Vegan: can you get all the protein you need?
Updated: Nov 17, 2022
The reasons to be or become vegan are multiple.
However the aim of this article is not to discuss them or to know if it is the right diet to adopt or not but more to make sure you can optimize your diet the best way possible.
As human being, no mater if you are a sport person or not, protein is the most important nutrient you need when it comes to diet.
We also know that consuming animal protein is the easiest way to get the right amount of protein you need everyday.
And so comes a natural and legitimate question: is it possible to get all the protein you need through a vegan diet?
The importance of amino acids
Your muscles, hair, skin, bones and virtually every other parts of tissues are made up of protein.
Protein itself is made of 20 amino acids, working in a chain, with 11 of them being non essential, and 9 being essential.
Essential amino acids can not be synthesized from scratch by the organism fast enough to supply its demand and so need to be found in food.
There are 2 ways to get the essential amino acids you need.
You can eat complete source of protein (food containing 9 essential amino acids), or you can eat incomplete sources of protein, which means consuming food that contains some of the 9 essential amino acids.
By eating a large variety of incomplete sources of protein you can make up a complete source of protein.
Vegan food bringing most of the essential amino acids
There are few interesting options available if you are vegan (or vegetarian) and are looking for complete source of protein.
Seitan, which is made of gluten, has 25 grams of protein per 100 grams (more or less same as beef) which makes it a really interesting alternative to animal protein. You can find the same amount of protein in 100g of yellow peas.
Beans are just behind in terms of protein/grams with 21g for 100g of beans.
With less protein/grams, tofu, lentils, spirulina, chia seeds and nuts are slighlty less interesting alternatives but also good in a way that you can easily add them to your dish to twist it up and add some extra protein.
Note that the amount of protein per 100g is important as the more protein you can have in 100g, the less you will have to eat to reach your daily protein intake.
Check out the 18 best protein sources for vegetarians and vegans.
With the growth in number of people following vegan and vegetarian diets companies have been working since years on meat substitutes.
Same taste, same texture but completely without animal products you can easily find food that will give you similar experience to enjoying a steak.
However doubts persevere about the quality of these products.
Obviously more processed than regular meat, these alternatives also include more food additives.
The US national institute of health says that imitations of meat have less protein, zinc and vitamin B12 and more salt.
However these alternatives have good level of iron and fiber and also less saturated fat which make them a good alternative if consumed sporadically.
As for meat substitutes, the supplement industry also followed the trend. You can now find plant based protein powders, snacks and vitamins.
And it follows the same principles, no mater the options you will pick up you will find the same taste as for the regular supplements.
A good option for vegan, vegetarians but also people who have have a low tolerance to milk.
Check out the best vegan protein powders of 2022.
If you already have or want to switch to a vegan or vegetarian diet you can be nutrionally confident, your protein intake should not be impacted.
You will find all the essential amino acids you need and even if it can takes you more time or research to do, it is a good opportunity to learn new recipes and try new ingredients.
As long as you keep having a well balanced diet, use mostly unprocessed food and exercise, you will be healthy.