Plant Powered Protein

A common concern when considering a plant-based diet is lack of protein. We have all been led to believe that meat is the predominant source of protein in our diets. Most people are familiar with alternative protein sources such as beans and lentils, but actually the plant world has a wealth of protein options that make it easy to meet your protein requirements. Which leads to the next question… 

How much protein do we need?

Recommended protein requirements vary by country but are not too dissimilar if we consider the advice in the UK and US. The advice in the UK is to eat 0.75g of protein for every kilogram you weigh; whereas in the US, they recommend 0.8g per kilogram. On average, this equates to the following for someone with a sedentary lifestyle:

  • Women – 45g / 46g protein (UK / US)
  • Men – 55g / 56g protein (UK / US)

So the first thing to note is that protein requirements are very personal, being based on your weight and secondly, your lifestyle will have a bearing too – typically the more active you are, the more protein you need. The British Nutrition Foundation state: 

Protein is essential for growth and repair of the body and maintenance of good health.

Meaning if your body needs to do some repair work (you’ve had an operation or injury for example) getting your protein amounts right is vital to your recovery.

Am I getting enough protein?

Having stopped eating meat well over ten years ago, I have now adopted a plant-based diet in recent years and was curious about my protein intake – where was I getting it and was it enough?

I found a great website that gives you protein amounts for common plant based foods to get you started: http://www.theholykale.com/plant-based-protein-chart/ and then I kept a food diary for a week to see how much protein I was consuming. Surprisingly, I was easily consuming 60g a day on average, which seems reasonable based on the fact that I weigh 60kg (meaning a minimum of 45-48g protein required a day) plus I am fairly active.

As an aside, I had my bloods checked, which confirmed that the two main protein measures (Albumin and Globulin) were both in the healthy ranges. So all good on the protein front!

What did I learn?

Well the following which I eat regularly anyway are all really good protein sources and are probably ones you would think of:

  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

The surprises for me were the things I had always thought of as the non-protein elements on your plate; the vegetables (peas, corn, sprouts in particular, but also a lot of the green veggies scored well) and the carbohydrates (potatoes, brown rice, oats, quinoa), so in fact most elements of your meal will contribute to your protein intake.

Then of course there are the ‘meat’ replacement products (which I enjoy in moderation) that can add a decent source of protein to a meal. And finally protein products such as protein powders (I add pea protein to soups that are low in protein) as well as protein bars, which are really handy when travelling.