Hi gang. I was inspired to share this post because this is the #1 question I receive on a daily basis (from fearful people) about going plant-based. And look, I want to start this off by saying, I totally get it. I 100% relate to you. It can be scary. So what can you do? What I did! Educate yourself. And then test it out. Even as a vegan diet becomes more and more accepted into society with the bounty of research popping up everyday in support of this diet being the best for your health, the animals, and the future of our planet, people still get scared off due to the p word.
Now I’m not here to be your doctor and you should definitely consult with them when making any lifestyle changes, but I am here to maybe get a little controversial and tell you point blank that from my own research and through my training as a holistic health practitioner, I’m pretty 99.99999% sure no one in the history of the world has ever died of protein deficiency. So, let’s dive in, shall we?
Will I Get Enough Protein Without Meat?
We need protein. No doubt about that. It’s the basic building block of the human body. Every day our body is throwing away old cells and making new ones. Protein is the nutrient responsible for growing those new ones. It builds muscle, helps our hair and nails grow, makes important hormones, and even red blood cells!
So how do we get it?
From little building blocks called amino acids. These tiny little lego thangs make protein. Ok, cue my white lab coat and chic glasses. Let’s get scientific. There are 20 different amino acids. The body can make 12 of them on its own but we need to get the other 8 from food. Meat is often referred to as a “complete protein” because it contains all 8 of them.
BUT, there are plant-based proteins that also contain all 8 of these amino acids and we don’t harm our health, the animals, or the future of our planet with this form! Yay. Win win am I right? ALSO, you by no means have to get all 8 of these essential amino acids from just one source. Our bodies know how to put together all these acids so you don’t even have to get them all in the same meal. Almost every PLANT contains proteins, so it’s just going to be really, really hard to be protein deficient.
We’re actually much more likely to get too much protein because the body doesn’t store it. The liver and kidneys are the major detoxifying organs of the body and when they can’t eliminate protein, they get overworked and then can’t get other junk out of you that they need to process. This can be like environmental toxins in the air we breathe, chemicals from our personal care products, nasty shiz in our food & water supply, processed food, prescription drugs, and more. You get the picture. They are important. You know what kind of stuff is linked to excess protein? Cancer, heart disease, etc etc etc etc until infinity etc. Yikes.
Where can I get protein on a PB (plant based) diet then?
First and foremost, from beans! It doesn’t have to be tofu all day err day. Although, I know that’s what most people immediately think of, along with the eater of said tofu being a hippie and crunchy granola type person. It’s ok, admit it. I certainly thought this! LOLZ-ing to myself rn thinking back as I type this. So, legumes are the key (peas, beans, and even peanuts! Ya that’s not a typo- a peanut is a legume, not a nut. Did I just blow your mind?) These are called incomplete proteins since they don’t have all 8 essential amino acids but you are totally fine. Let me repeat, you are TOTALLY FINE. You’re actually way better than fine. Just eat a mix of all these options! In addition to beans, nuts, grains, and seeds all contain plant protein as well.
Ok cool but what are some plant based proteins that are complete?
Well for starters, soybean products are a complete source of protein just like meat and again, just like meat, contain all 8 essential amino acids. Tofu and tempeh are healthy and nutritious soybean products (despite what you may have heard. I could seriously do a whole other post on the topic of soy so leave a comment below if you want this broken down as well.) Seitan is also an option and is made from the gluten of whole wheat. This is almost pure protein!
(PS I know gluten has a bad rap in the market right now (kind of how fats used to be considered all bad in the early 90’s and now we understand that healthy fats are amazing and don’t actually make us fat! Like, LOLZ. Gimme all the avocados you know?) I will say though, I personally am currently experimenting with being gluten-free since it is such a common allergen due to being consumed for so many years in an over-processed form, so I abstain from seitan.
Secondly, bring on the chickpeas! Love me a chickpea and love me what they are most well known for- hummus. Lastly, quinoa is your new bff as it is also a complete plant source of protein. Game changer. Check out my OG quinoa salad recipe for some ideas.
So, what does this look like in everyday life?
Well, you’ll see with my recipes I try to always add one source of protein to each meal- whether it’s hummus, cashew butter, plant-based pea or brown rice protein powder, etc. This is the kind of information I help my clients learn and apply.
Oh and guess what peeps? Protein has never been an issue for me. I even have the bloodwork to prove it. Also, there are countless functional medicine doctors, dieticians, and more who will agree and have even more research to prove it. As an additional resource, feel free to check out Dr. Neal Barnard’s books like “The Vegan Starter Kit,” (on Amazon & wherever else you get your books).
Ok, as we wrap this up, I also wanted to share this example from The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone, who I turned to for nutritional information and scientific research that holds true as inspo for this post. If you are interested in any of the studies from this post, feel free to check out the index of that book! Other sources worth mentioning: Elsa’s Wholesome Life who is a plant-based dietician and nutritionist.
Steak vs Beans
Ok, thanks for bearing with me! Sorry to get all preachy but educating not only myself, but you all, my people, on topics such as this is something I am very passionate about. Stepping off my soap box for now. Again, I know it can be a lil’ scary but you will feel empowered the more you educate yourself. And if you need help, please, reach out to me here!!!
I have so many other topics like this I would love to provide information on. We can talk about how to get enough iron, where calcium comes from on a plant-based diet, what’s the deal with soy, GMOs, and so on and so forth. Let me know what you want the next topic to be in the comments below!
Until next time,