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When was the last time you met someone with a protein deficiency? If you can’t remember, then ask yourself if you’ve ever actually met someone who is struggling because they’re not getting enough protein into their diet.
I’ve been vegetarian for over 15 years and I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me how I manage to get enough protein. The question has become even more frequent since I switched to a vegan diet just over two years ago.
We’re led to believe that the best source of protein comes from animals, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s no denying that there’s lots of protein in a steak dinner, but there’s also some stuff in there that you might not want to digest. For example, beef also contains saturated fat, cholesterol, and hormones given to the animals to speed up their growth. On the other hand, you can get lots of protein from plants without the added extras.
The animal v plant protein argument is one that has been going on for years. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell puts forward a lot of research which outlines the differences between animal and plant protein. One of the studies conducted showed that casein which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein promotes cancer growth. Not only that, but the research showed that plant protein didn’t promote cancer growth even when the intake levels were much higher. The China Study is a big book to get your head around, but there’s no denying that there’s a lot of really compelling research which shouldn’t be brushed aside.
If you’re eating a well-balanced vegan diet, then it really isn’t difficult to get enough protein. It’s found in fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. To show you how easy it can be, I’ve made a list of protein found in foods that vegans like myself consume on a daily basis -
1 cup spinach (cooked) - 5 grams
1 cup broccoli (cooked) - 4 grams
1 cup peas (cooked) - 9 grams
1 cup sweet potatoes (cooked) - 3 grams
1 ounce chia seeds - 4.7 grams
1 ounce nutritional yeast - 5 grams
1/2 cup quinoa (cooked) - 4 grams
1/2 cup oats (cooked) - 5.5 grams
1/2 cup kidney beans (cooked) - 8 grams
1/2 cup tofu (cooked) - 6 grams
1/2 cup red lentils (cooked) - 9 grams
But how much protein do we need anyway? Well the average man should be getting around 55g a day and woman should be getting 45g. Most mornings, I’ll have oats with almond milk for breakfast. It means I get nearly 15 grams of protein by the time I’ve had banana, seeds and nut butter on top of it. So before I’ve even left the house to head to work, I’ve already had a third of the recommended daily allowance of protein.
In reality, it’s really not that difficult for someone to get enough protein on a plant based diet. If you’re diet isn’t balanced, then you might not be meeting your targets on a daily basis. However that could also be said for a meat eater who isn’t eating healthy food.
So if you ever find yourself about to ask someone who doesn’t eat meat about their protein, then you might want to think twice. The chances of them suffering from a protein deficiency are extremely low, and they’re probably getting just as much protein in their diet as you are.
By Sarah Moyes