Facing the facts: Is vegan protein really protein at all?
I think that one of the major concerns that people have when considering a plant-based diet is protein. In fact, I get told this all the time! I was picking up a vegan burger from a restaurant near my house the other day and the waitress at the front desk said to me, “I’ve been considering going vegan for a while but I just can’t give up chicken. I don’t want to have to eat tofu all the time.” I almost felt sorry for her when I heard this. It’s as if humans are programmed to think that our entire diets are supposed to revolve around protein. Which isn’t true! But for those of you who do think this way, let’s take a look at the facts.
First things first, are vegans protein-deficient?
It has been known for a long time now that humans are not programmed to eat meat-this myth has been debunked by many dieticians in the debate between a plant-based versus meat diet. In fact, we are not a carnivorous species. And here’s the thing, protein deficiency is not a thing. At least it’s not in the United States. For the average human to stay healthy, they only need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. To put that into perspective, a person weighing 150 pounds, only needs about 54 grams of protein. My double-A batteries weigh more than that! So no ‘more the merrier’ business. Doesn’t matter if you’re vegan or not, we are getting more than enough protein.
Now you may ask, but are plant-based sources of protein providing our bodies with the same nutrients as their meat counterparts?
Well, no. They provide more and that’s because plant-based protein sources are not fundamentally built up of the same amino acids as meat. Remember, meat is animal-based while plants are earth-based. Whatever nutrient we derive from plants, we derive directly from the earth. But when you buy animal protein, you’re also buying their saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, and the other little surprises that come with it. You are almost never buying the protein itself. Consuming meat sources of protein can hence be extremely harmful to your cardiovascular health and even lead to cancer in extreme cases. We need to remember to fill our bodies with nutritious sources of food-plant-based or not. Think of it this way: our bodies aren’t dumpsters for extra landfill. They give back to us whatever they have to work with. So, in simple words, make sure you are checking nutrition labels before you buy any source of protein.
So, what are the best sources of protein for plant-based eaters?
My personal favorite-lentils. But there are also so many more options today! Companies today are manufacturing the novel “impossible burger” which is a plant-based burger that tastes just like a hamburger but uses soy protein instead of beef. There are also others: tofu, pea protein, nuts, and-another emerging superfood-quinoa. When you eat plant-based protein the benefits are endless. You aren’t just satisfying its daily intake of protein but you are also filling your body with vital nutrients at the same time. It’s better for you and it’s benefiting your body simultaneously.
I hope you enjoyed my take on protein for this week. Thank you all for joining me, Namaste.