Day 6: Proteins #30VeganDays
I have had the idea of going vegan for a while and every time I talked about it some of my friends, especially the sporty ones, told me that it was not a good idea because I was going to miss the best source of protein. It seems that a lot of people thinks that the only, and best way, of getting protein is by consuming meat, milk, or eggs.
While indeed those are very good protein sources, it is also possible to find protein in pretty much everything: vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds and even fruits. However, it’s commonly thought that plant based protein is either inferior or incomplete but that’s actually not the case as you can find all essential amino acids in plant based protein.
Why do we need protein?
Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, in their book Becoming Vegan, Comprehensive Edition put it this way:
The building blocks of proteins are amino acids (molecules of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen). Some of these are called indispensable amino acids (IAAs) or essential amino acids because the human body can’t manufacture them, and they must be supplied by diet. Every one of the IAAs is available in plant foods and also in animal products. Others are termed dispensable amino acids because the body can synthesize them from the IAAs. As a component of muscle and bone, protein is essential for the body’s structure and movement. Various proteins protect health (in the form of antibodies and other immune system constituents), accomplish reactions (as enzymes), coordinate activities (as hormones), and work as carriers (moving oxygen and electrons). Adults require protein for cell maintenance and replacement; infants and children need extra protein to build new cells.
The trick with plant protein is that it might not be as digestible as animal protein. In this regard digestibility means, in simple terms, what your body effectively uses versus what it secretes in fecal form. If you eat lets say 100g of something and your body barely discards 4g of it then it is highly digestible as your body absorbed, and effectively used, 96% of that substance.
The good news is that you can always do something to increase the digestibility of your plant protein simply by soaking and when possible sprouting your grains, vegetables, legumes and nuts. You won’t only make them more digestible but will improve their protein quality and at the same time will remove their non-nutritional traits.
Here is a soaking guide list that we found on The Blender Girl website. Take a look at it for more info on soaking:
|Food||Soaking Time (Hrs)||Sprouting Time (Days)|
|Almonds||8-12||No Sprouting or 3 Days|
|Brazil Nuts||3||No Sprouting|
|Sunflower Seeds||8||12-24 hours|
It is up to you to cook your legumes or vegetables. Sometimes it helps to increase protein quality and digestibility but it will be at the expense of other nutrient such as fiber, vitamins and minerals. When cooking opt for a pressure cooker.
How much protein do you need?
That depends on who you ask and what you do but the World Health Organization recommends getting 0.83 g of protein per kilogram of healthy/ideal weight per day. Meaning that if your healthy/ideal weight is 65 kg you should consume 53.95 g of protein daily. If you’re an endurance athlete you should aim for 1.3 to 1.9 g of protein per kg per day.
How can you make sure you’re getting enough protein?
This is not only a question of getting enough protein but getting enough of everything your body needs. For that you should always try to combine grains, seeds, nuts, vegetables, legumes and fruits of course. The more colors your dishes have the better. You will see that even if you buy bio you will end up saving more money than when you used to buy regular meat.
I will leave you with an eating guide developed by Davis and Melina (mentioned before) which you can find on their website. Again, I strongly advise you to buy their book, even if you do not become vegan: