The question every vegan or vegetarian has heard more times than they can count. You tell someone you don't eat meat and the first thing they want to know is, where on earth you are going to get your protein from if it isn't from animals?!
Before we get into whether or not vegetarians or vegans are getting enough protein in their diets, let's talk about what proteins are made up of and why they are so important. Proteins are complex molecules made up of combinations of 22 naturally occurring amino acids, 9 of which are essential. This means that the body doesn't produce them so we need to obtain these amino acids from food. The other 13 are considered non-essential, meaning the body can produce them. Proteins are an essential part of nutrition, second only to water in the body's physical composition. Proteins are a primary component of our muscles, hair, nails, skin, eyes, and internal organs such as the heart (which is actually muscle!) and brain. No wonder the meat eaters are so worried about their veggie-loving friends!
Protein can be found in all foods sources but in order for the body to optimally build and maintain cells in our body it requires complete proteins. Consuming a complete protein means that the food is made up of an adequate amount of the 9 essential amino acids.
Complete protein sources are found in animals and animal products such as chicken, eggs, beef, fish and dairy. By consuming meat or animal products you don't have to even think about whether or not you are eating complete proteins, the adequate amount of essential amino acids is already present in the food.
As a vegetarian/vegan, consuming complete proteins is where things become a bit more complicated. Not all plant foods are made with an adequate amount of the 9 essential amino acids. So what is a vegan or vegetarian to do? They simply need to understand the vegetarian and vegan protein options available to them and then follow a simple protein combining rule when putting together their next meal. OR you can just sign up for my vegetarian meal plan here and leave the food combining work to me! ;)
Here are some of my favourite protein sources for vegetarians and vegans:
- Seeds such as chia, hemp, flax, pumpkin and sunflower
- Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamia, pecans and brazil
- Grains such as quinoa, barley, oats, buckwheat, wild rice, brown rice and wheat
- Legumes such as lentils, kidney beans, soybeans, chickpeas, black beans and peas
Here are the protein food combinations that will provide you with a complete protein at each meal:
- Grains + legumes
- Grains + seeds
- Legumes + rice
- Leafy greens + legumes
So there you have it! Our vegan and vegetarian friends are just fine as long as they follow a few simple food combining rules that, together, make complete proteins.
Now that the fear of getting enough protein as a vegetarian or vegan has been lifted, why not try out this months vegetarian meal plan? You will receive 21 days full of vegetarian breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners. This is a great way to incorporate more plant based meals into your current meal plan without having to worry about whether or not you’re getting enough protein. ;)
The recipes are so delicious I promise you won't even miss the meat! You can sign up here.