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Veganism is taking the world by storm. In particular, it seems that everyone is beginning to realize that you don’t need meat to be healthy. Further, meat can be more of a hindrance to your health than a benefit. Surely, this is a radical notion as the popular opinion for hundreds of years has been that meat is a vital part of a healthy human diet. However, thanks to movies like Game Changers, people are starting to realize that a completely plant-based diet may be the healthier choice. Nonetheless, the most popular concern when going plant-based is protein deficiency. This worry stems from the notion that vegan protein sources are not as high in essential amino acids as animal protein sources.

Vegan Protein Sources Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash
Photo by Arisa Chattasa on Unsplash

However, even if you are an athlete who needs high amounts of protein to repair muscle damage, you can get enough from vegan protein sources. In this article, I will show you how. 

Understanding Vegan Protein Sources

Proteins come in many forms and perform many vital functions in the body. See below for a few of these functions:

  • Make hormones
  • Build tissue
  • Play a part in making some enzymes
  • Transport nutrients
  • Can be used as energy

Basically, our bodies are largely made of protein and many of its systems rely on it. Undoubtedly, protein is very important. In order for our bodies to make the protein we need for the functions above, they need the right ingredients. Amino acids are those ingredients.

Amino acids fall into two categories: essential and non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are made by our bodies and so we do not have to get them from food. Essential amino acids are amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own and so we must get them from our diet. There are 9 of these essential amino acids and our bodies need a certain amount of all of them to build protein so it is important to eat a balanced and varied diet so that your body can make all of the necessary proteins.

For a long time, the popular opinion has been that you need to eat meat to provide your body with all of these amino acids. This opinion most likely stemmed from the fact that meats are complete proteins meaning that they contain all 9 essential amino acids.  However, somewhere along the way someone extended this claim to say that there is no way to get all nine essential amino acids from plant-food. Surprisingly, this is simply not true. In fact, many plant foods contain all nine essential amino acids. Yes, it is true that some plants do not contain all nine but most of them contain one or more of them. Therefore, you can get all of the essential amino acids from eating a varied plant based diet. See the video below for further details.

Why Eat Vegan? 

There is a long list of reasons why you might want to transition to a plant-based diet. Though it can be difficult, the benefits far outweigh the difficulties associated with the switch. Specifically, see below for a list of the benefits of eating plant-based. 

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Help with inflammation
  • Decrease blood pressure 
  • Reduce cholesterol 
  • Cortisol reduction
  • More energy
  • Better for the environment
  • Lower risk of cancer

This is not a totally comprehensive list.

How to go Vegan

I have tried to become a vegan many times and have failed because it is quite difficult. When you first start out eating completely plant-based you are bound to notice some changes that can be surprising at first. For example, you find that you need to eat a lot more food to feel full, you miss the taste of meat and dairy, and cooking becomes more of a challenge. Not to worry, there are solutions to your problems that can make becoming a vegan less of a challenge.

When I first started, I pretty much just cut meat out of my diet and replaced it with all vegetables. At first I felt great but then after a week or so I realized that I was not eating enough calories or getting enough variety. Therefore, my advice to any new vegan is to plan out your meals. Find out how many calories you need in a day and make sure that your meals meet that calorie count. Certainly, many vegetables and fruits just aren’t that high in calories. If you want to meet your calorie quota you should include vegan protein sources like grains, nuts, and legumes which are high in calories. Consequently, these vegan protein sources will help you get a good balance of amino acids and hit your calorie quota. 

Vegan Protein Sources

As we covered earlier, as long as you eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and legumes, you shouldn’t worry too much about whether or not you are meeting your protein requirements. Nonetheless, sometimes it is helpful to have a list of vegan protein sources that you can incorporate into your cooking. Please see below for a list of vegan protein sources.

  • Any kind of nut
  • tofu 
  • quinoa 
  • Any kind of bean 
  • Peas
  • Seeds such as chia seeds or flax seed
  • Whole grain breads
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Legumes
  • Seitan (made from gluten; resembles meat in texture)
  • Edamame
  • Spirulina
  • Moringa
  • Rice 
  • Oatmeal
  • Blackberries

Conclusion

Overall, the key to being a healthy vegan is variety. Include some of these vegan protein sources in your diet to make sure you are getting adequate amino acids. I hope this article helped introduce you to a new way of thinking about vegan protein sources. Nonetheless, please leave a comment below if you know of any other vegan protein sources that I did not include. 

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