To me, being vegan isn’t a “diet.” Not a diet in the way we are used to thinking about it. I don’t feel restricted or feel that I am depriving myself. I WANT to be this way. I DON’T want to eat animal flesh or products that come from their bodies. I’m not counting calories or obsessing over how much of something I am eating. I am just eating when I am hungry because the foods I am consuming are all right for my body.
It is a great feeling because I was never good at dieting. Before I was vegan, I would try to give up bread or sugar or eat less of something. And it was all I could think about. My cravings would be consuming and I would become frustrated with myself constantly. Something magical happened when I became vegan, especially now that I am eating a mostly raw diet. My obsessive cravings totally went away. I don’t feel like a slave to my hunger anymore. I will delve deeper into this concept in another post. But my point, today, is that I am not depriving my body by not consuming animal products. And I will prove it!
Let’s talk about protein!
Where do I get it, you ask? This has got to be the number one question vegans get challenged with. Because we have been taught since birth that the best source of protein is the meat of an animal, some people immediately assume that vegans are simply not getting any protein at all.
However! The beautiful earth has provided us with MULTIPLE natural and fresh sources of protein and all the other nutrients your body needs!
Today, I will talk about a few of the protein sources that I make sure I get plenty of. But to be totally honest, I don’t keep track on a consistent basis. I am not worried about my protein intake. If I am eating fresh fruits and vegetables, then I am getting plenty of nourishing and high-quality plant protein. We don’t often hear about people in America with a protein deficiency like we do with other diseases or medical issues. The standard American diet is FULL of animal protein, more grams of protein than the average person even needs to consume in one day.
Protein is a little complicated. Not only is it essential for your muscles and bones, but your hair, skin, nails and cells all grow and thrive through protein. In order for the body to manufacture proteins, all the amino acids (all 20-22 of them) must be available. Some proteins can be made by the body while others can’t. These essential amino acids (the ones the body can’t make) need to come from an outside source, such as your food. According to Harvard’s School of Public Health,
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day (or 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight)….In the United States, the recommended daily allowance of protein is 46 grams per day for women over 19 years of age, and 56 grams per day for men over 19 years of age.”
However, they also state that there is “relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet or the healthiest target for calories contributed by protein.”
So it’s hard to track and difficult to really know how much you should be eating. According to “The Raw Food Nutrition Handbook,” by Karin and Rick Dina, “the more calories you eat from whole natural foods, the higher your protein intake will be.” (I HIGHLY recommend investing in this book if you are interested in learning about nutrients from a vegan lifestyle. The Dina’s breakdown protein, mineral, vitamins, fat, carbs, and calories and how a raw vegan lifestyle will enrich your body with everything you need. It really is fascinating, especially for those interested in medical and scientific proof.) Therefore, if I am eating plenty of calories from nutritious foods, like those I consume in my vegan lifestyle, then I should be all set.
I think the main reason this protein question is asked so much, is because we have a vision of what a complete dinner plate, or complete meal, is supposed to look like. Meat, as the main course, with a side of a starch, like potatoes, and vegetables. That’s a “healthy” meal. But it’s not mandatory to eat protein with every meal. The body can only use so much. If you are eating small amounts throughout your day, this can add up to the right amount for your body.
Here is a list of a few food, high in protein, that I consume regularly!
Spinach is filled with 5 grams of protein per cup! I like to toss a handful in my morning smoothie, or simply saute it with some salt and pepper.
This veggie contains 4 grams of protein in 1 cup, as well as tons of calcium, vitamin C, fiber and vitamin B! I usually keep my broccoli meals pretty simple, maybe just adding in beans and some hummus.
Beans might be in my top 5 favorite foods. You can do so much with them! And as a lover of Mexican cuisine, they are essential to a lot of my dishes. Black beans are a great source of antioxidants as well. With one cup of pinto, kidney or black beans, you’ll get about 13-15 grams of protein!
Almonds have 7 grams per cup of fresh nuts or in 2 tablespoons of almond butter. I use these to make an amazing raw pesto with spinach (double protein!) or just to snack on throughout the day. Raw almonds, without salt, are my favorite.
I’m a fiend for hummus. But honestly, I could just eat chickpeas right out of the can with a fork. I recently tried baking them with some chili powder and that was quite a delicious snack as well. Just 1/2 cup contains 6-8 grams of your daily protein. Eat these as often as you like!
Even though this is a long post, there is SO much more information on protein that you will find useful to your life. I believe that we can get everything we need from fruits and vegetables, you just have to be mindful of what we are eating and how much. Do your research, learn what works for you and give your body some love 🙂