The protein myth is one that has long annoyed vegans. Many meat eaters suddenly become nutritional experts when faced with a plant-based eater, and the number one question often asked is: where do you get your protein?
The idea that protein only comes from animal-sources is wrong, yet the notion that vegans are pale weaklings is one many omnivores don’t seem able to shake off. A growing number of plant-powered athletes (see box) are smashing that myth – so, how do they get their protein, and why is this such a big deal?
Protein is often referred to as ‘the building block of life’. This macronutrient breaks down into amino acids, promoting cell repair and growth. Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates, which mean they can fill you up for longer. While many animal sources (meat, eggs and dairy) contain protein, these sources also tend to be high in saturated fat and cholesterol. There are many plant-based sources of protein, all of which are easy to incorporate into your diet (see box).
So how much protein should we eat? In the UK, adults are advised to eat 0.75g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. So a 63.5kg (10 stone) woman should consume just under 48g a day. But according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, both men and women eat between 45 and 55 per cent more protein than they need on a daily basis. According to nutritionist Dr Helen Crawley: “There is certainly no benefit to having very high protein intakes, and individuals who require high energy intakes for whatever reason should consider how to increase energy intake without increasing protein intakes excessively.”
Vegan Sources of Protein
- Soya milk
- Broccoli (and other green veggies)
Nutrition – Soya vs Beef (per 100g)
- Soy Protein Isolate: 338
- Beef (85% lean): 250
- Soy: 81g
- Beef: 26g
- Soy: 3.4g
- Beef: 15g
- Soy: 6g
- Beef: 0g
- Soy: 14.5mg
- Beef: 2.6mg
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