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Proteins in vegan plantbased diets - What's important?

Protein in a vegan diet - How to meet your protein needs plant-based

In this article, you will therefore learn the most important information about protein in general and a purely plant-based diet in particular. We'll start by dispelling a few nutritional myths, then move on to protein requirements, the function of protein in the body, the difference between animal and plant protein sources, the best plant protein sources and the risk of protein deficiency.

In advance a short Table of contents for this article:

  1. Misconceptions and prejudices
  2. Protein requirement
  3. Differences between animal and vegetable protein
  4. Plant foods with proteins
  5. Protein deficiency (recognize and avoid)
  6. Closing words

Misconceptions and prejudices about proteins in a vegan diet

There are many different Prejudices regarding a vegan diet. So let's start with these nutritional myths, to each of which I will give a clear and scientifically sound answer below.

"Without animal products you lack protein - that's not healthy."

In its position paper on vegan nutrition, the German Nutrition Society has defined protein as a potentially critical nutrient.1 This is because beef, chicken and pork are full of protein and for many people meat is the biggest source of protein. However, there are countless plant-based foods that are just as rich in protein as meat. These include above all Pulseswhole grain products, nuts and seeds.

Many different studies have already confirmed that a purely plant-based diet can also cover protein requirements if the calorie intake is sufficient. This is also confirmed by the position paper of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada confirmed, in which a Balanced vegan diet as healthy, (protein) meeting demand and beneficial for health is defined.2

"Our body needs meat to perform well in sport."

I used to think that you have to eat meat if you do a lot of sport. But if you do a bit of research and look around the sporting elite, you will generally find a lot of vegan top athletes. This is because we can get all the nutrients we need from plant sources - including protein.

Ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek, tennis stars such as Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic, ex-boxer David Haye, strongman Patrik Baboumian, record Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, UFC fighter Nate Diaz and professional footballers such as Sergio Agüero, Hector Bellerin and Jermain Defoe are among the list of vegan professional athlete.

You can also find out more about performance and protein in a vegan diet with the movie "The Game Changers". The American and Canadian nutrition societies confirm that a Balanced vegan diet also meets the needs of athletes is.2

Tip: More recommended Documentaries about veganism and factory farming can be found in the linked article.

Legumes and nuts are good sources of vegetable protein

"Vegetable protein does not contain all amino acids and is therefore inferior"

The statement that plant-based foods do not contain all amino acids is false. However, it is true that sometimes the amino acid distribution is less favorable than animal protein sources. However, you can compensate for this by cleverly combining foods to balance the amino acid ratio.

For example, pulses contain a lot of lysine but little methionine, while the opposite is true for cereal products. That's why it's great if you eat both whole grain products and pulses throughout the day. An Ayurvedic dish that combines pulses and grains is, for example Kitchari. This is ideal for absorbing proteins on a vegan diet.

Notice: Hemp protein, a particularly good source of vegetable protein, contains a very balanced ratio of amino acids and many other micronutrients.

How high is our protein requirement actually?

The daily protein requirement depends on your body weight. It is therefore measured in grams per kilogram of body weight (g/kg). According to the German Nutrition Society, the protein requirement is 0.8 g/kg per day.3 To calculate this, simply multiply the body weight by a factor of 0.8. This means that a man weighing 80 kilograms should eat 64 grams of protein per day.

The World Health Organization and the European Food Safety Authority have defined the protein requirement slightly higher at 0.83 g/kg.4,5 The Australian Health Society also differentiates between men and women when it comes to protein intake. A daily requirement of 0.84 g/kg has been set for men and 0.75 g/kg for women.6

For Sportsmen and athletes an increased protein intake is recommended. The National Institutes of Health set this at 1.2-2.0 g/kg bw.7 For Pregnant the requirement increases to 1.0 g/kg daily and for breastfeeding women even to 1.2 g/kg. An increased protein intake of 1.0 g/kg is also recommended for seniors aged 65 and over.3

Notice: As there is no protein store in the body, daily intake is important.

Why do we need protein?

Protein is needed in the body for many different functions. I would like to briefly summarize the most important tasks here8:

  • Function of the immune system
  • Cell building of muscles, bones, etc.
  • Structure of enzymes and hormones
  • Transmission of nerve impulses
  • Transport of oxygen and fats
  • Energy source
  • Regulation of the water balance

How do animal and plant proteins differ?

You should always always see the whole food and not just reduce it to the protein content. You can find a detailed comparison of the nutritional values of tempeh and beef or red lentils and beef in the Article Pulses instead of meat.

Plant-based proteins also offer some advantages, for example many vegan protein sources are easier to digest. In addition, animal protein sources are suspected of increasing the Risk of fatal diseases of civilization like cancer or Cardiovascular diseases to increase.8 Animal protein also contains more purine, which can lead to hyperacidity and gout.9

Plant foods with proteins

Legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrain products are particularly good sources of protein. Therefore, in this list you will find high quality vegetable protein sources particularly many foods that belong to these groups:

  • Pumpkin seeds (35 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Hulled hemp seeds (30 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Peanuts (25 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Cashews (20 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Tempeh (14 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Tofu (13 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Oatmeal (13 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Lenses, Cooked (10 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Chickpeas, cooked (8 g protein per 100 gram)
  • Wholemeal pasta, cooked (6 g protein per 100 gram)

The list is only exemplary and not exhaustive. There are many more plant-based foods with a high protein content. Instead of limiting yourself to just a few foods, it's best if you simply choose the regularly integrate legumes, wholegrain products, nuts and seeds into your diet. In Contribution to vegetable protein sources you can find out more about proteins in a vegan diet.

Detect, correct and avoid protein deficiency

According to the large-scale National Nutrition Survey II, around 11 percent of men and 15 percent of women do not reach the recommended reference values for protein intake.10 However, protein deficiency is virtually non-existent in industrialized countries and actually only occurs in developing countries because the supply of food is limited and therefore too little protein is consumed. This is because falling slightly below the reference values does not yet lead to a deficiency, as a safety margin is already factored into the reference values.

A Supplementation with protein is therefore not absolutely necessary. However, it can be useful for practical reasons due to an increased protein requirement or to ensure that you get enough protein even on a vegan diet. In this case, I recommend a high-quality, wholesome and organically produced protein powder that is based on an easily digestible, fermented protein. Added sugar or artificial sweeteners should not be on the list of ingredients. A corresponding Protein powder you get here*.

Notice: Incidentally, I have already tried the Salted Maca Caramel, Acai Blueberry, Banana & Cinnamon and Madagascar Vanilla varieties of the vegan Perform protein myself. My favorite is Salted Maca Caramel. Vivolife also grows a tree for every order, packs the powder in 100% recyclable packaging and offsets all CO2 emissions.

No protein deficiency is to be expected with a balanced, vegan diet

Various legumes and whole grains are high-quality vegetable protein sources in vegan diets

With a well-planned, plant-based diet, protein deficiency or health disadvantages are virtually impossible. On the contrary, plant-based protein sources definitely offer some advantages over animal protein, even if you refrain from substitute products like.

If you eat a balanced diet and include pulses, wholegrain products, nuts and seeds in your diet, you will get enough protein on a vegan diet.

I hope that I have been able to help you with this article on protein requirements for a purely plant-based diet. Do you have any questions or suggestions? Then feel free to write me a message in the comments.

All the best,

Julian from CareElite

PS.: That Veganism is fundamentally not healthy is also one of the many prejudices. In the linked article, I show you why the opposite is also the case. Have fun!

References:

1 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.: Supplement to the position of the German Nutrition Society regarding population groups with special nutritional needs, https://www.dge.de/wissenschaft/weitere-publikationen/dge-position/vegane-ernaehrung/?L=0. [09.08.2021].

2 American Dietetic Association, Dietitions of Canada (2003): Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitions of Canda: vegetarian diets. In: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 103 (6), S. 748-765. Online: https://jandonline.org/action/showPdf?pii=S0002-8223%2803%2900294-3. [09.08.2021]

3 German Nutrition Society: Protein, https://www.dge.de/wissenschaft/referenzwerte/protein/?L=0. [09.08.2021]

4 World Health Organization: Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/43411/WHO_TRS_935_eng.pdf?ua=1 [09.08.2021].

5 European Food Safety Authority: Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for protein, https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2557 [09.08.2021]

6 Australian Government. National Health and Medical Research Council: Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, including Recommended Dietary Intakes. Protein, https://www.nrv.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/n35-protein_0.pdf. [09.08.2021]

7 National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance-HealthProfessional/#protein. [09.08.2021]

8 Center for Health: Animal protein promotes cancer, https://www.zentrum-der-gesundheit.de/krankheiten/krebserkrankungen/weitere-krebsinformationen/tierisches-protein. [09.08.2021]

9 Zentrum der Gesundheit: Eiweiss - die Grundlage des Lebens, zentrum-der-gesundheit.de/ernaehrung/naehrstoffe/proteine-uebersicht/eiweiss. [09.08.2021]

10 Max Rubner Institute. J. Möhring, H. F. Erbersdobler (2008). Nationale Verzehrs Studie II - Ergebnisbericht Teil 2. In: Lebensmittel-Warenkunde Für Einsteiger, (Springer), pp. 121-146. Online: https://www.mri.bund.de/de/institute/ernaehrungsverhalten/forschungsprojekte/nvsii/erg-verzehr-naehrstoffe/ [09.08.2021]

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Julian Hölzer

Julian Hölzer

Hi, my name is Julian and I am a trained vegan nutritionist. In 2016 I started to get involved with veganism and quickly learned how big an impact our diet has on the environment and how diverse plant-based diets can be. That's why I want to inspire you to get involved with veganism too.

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