What do I mean by essential amino acids? Protein makes up the basic component for most hormones, immunity, and all enzymes. The structure of a protein is made up of a chain of 20 different amino acids, called the building blocks of protein. Of these 20 amino acids, our body can produce only 11, and the rest 9 essential amino acids must be obtained by food.
And yes, all the essential protein building blocks, also known as essential amino acids, are found in plant-based foods.
You can learn more about protein in Live Science article – click here.
What are Vegan Protein Sources?
Protein is a major nutrient that promotes the growth and maintenance of your muscles, keeps your hair and skin healthy, and keeps you full for a longer period.
Protein is also an essential component of the vegan lifestyle.
9 Best Vegan Protein sources that are low in fat and will fulfill your protein requirements, and protect you against deficiency are tempeh, tofu, soybeans, cannellini beans, lentils, red kidney beans, chickpeas, amaranth, oatmeal.
Tempeh is a popular vegan product made from fermented soybeans, which are held together by the tasteless mushroom culture. The typical, slightly sour taste of tempeh is usually a result of adding natural vinegar, which makes this vegan specialty not only taste great, but also very digestible!
100 g of tempeh contains whooping 20 g of protein. It is also very rich in minerals and vitamins like the group of B vitamins, which are often still neglected in a vegan diet.
Tofu comes from soybeans as well and is a very popular source of protein among vegans. Soybeans are a whole source of protein that provides all the essential amino acids to the body.
100 g of tofu contains about 15 g of protein. It is made with bean curds pressed together in a similar process as cheese making and can be used in various dishes like salads, noodles, sandwiches, etc.
Soybeans are rich in nutrients that are also typical of most legumes – fiber, minerals, potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, and B-complex vitamins including folate and vitamin K.
As a plant-based food, soybeans also contain relatively high levels of protein, which is comparable in biological value to the protein in eggs and other animal foods. It also contains the antioxidant isoflavones, which have been shown to have beneficial effects on health.
100 g of soybeans contains about 15 g of protein. They are also isolated for use by the food industry and used as an ingredient in the manufacture of foods to improve their nutritional and technological properties.
- Cannellini beans
Cannellini beans are full of antioxidants, fiber and protein and have a low glycemic index (lowers blood sugar). They are also rich in vitamin B9 (folic acid) and low in fat.
Research has shown that if a person were to consume the recommended daily allowance of folic acid every day, it would reduce the chance of a heart attack by 10%.
100 g of cannellini beans contain about 9 g of protein.
Lentils are a great source of protein. Apart from delivering vegan protein, lentils are also rich in fiber, making them excellent vegan food.
100 g of cooked lentils gives 9 grams of protein and 8 grams fibrr. Fiber keeps you full and supports good bowel movement. It can also keep your weight in check.
- Kidney beans
Like lentils, kidney beans also deliver a good amount of protein and fiber to the body. They are an easy way of adding protein to the diet and can be easily included in salads, soups, dips, and tacos.
100 g of kidney beans contains about 9 g of protein and is also a great source of plant-based iron.
Chickpeas are an excellent vegan source of protein. It can be consumed hot or cold and easily incorporated into many dishes. It can be added to curries and stews and roasted in the oven to make an excellent snack.
A very common and delivery way of adding chickpeas to your vegan diet is making hummus, made from chickpea paste, and a vegan alternative to butter.
100 g of chickpeas contains about 9 g of protein.
A great feature of amaranth is that it does not contain gluten or other problematic proteins found in wheat, spelt, oats, rye and barley.
Amaranth is also very rich in protein. 100 g of amaranth contains about 14.5 g of protein, which makes it one of the best vegan protein sources. Protein from amaranth is more easily digestible and well absorbed.
It contains lysine, a rare essential amino acid that our bodies cannot synthesize on their own. Other cereals and vegetables often do not contain lysine.
Oatmeal is considered one of the healthiest breakfast choices. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and are the source of avenanthramides – antioxidants that boost our health.
100 g of oatmeal contains about 13 g of protein. The main protein in oatmeal is avenalin (80%), which is a protein similar to that contained in legumes. It also contains many smaller proteins called avenin, which are similar to the gluten in wheat.
It is reasonable for people switching to veganism to be concerned about not consuming sufficient protein and gradually developing a protein deficiency. But protein deficiency can be avoided by consuming the right amount of protein from vegan sources.
Overall, a well-planned plant-based diet with daily good protein food sources intake is the key to avoiding protein deficiency in vegans. Only a little attention and vigilance can help prevent significant health problems in the future.
We hope you liked this article, and now you know vegans are not protein deficient. Let us know if you have any doubts in the comments below.