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Is Protein in your Veg Diet adequate?

About 18-20% of our body weight is comprised of Protein. An essential nutrient that helps in building up brain cells, skin, muscle, hair, etc. A deficiency in protein can cause disease like marasmus and kwashiorkor (disease of muscle weakness). Protein source can be a veg or non-veg food. However, vegans are challenged on their low protein intake.

This page will discuss the vegan protein diet and risk associated with its deficiency.

Why are proteins so important? Proteins are made up of smaller units of Amino Acid. It regulates various biochemical process like

  • Blood clotting
  • Digestion
  • Keeping Immune system strong
  • Insulin and Thyroid functioning and so on

Most proteins last around two days or less in the body. So daily protein intake is a must. So, how much protein do I need? As per the expert, we should consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram that we weigh. In other words, 1 calorie out of every 10 we eat, should come from protein.

Across the body, there are various type of protein. They are classified by their function. Here is the list of proteins.

  • Cytoskeletal proteins
  • Plasma proteins
  • Transmembrane transport proteins
  • Immune system proteins and so on

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Myths about Vegan and Proteins

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Protein requirement for vegetarians

  1. Sedentary adult 0.4 g/lb
  2. Active adult 0.4-0.6 g/lb
  3. Growing athlete 0.6-0.9 g/lb
  4. Adult building muscle mass 0.6-0.9 g/lb
  • • Another myth prevalent about vegetarians is that they have to take different combinations of plant food to meet their protein requirement, which is also not true. The body has its own method of maintaining a pool of indispensable protein inside the body. They are released as per requirement.

How Vegans are affected by Protein deficiency

As we saw earlier, Proteins are converted into amino acids. Amino acids are classified into two categories, essential amino acids, and non-essential amino acids. Both types of amino acids are mandatory. They have designated roles for various body functions.

The non-essential amino acids synthesized inside the body itself. They are not required to be supplied externally. While essential amino acids are NOT synthesized inside the body. Therefore, it requires to be supplied externally through diet.

Few studies suggest that plant proteins are devoid of essential amino acids like Lysine and Methionine. These amino acids assist in metabolic activities like the breakdown of fat and calcium absorption. abcDue to lack of lysine and methionine in vegetarian’s diet, they are believed to be at risk of hypoproteinemia. It is a condition where blood plasma protein decreases the osmotic pressure of the blood resulting in edema (Swelling due to fluid trapped in tissues). It is usually observed among the patient having renal failure. Diet rich in lysine and methionine can reduce this risk. Rice and beans are a good source of lysine and methionine. Other sources of lysine include cottage cheese, Spirulina, soy products, etc. Methionine is available from avocado, ricotta cheese, eggs, and oatmeal.

Beside protein deficiency, vitamin B-12, Vitamin D and zinc are of primary concern in a vegan diet.

Plant ProteinMeat Protein
Plant protein helps to lower cholesterol level and reduces the risk of obesityDiet higher in meat proteins is at a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes
For EPA and DHA (essential fatty acids) Vegetarians have to depend on supplements. Smaller amounts of EPA and DHA can be obtained from flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, or soybean oil• Non-Vegetarians will have an easier time eating enough EPA and DHA. They are essential oils required by the body.
Plant protein lacks or have low level of Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Zinc, etc.Meat protein are high in several other nutrients like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Zinc, etc.

Plant Proteins for Vegan

Protein in vegetables bears same nutritional value as meat. Some high protein plant includes broccoli. About 4gm of broccoli gives 6.7 gm/100 calorie. Plant like broccoli are not only rich in protein but also exhibits anti-cancer property.

Some high protein vegetables include,

  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Kale
  • Sprouts
  • Mushrooms
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Artichokes
  • Corn

Beside above plant protein, vegan protein sources should include,

  • Beans: Kidney, Hummus, Fava
  • Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds, Peanuts
  • Legumes: Lentils, Peanuts
  • Milk: Soya Milk, Almond Milk
  • Soy: Soy beans, Tofu, Soy Cheese
  • Whole grains: Oats, Brown Rice, Quinoa

Tips for Accommodating Protein in Vegan Diet

There are some standard meal plans that vegetarians must stick for their protein requirement.
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1. Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat
2. Choose whole or unrefined grains products
3. Use a variety of fruits and vegetables, including foods high in protein as well in vitamins.
4. Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians can add eggs but no animal meat
5. Increase intake of nuts, soy products, and legumes
Sample Protein Diet for Vegan

  • Oats in soya milk
  • Brown rice with kidney beans or black beans
  • Lentil with Spinach or Cottage Cheese
  • Protein shake
  • Brocolli and spinach salad

For vegan, who does bodybuilding and heavy workout must supplement themselves with protein powder. Some popular protein powder mix for vegetarians available are

  • Hammer Soy
  • Tempt- Hemp protein
  • Hammer Whey
  • Gold standard casein
  • Source Natural- Pea Protein

Vegetarians can have high antioxidant levels, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and B-carotene. It is recommended that vegan should consider taking a supplement of Calcium, Iodine, and Riboflavin.

About the author

    Dorothy Gusmus

    Hi, I am Dorothy Gusmus. Chief editor at HealthUnify.