Tuesday, 4 October 2011

How do I get enough protein being a vegan?

This is a question I get asked alot and one I asked myself when I first became vegetarian and then a vegan. It is an important thing to think about as protein or amino acids are used for every cell in the body. It is however a common misconception that you need to eat lots of it! A small amount, the size of your fist, or some people like to say the size of a deck of cards, is needed a day! That's it! And this protein can come from lots of sources, that's whats so exciting about vegan cooking. It doesn't have to be a dense lump of processed soy product or TVP. Altho these are good sources they sometimes can be full of salt (BAD, BAD) and I like to eat anything processed as least often as possible. Altho they are great for vegans in transition I think it is very easy to become an unhealthy vegan and get stuck in the 'meat' and two veg rut! I am not saying fake meat is bad I would much rather people be eating it than real meat, but I think it is good to think about how good wholefoods are for your body too!

Anyway, so I am going to tell you a bit about proteins and how to make sure you are getting the right mix. Few plants, grains and seeds are 'complete' proteins. This is to say they contain all eight amino acids to make a complete protein essential for human health. If you can imagine a string of eight coloured beads that have to be strung together to make a pretty necklace, and if one bead was missing then the necklace wouldn't be complete. This is how it works with proteins. Soya beans, nuts, tofu, and quinoa contain all 8 pretty beads of amino acids, so are a complete protein or 'necklace'!
However you don't have to eat these every day to get your protein needs. Imagine again our little pretty necklace of amino acid beads, rice, oats, lentils, cous cous, beans, vegetables, seeds, bread, buck wheat, polenta, rye, potatoes, bulgar wheat, all contain one or two pretty beads! So if we eat a few servings of these foods a day then our body will take these beads and string it's own protien necklace! How clever is that!
So variety is the key and just make sure you eat plenty of servings of these little guys for all you protein needs!

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