As many other vegans can relate, non-vegans are always posing the question of where do we get our protein. More about that later in this article but first a bit more about how proteins are absorbed by the body and break down into amino acids and then create new proteins needed for the production of antibodies, muscle strength, creating new blood cells and more. This break down into amino acids is vital to the functioning of each and every living organism.
It is important to note that without proteins, otherwise known as nitrogenous organic compounds, illnesses are more likely and the body’s structural components of tissues, muscle, hair and even collagen will break down and eventually lead to severe consequences.
The body does not store amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and a variety of daily consumption is needed to supply the body with the 20 major amino acids.
The 20 amino acids, essential, non-essential and conditional are what help keep the body running smoothly. The nine essential amino acids come from protein and are essential because the body cannot manufacture them. These must come from food sources because, once again, the body cannot make these nine essential amino acids.
The non-essential amino acids that are required by the body but do not have to come from the foods you eat because they can be made by the body are: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid.
Also within the non-essential group are conditional amino acids, these are also made by the body but sometimes not sufficiently, especially during times of illness and stress. Another example is an infant and growing child need more arginine because the body cannot produce enough to keep up with the necessary amount needed for a healthy growth function which makes this traditionally non-essential amino acid become categorized as a “conditional/essential” amino acid which means that it benefits from supplements provided by food.
It is important, however, to note that all 20 amino acids, both essential and non-essential are needed to keep the body optimally functioning.
So can a vegan diet provide the right amount of amino acid-producing proteins to cover the nine essential amino acids? YES it can. Here is a breakdown of protein-rich foods:
- Soybeans – 68 grams per 1 cup serving, raw; 37 grams for dry-roasted; 29 grams for boiled
- Chickpeas – 39 grams per cup raw; 15 grams boiled;
- Oats – 26 grams per 1 cup serving. (If you prefer your oats in the form of oatmeal you still will get 6 grams of protein per 1 cup serving, cooked.)
- Seitan – 21 grams of protein per 1/3 cup serving SAY WHAT? SAYTAN!
- Almonds – 20 grams per 1 cup, sliced
- Navy Beans – 20 grams per 1 cup serving
- Split Peas, 16 grams per 1 cup, cooked
- Tempeh – 15 grams per ½ cup serving
- Dried Lentils – 13 grams per ¼ cup serving
- Cauliflower – 11 grams per one medium head
- Tofu – 10 grams of protein per ½ cup serving. NOTE: The firmer the tofu, the more protein it contains.
- Edamame – 8 grams per ½ cup serving
- Green Peas – 8 grams per 1 cup serving, boiled
- Peanut Butter – 8 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Quinoa – provides 8 grams of protein per cup, cooked.
- Soy Milk –8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Bottoms Up! And please non-vegans before you talk to any of us about soy being a hormone disruptor, take a look at the hormones in, ahem, hormone-free milk. All milk has hormones because it is meant to help give nutrition to cow BABIES…not us!
- Buckwheat – 6 grams per 1 cup, cooked. Bring on the soba noodles!
- Mixed Nuts – 6 grams per 2 oz. serving
- Pistachio Nuts – 6 grams per 50 nuts
- Chia Seeds – 4.7 grams per ounce
A little bit of parting knowledge for you to think about from Dr. T. Colin Campbell The China Study. “There are virtually NO nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants!”