Now I am just going off of my own experience.. But I'm guessing my fellow vegans & vegetarians get asked a lot of the same questions that I do. Yes, we all know that one question we get asked over and over..
If you don't eat meat.. Then where do you get your protein?
It is an all too common misconception that you need to eat animals to get sufficient protein. Truth is, there is no higher incidence of protein or iron deficiency among vegans & vegetarians than there is amongst meat eaters. In fact it is very easy to get enough protein daily as a vegan with little to no extra work at all.
The problem is that we are trained to believe we need a lot more protien than we actually do. Don't get me wrong, protein is an essential component of the human diet. All that I am saying is there is no need for substantial amounts of it and certainly no need to consume sweet little animals to get enough of it!
So how much protein do we need? About 10% of your daily calories should come from protein. The typical meat eater consumes 14-18% of their daily calories from protein, while the typical vegan/vegetarian consumes 10-12% of their daily calories from protein. The problem is, there is no scientific evidence to prove that a high protein diet is beneficial to your health. In fact, evidence shows that a high protein diet can increase your risk for osteoperosis and heart disease! Particularly if the protein you're consuming comes from an animal source.
I know what some of you might be thinking.. "Julia, you've gone mad! How could consuming animal protein cause osteoperosis, doesn't that depend on your calcium intake?" Well.. Yes & No. Calcium is a crucial component of the diet and is necessary for healthy strong bones. The problem with consuming meat (as well as dairy) is that they create an acidic environment in the body. When this happens your body trys desperately to neutralize the acidic environment you've created. It does so by drawing from it's most readily available resource, the calcium stored in your bones. This leaves your bones depleted of the one nutrient necessary to keep them strong!
Again, some of you are probably still thinking I've gone around the bend, but it is 100% true!
There is actually a higher rate of osteoperosis amongst those that consume higher amounts of dairy & meat in comparison to those who consume little to none at all.
So back to the original question..
How do vegans & vegetarians get enough protein & iron?
(Well I shall show you in a lovely little table, I will!)
Protein Content of Selected Vegan Foods
|Soybeans, cooked||1 cup||29||9.6|
|Lentils, cooked||1 cup||18||7.8|
|Black beans, cooked||1 cup||15||6.7|
|Kidney beans, cooked||1 cup||13||6.4|
|Veggie burger||1 patty||13||13.0|
|Chickpeas, cooked||1 cup||12||4.2|
|Veggie baked beans||1 cup||12||5.0|
|Pinto beans, cooked||1 cup||12||5.7|
|Black-eyed peas, cooked||1 cup||11||6.2|
|Tofu, firm||4 ounces||11||11.7|
|Lima beans, cooked||1 cup||10||5.7|
|Quinoa, cooked||1 cup||9||3.5|
|Tofu, regular||4 ounces||9||10.6|
|Peas, cooked||1 cup||9||6.4|
|Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), cooked||1/2 cup||8||8.4|
|Peanut butter||2 Tbsp||8||4.3|
|Veggie dog||1 link||8||13.3|
|Spaghetti, cooked||1 cup||8||3.7|
|Soy milk, commercial, plain||1 cup||7||7.0|
|Soy yogurt, plain||6 ounces||6||4.0|
|Bulgur, cooked||1 cup||6||3.7|
|Sunflower seeds||1/4 cup||6||3.3|
|Whole wheat bread||2 slices||5||3.9|
|Almond butter||2 Tbsp||5||2.4|
|Brown rice, cooked||1 cup||5||2.1|
|Spinach, cooked||1 cup||5||13.0|
|Broccoli, cooked||1 cup||4||6.8|
Sources: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18, 2005 and manufacturers' information.
The recommendation for protein for adult males vegans is around 56-70 grams per day; for adult female vegans it is around 46-58 grams per day (see text). (via)
Note: To meet protein recommendations, a typical male vegan would have to consume 2.5-2.9 grams of protein per 100 calories eaten & a typical female vegan would need to consume 2.1-2.4 grams of protein per 100 calories eaten. As this table shows, it is a piece of cake to consume enough protein without sacrificing cute little animals in the process!
Now, moving on to Iron..
Iron is an essential nutrient in the body because it contributes to the production of blood cells. But just because you choose to not eat meat does not mean you are bound to struggle with anemia! According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iron deficiency is amongst the highest deficiencies across the population worldwide. Up to 30% of the population is estimated to be dealing with some level of iron deficiency.
The RDA for a typical male ranges from 8-11 mg and the amount is higher, around 15-18 mg for the typical female.
While eating animal flesh is the "easiest" way to get enough iron.. That just ain't happening. No way, never again. Ya feelin' me here?
So what's a vegan/vegetarian to do? Don't worry friends, I've got you covered! Below is a short list of plant-based foods with high levels of iron, at your service.
What else can you do to insure you won't be amongst that deficient 30%?
Oh, & before I forget..
Did you know one ounce of dark chocolate contains 19% of your RDA of Iron? I think that is music to any females ears!! =)
Question of the Day:
What is your favorite plant based source of protein or favorite high protein dish?
I think mine is pretty obvious.. Peanut Butter, of course! Ya know.. This long post has me working up an appetite. Might have to go have me a spoonful or two right now. ;)