Today's blog post was written by Amanda Lentz, Immaculata University Dietetic Intern.
Are You Getting Enough Protein on your Plant Based Diet?
There are many reasons someone might follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. The reason may be ethical in nature, such as sustainability of food sources, humane treatment of animals, or the environmental impact of eating animal products. On the other hand, the reason may be more personal, such as financial feasibility or the potential health benefits of following a plant-based diet. By going meatless just one day a week, you may reduce your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. However, a common misconception related to vegan and vegetarian diet patterns is the belief that these diets do not provide enough protein.
Protein is a macronutrient used in our bodies for building, repairing, and maintaining tissues, including muscles. They are not stored in the body like carbohydrates and fats, and we require a constant supply of proteins through dietary intake every day. While vegan and vegetarian diet patterns may be more restrictive in nature, making it more difficult to consume enough protein for some individuals, it is not impossible and can be done with a few adjustments to meals. The amount of protein you need to consume varies based on gender, physical activity, and age. However, in general, 10-35% of your calories should come from protein.
So, what foods can vegetarians and vegans consume to provide enough protein in their diet? Nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, edamame, tempeh, tofu, quinoa, and whole grain products are all valuable sources of protein in any diet. Additionally, if you consume some animal products, eggs and dairy are excellent sources of protein, providing 6-7 grams per serving. Other soy based food products such as veggie burgers, soy hot dogs, soy cheeses and yogurts are additional ways to introduce more protein into the diet.
Trying to consume at least one serving of these protein-rich plant foods at each meal will help to boost your protein intake. Additionally, snacking on foods such as nuts and seeds, nut butters, roasted chickpeas, hummus, and whole grain bread or crackers are all excellent ways to meet your protein needs.
Provided below is a list of foods, serving sizes, and grams of protein per serving for your reference. Consuming a variety of these foods in your diet will provide adequate amounts of protein and help to maintain a nutritionally balanced diet. Keep in mind, some vegetables and fruits also provide trace amounts of protein which can contribute to your total protein intake.