Thursday, 5 September 2013

Vegan MoFo - September 5th - Vegan Mythbusting

“But where do you get your protein?”

We all know that to stay healthy you need to eat the right amount of protein, but what is the right amount and how do you make sure you get it?

The UK Reference Nutrient Intake for protein is 0.75g of protein per 1kg of body weight, which for me works out at 57g protein per day. This is probably a lot less protein that most people think you need – for example; the nutrition calculator that I sometimes use advises that I should have 90g protein per day. That’s quite a difference! And it is possible to have too much protein. (However, please note that vegans might need a little more protein than meat-eaters due to the digestibility difference between plant- and animal-based proteins.)

There was a theory that originated in the 70s (and is the basis of Diet for a Small Planet, which has some interesting recipes – although many are vegetarian rather than vegan) that suggested that it was necessary to combine various types of protein to ensure that all the essential amino acids were eaten at the same time. However, it has since been decided that this is not the case – so long as you have a protein from a variety of sources throughout the day you will get the nutrients you need.

There are tons of sources of plant-based protein out there just waiting to be eaten. Let’s take a look…

Pulses – Peas, beans, lentils. This includes soy products such as tofu and tempeh.
Nuts and Seeds (Bear in mind that some nuts are better sources of protein than others – high protein nuts include cashews, almonds, peanuts and pistachios).
Grains – Oats, wheat, quinoa, buckwheat, etc. This also includes cereal products such as bread and pasta. (Rice is relatively low in protein though.)

Some simple food that is choc-full of lovely protein…

Tofu (100g-200g depending on brand) = 20g protein
Wholemeal bread – 2 slice = 10g protein
Baked Beans – 200g = 10g protein
Red or green lentils – 40g = 10g protein
Wholemeal pasta - 75g = 10g protein
Chickpeas – 140g = 10g protein
Quinoa – 50g (dry) = 7.5g protein
Pumpkin seeds – 20g = 5g protein
Cashews – 25g = 5g protein
Peas – 70g = 5g protein

Vegan sausages, mince, and other mock meats also provide protein – check the packet for details.

It’s easy enough to get protein into your meals. Cereals/grains alone account for about 22% of protein consumption in an average UK diet. You could replace the traditional meat aspect of a meal with lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, or mock meat (depending on the recipe). You could throw a handful of nuts and seeds into a stir-fry or a cupful of beans or lentils into a pasta bake. You could make endless combinations of sandwich flavours! Even the simple meal of baked beans on wholemeal toast has around 20g protein!

(There are also some brands of vegan protein powder floating around, however I know nothing about these…)

Hummus is one of my favourite ways to get my protein and is so easy to make:

Take a tin of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), a couple of cloves of garlic (peeled), a dash of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. These are the very basic ingredients. Stick them all in a food processor (or blender, or liquidiser, or mash them heartily with a fork if you’re desperate!) and pulse a few times. Blend, adding water a little at a time until it reaches the consistency you like. Adjust salt and lemon juice to taste. And there you have it – super simple hummus!

I like to add tahini to my hummus before adding the water. You can also use olive oil in place of water for a richer taste, or a combination of the two. You can add any herbs/spices that you fancy – mine usually has at least cumin, coriander, and paprika. And then there’s the added fun of choosing any extras you want to throw in there. This could be chopped olives, roasted peppers, caramelised onions… Mmmmm now I want some hummus…

And because I'm giving you another post with no pictures, here's another kitty...

The vegan society website has some more detailed information on protein if you want to look further.


  1. No one wonders where herbivorous animals like antelope or similar get their protein. People are obsessed with traditional meat based diets. Silly in this day and age

  2. Adorable kitty! I love how everyone is suddenly a nutrition expert as soon as they find out you're vegan.

    1. Thank you! He's a big softy!

      Yeah, on the whole vegans probably know more about nutrition than most!