How Vegans Get Protein

by:

AllProtein

By analyzing the ingredients of vegan food, I can determine how vegans get protein.

I put my vegan meals to the test to calculate my daily protein intake.

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for maintaining muscle and bone mass, enzymatic activity, an optimal immune system, cell signaling and preventing fatigue. I would say that makes it quite important.

Recommended protein intake per day

My research revealed that there is no consensus on the amount of protein required per day.

Keep in mind also that the required protein intake for the day depends on;

  • your sex
  • your weight
  • your age
  • your body goals
  • the condition of your liver where the protein is broken down
  • whether a woman is pregnant and lactating.

The USA’s Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends adults consume 50 grams of protein per day based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The lowest amount of protein one needs before being considered deficient. A more accurate recommended protein intake per day required for optimal health is based on your weight.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends:

0.36 grams of protein per pound, or 0.8 grams per kilogram, of body weight.

I weigh 140 pounds which is 63kg. Therefore, I need 0.8 x 63kg = 50 grams of protein per day (which matches the FDA recommendation).

I do high intensity workouts for about 45 minutes every morning. Therefore, I will need more than 50g of protein in order to just maintain my body weight. I also have a goal to put on weight but at a slow unnoticeable pace.

Taking this into account – I will arbitrarily increase my protein intake by 30%, which is 15 additional grams.

My Final Goal: 50 + 15 = 65 grams of protein per day.

I used an app to calculate the amount of protein in each ingredient. Below I have highlighted (in red) how many grams of protein are contained in each ingredient. The app has a foods’ database and can scan the bar code label on the food packaging to automatically generate the protein content in grams.

Let’s break it down…

Vegan Breakfast

Vegan breakfast items on a plate

  • Bran Flakes, 2 1/2 cups (7g)
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk, 1 1/2 cups (1.3g)
  • Seed Mix (Linseed, Sunflower, Pumpkin & Flax) 1/4 cup (5.9g)
  • 1 Banana (1.3g)
  • 1 Tangerine (0.6g)
  • PawPaw fruit, medium (0.5g)

Vegan Lunch

vegan lunch plate

  • Toasted Brown Seeded Bread, 4 slices (15g)
  • Peanut Butter, No-added salt & sugar (0.6g)
  • Jam (0.1g)
  • Yam (0.3g)
  • Sweet Potato, 0.2 cup (0.5g)
  • Cashew Nuts, Roasted & Unsalted (5g)
  • Fry’s Braai Style Meat-free Sausages (15g)
  • Sauteed Spinach (2g)

Vegan Dinner

vegan dinner plate - dwyan.com

  • Black beans, 3cups, cooked (5g)
  • Avocado, 1/8 slice (0.4g)
  • Sweet Red Pepper, 1/8 cup chopped (0.2g)
  • String Beans (1g)
  • Bulgar Wheat & Chickpea Pilaf (11.5g)
  • Tomato
  • Sweet Potato, 0.2 cup (0.5g)

Total Calories: 2,000

My Protein Results

showing hand using a mobile device

Adding up all the protein amounts:

Breakfast 16 grams + Snack 38.5 grams + Lunch/Dinner 18.5 grams = 73 grams of protein for the day.

Conclusion

  1. Protein is contained in every single ingredient on my menu except the tomato I added to my beans.
  2. Vegans can get protein from almost every single type of food they eat.
  3. The Creator was smart enough to put protein in most plant foods in the amount that was required to survive.
  4. I did not have to take a protein shake or supplement in order to achieve my daily required amount of protein.

Utilizing an app can help beginner vegans in doing this kind of “scientific analysis” to make sure they are indeed getting enough protein from their diet. There are numerous apps on the market as you can imagine.

I am working with one right now through the vegan.io project. They send you automatic 7-day meal plans every week and even send you a shopping list segmented by ingredient types. Vegan.io automatically calculates the nutritional information for each and every meal. Not only protein, carbs and fat, but also vitamins and minerals! Yeah.

This is useful also for your own piece of mind as well as preparing you for the inevitable question that will come your way soon: Where do you get your protein?

Once you have a meal plan going and you get a feel for the nutritional content of the foods you eat, then you can do away with the app – it will become instinctive or intuitive what you need to eat on a daily basis to not only get your required protein but any goal you have set for your protein intake.

Let’s not just get stuck talking about protein, protein, protein. The human body requires more than just protein. What about the essential carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, fat, vitamins and minerals that the human body needs to function optimally?

But wouldn’t it be great for vegans to never worry about vegan meal planning ever again?

 

Vegan.io

 

It’s important to note that the sources of protein on my vegan plate are from plants and not animals. Herbivore animals get their protein from its source: the plants. Human animal eaters then eat the herbivore animals and derive their protein from a secondary source.

If the animal we eat can get all the protein it needs to grow and survive from plant sources then humans should be able to go directly to the source as well.

Hopefully this post can put to rest the concern many have that a vegan diet is lacking in protein or protein-deficient. Not only is protein plentiful in plant sources, it might just be the best source of protein on the planet.

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27 Replies to “How Vegans Get Protein”

  1. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this! I had a discussion about this with my brother and my aunt yesterday. Glad I found your article.
    I’m curious about iron, too. I’ve heard that for iron deficiency – a mild one – it’s better to eat meat because it’s easier absorbed. Do you know any not-meat equivalent?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      Hi Jenny, thanks for your comment. My take on iron is the same as protein. Is it better to get your iron directly from the source (plants) or from the animal? Iron is in dark leafy green vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. It’s everywhere just like protein. Check this video for more information. Thanks again.

  2. Ash says:

    I never thought about the fact that meat eaters get their protein from animals only because the animals get it from the plants.

  3. eric33 says:

    Ok, your ideas are thought out and well presented. But personally, I d not think apps and health go together. It does not seem like natural living to me.
    Secondly, a lot of people have been misled by this thing call protein. Some say it does not exist and that it is just a word.
    It is true that eating the animals for protein will give all the diseases of the animal.
    The only thing I eat from your plans above is avocado and chickpea. Does that mean I am lacking in protein?
    But it is an informative article.

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      Hey Eric. I did say that it was good to use the app initially and then after a week or two you’ll know automatically what you need to eat to get all the nutrition you want. Protein does not exist?? Please tell me where you heard this. What’s your source? Finally, the only way you’ll know if you’re lacking in protein is by doing this kind of breakdown with the food that you do eat. Thanks and all the best to you.

  4. Nicole says:

    I was not aware Vegan’s are able to get such high amounts of protein from their diet. This was very enlightening. I may just go vegan!

    I am currently counting the amount of protein I intake and would love to know the name of the app you used to count the protein.

    This was a must read for me!

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      Hi Nicole. I used an app called MyFitnessPal. But there are a whole bunch of them. It really helped me because you just scan the bar code and it calculates your daily calories as well as Protein, Fat, Carbs, Sugars etc. I just found this to be very helpful in determining nutritional content of the food I eat. Good luck on your journey. You won’t regret it!

  5. Matts Mom says:

    This was a really cool way to break down your protein intake. I am seriously considering going vegan, and I know that it will be quite simple for me. My biggest worry was protein. I see that there are actually quite a lot of foods with protein in them. Your intake for the day was great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      You’re very welcome! And remember also that there is much evidence to support getting protein directly from the plants rather than from animals. I think you will find the vegan lifestyle to be very rewarding.

  6. Priya says:

    I really like this post especially about how to calculate your protein requirement based on your body weight. I am a vegetarian but my sister is a vegan and she has been persuading me to become a vegan too !

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      Hi Priya. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post. It’s like you are on a boat in water and she is at the shore line urging you to jump and rescue yourself. You don’t want to jump off and go to her maybe because you feel the water right below your feet is too deep and too rough to handle. But just think what treasures and pleasures awaits you at the shore. Jump!

  7. Kim says:

    I like to think that I am a plant based eater rather than being ‘vegan’ or ‘veggie’. But I do like to incorp the meals they eat as some can be quite tasty! I like the sound of the dinner -hope you release your recipe secrets 🙂

  8. Dexter says:

    Dwyan. Very well written. My daughter started out as a vegetarian about 3 years ago (at 12) and about a yea ago became vegan. It’s not an easy lifestyle at all. I applaud her though for sticking with it. Her protein intake is something I was worried about. This puts my mind more at ease. I will be getting her that though.

    On a side note, I had some health issues that got me thinking about changing my diet around. With her as inspiration, I have been eating more vegetables, no read meat, still chicken and fish. Staying away from sugar and carbs as much as possible. I’ve lost 30 lbs so far and all my health metrics have improved: blood pressure, cholesterol dropped about 150 point! And it hasn’t really been that hard making the changes.

    I doubt that I will go all the way vegan, but even half way there has been a whooooole lot better.

  9. This is great information. I tried to go vegan once and it lasted only a week, only because at the time, I didn’t have enough will power to push through it. Article just motivated me to try to start again. Thanks for shedding light on how to breakdown your daily protein intake.

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      Hi Brandi. Wow, now that is great motivation for me to keep doing this! Please bookmark my blog as I plan to write so much more on this lifestyle. I hope you will give it another chance.

  10. Melissa says:

    Hi, thanks for breaking down the protein intake the way you have. And I didn’t realise there were apps that could help do that – and now I just feel silly that I never thought of that! Protein and iron are the only reasons I continue to eat a limited amount of meat. I’m quite iron deficient as it is and need to take iron supplements, so I’m not sure that a fully vegetarian diet would work for me, despite me wanting to do so. What are your thoughts on that?
    Thanks

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      I need to write about iron, I just wanted to focus on protein here. You can use same technique to find out about iron intake though. Basically iron is in many variety of beans, legumes, and green leafy vegetables like Spinach/Kale. A lot of breakfast cereals and breads have been fortified with iron. However, its advisable to eat whole grain foods like whole grain bread over refined grains like white bread. Refined grains robs you of Iron when the outer shell or bran of the grain, that contains the iron and other minerals, is removed during the refining process.

  11. Aj says:

    I am not a vegan but I do like a lot of vegan food. This was a very interesting read for me, I now know I need to step up my protein game. Thank you so much for sharing this info, this is going to help me out a ton!

  12. Emmanuel Buysse says:

    It is really too bad how underestimated vegetables and fruits are for getting protein.. but I think that is part of the big meat companies strategy.. however, more and more people are getting to know it, and that is good.
    Your post let people see what they can take as a replacement for meat, I really like it!

  13. Ashlea says:

    What a fantastic article! And I adore your site. I’ve been considering going vegan but I can be a bit bad with change haha. I shall definitely bookmark this.

    • Dwyan Alford says:

      Thanks so much Ashlea for your encouraging words. Please do bookmark! I am planning on really going deep with this but keeping it an easy read as well. Take care.

  14. Dwyan, I come from a Caribbean country where eating meat in your food was an occasional treat, not a requirement. I grew up on fruits, vegetables and common foods. Until migrating to the US, I never had any confusion about the amount of proteins necessary for good health or where to obtain it. This article simply confirms what third world people have instinctively known all along. Vegetable protein is essential.

  15. samantha says:

    Of course, I am also vegetarian, I like the most of your meals. And also your calculation per day calories, what amount of protein contained in breakfast, lunch or dinner. Amazing explanation. OK, thanks a lot for the information with nutrition calculation.

  16. Connie B. says:

    Great posts, with lots of very useful information everybody needs! There is more of a protein overload problem then the lack of protein problem most people don’t even realize. I hope everybody gets to read this post vegans and non-vegans alike!
    Connie B.

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