Week One: Changing Vegan Perspectives
But where do you get your protein? Make a protein-packed meal.
This prompt gave me a chuckle: I devoted all of VeganMoFo 2014 to sharing meals that are high in some of the nutrients vegans get grilled about: calcium, iron, and — duh — protein. (Side note… gosh, that photo of Luna in the link above is squeezing my heart. My little baby girl. I miss her so much.)
So, protein. Although I briefly considered developing a brand-new, protein-centric recipe for today’s prompt, I decided instead to plumb the depths of the ol’ blog and share some older recipes that fit the bill. Let’s call it recycling. ;)
First, a few words about protein. (I’m also recycling (and retooling) these from a 2014 post).
Where do vegans get their protein?
The “But where do you get your protein?!” has a pretty simple answer: From nearly everything I eat. Here’s what the American Heart Association has to say on the matter:
“You don’t need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.” (1)
Still, protein-related myths abound. One oft-cited “fact” is that plant proteins are inferior to their animal-derived counterparts because they don’t provide all essential amino acids in a single source (and are thus called “incomplete” proteins). Based on this belief, some sources will say that you must consume all of your complementary proteins in a single meal to derive the full protein benefit, but that’s been disproven. Instead, as long as you eat a variety of proteins throughout the day, your body can take care of combining them. (2)
(For a further, more in-depth read, I highly recommend The Vegan RD’s primer on plant-based protein. Ginny Messina is a vegan treasure!)
How much protein do vegans need?
So — how much protein do you need? Not as much as lots of people think. Unless you’re very active, 10-30% of your calories should come from protein. (3) The USDA has tool for tailored nutrient recommendations here. I’ve done a few calculations, and I should be getting between 50 and 70 grams per day. What does that mean in real-world food terms? Well, half a block of tofu has around 18 grams, half a cup of tempeh has 15 grams, and half a cup of black beans has 20 grams. And those are just the protein powerhouses! Most of the incidental foods we eat contain at least a little protein, and those grams add up. For example, bagels often contain around 10 grams of protein. A small handful of almonds gives you around 4 grams. Eat a balanced, whole-food-heavy diet, and you should have little trouble meeting your needs.
What are some protein-heavy vegan recipes?
Glad you asked! Why not try one of these?
- Protein-rich veggie stew, pictured above. Bulgur wheat and TVP combine to pack a one-two protein punch.
- BBQ baked black-eyed peas, which boast 29% of the recommended daily value of protein per serving.
- Classic kale and white bean soup, with 17 grams of protein per serving.
- A greens and grains bowl topped with toasted nuts is an easy win.
- Sweet potato and mung bean croquettes, little nibbles that pack in the protein.
- On the sweet side, peanut butter and chocolate chip granola harnesses the protein power of oats and peanut butter.
- Yes, they’re sooo five years ago, but black bean brownies are surprisingly yummy and a great way to sneak in a few extra grams of protein.
- For a guide to cooking with tofu, that old stalwart source of protein, look here.
I’m neither a doctor nor a dietitian; please don’t treat my posts as medical advice! Consult a medical practitioner for specific medical or nutritional recommendations.