Vegan Protein

Many people ask how as vegans we are able to get our protein needs met. Vegan protein is easy to source because it is found in so many different plant based foods. But do we really need as much as we are told?

First of all, lets take a closer look at proteins and amino acids to better understand how the body uses them.

balanced plant food diet - supplying all of our protein needs

Amino Acids - The Body's Building Blocks

Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein, which is a key nutrient for the growth, healing, and the maintenance of tissues in the body.

Amino acids are used in the body for

  • Skin, muscles and tissues
  • Hormones
  • Enzymes and digestion
  • Immunity

As adults we require 20 different amino acids. Eight of these, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine are essential amino acids. Our bodies cannot produce these babies so we need to get them from the food we eat. Children however have one extra essential amino acid that they need to obtain from food, taking their count to nine, as they need arginine for growth. The rest of the amino acids can be created inside the body using these 8 essential amino acids as building blocks.

It has long been thought that meat is the superior source of protein as it has been touted to be a ‘complete’ protein (containing all 8 essential amino acids) however meat is actually not a complete protein at all especially when cooked.

Let me explain why.

Meat is cooked at very high temperatures so that all the harmful pathogens in the rotting flesh is killed. But during this cooking process the molecular structure is altered and it destroys most of the proteins. For example Lysine can be destroyed by heat as little as 110°F/43°C and higher temperatures cause greater damage.

But wait, it doesn’t end there! The moment the animal is killed it’s body starts to decompose…and that includes the amino acids. So the longer it sits around regardless whether it’s frozen or not, you are losing amino acids by the second. So to give you an example here, chicken when in it’s raw state has roughly 35% protein, but by the time you get it to your house and cook it (and that’s not even the time it sits ready for sale or even in your fridge before use) you are looking at about only 18% usable protein, but it’s usually far less than that. The other point to make here is that the chemicals fed and injected into these sentient beings to keep them ‘healthy’ and to plump them up faster causes the amino acids to break down even further.

I think it’s safe to say that you aren’t getting anything useful from the meat you eat at all, especially as it’s lifeless ie. When you photograph the energy field around it there is none.

Here comes the good bit: You can easily obtain complete protein from a plant food diet! And what’s more the food has life force in it. That’s why raw foodies call plants living food. Some foods such as soy and quinoa have complete protein, but our entire beautiful plant kingdom has varying amounts of protein in them and our amazing bodies know just what to do with them. If there are some missing proteins, the body will dip into it’s storage bank, extract what it needs and combine them together to make up the complete protein. Aren’t our bodies great? So you don’t need to waste time trying to figure out which vegan proteins to eat together anymore.

"All proteins are made up of the same amino acids. All. No exceptions. The difference between animal and vegetable proteins is in the content of certain amino acids. If vegetable proteins are mixed, the differences get made up. Even if they aren’t mixed, all you need to do to get the right amount of low amino acids is to eat more of that food. There is no 'need' for animal proteins at all." ~Dr. Marion Nestle, Professor, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University.

If you were ever unsure of your body’s wisdom I hope you are starting to learn that it is far wiser than you ever imagined.

How the Body Stores and Uses Amino Acids

It is important to understand that proteins, whether complete or incomplete will be broken down into their individual amino acids to be used in the body to make complete proteins. When we eat our bodies store the amino acids in a storage bank and then extracts them when needed. So whatever is lacking the body will source and combine to create a complete protein. As long as your diet includes all of the eight amino acids your body will do the work to create the proteins that your body needs.

Plant-based foods contain the highest quality of protein and amino acids, and all the essential eight amino acids are covered in vegan and vegetarian foods, you just need to maintain a well-balanced diet, and not get stuck eating the same foods all the time to ensure your vegan protein needs are being met.

vegan protein - quinoa salad

Sources of Vegan Protein

The optimum sources of protein are always plant-based and raw because that the way the amino acids are still intact and useable.

You can mix the foods from the following food groups to cover all the essential amino acids and also meet your vegan protein needs:

  • Sprouted beans and legumes
  • Soy
  • Grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables and fruit

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More on Vegan Nutrition from Vegan Sources of Protein

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