One of the most pressing issues between omnivores and vegans is protein. Where do we get protein? Can vegans eat enough protein? Are plant protein sources of good quality?
How much protein do I need?
Opinions on how many grams of protein we should consume vary between people, eating regimes and among professionals. New researches about protein are still emerging and the opinions are not completely unified. It has been proven that too much protein over the long term burdens the organism, and we need to eat enough protein for optimal synthesis of cell protein, hormones, and other life-important molecules. Let us, for example, take recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), which suggests that we need 0.8 grams of protein per one kilogram of body weight. These figures should not be taken too seriously as the necessary amounts of protein increases while growing up - in our teen years and after we turn 65, amounts vary between sexes - women generally need less protein due to lower muscle mass, and the volume is higher for sportsmen/women and pregnant and breast-feeding mothers, and with some diseases.
According to the recommendation of 0.8 g per kilogram, a person who weighs 70 kilograms must consume about 56 g of protein daily.
Protein deficiency in a vegan diet?
Example of some Aphrodite's Body recipes with lots of protein:
Morning rainbow bowl - 29 g of protein per portion
Tofu scramble - 7 g of protein per portion
Pea spread - 4 g of protein per portion
Brown lentils with white cabbage and carrots - 26 g of protein per portion
Tempeh salad - 24 g of protein per portion
Chickpea patties - 17 g of protein per portion
There is no shortage of protein in the vegan diet. There are many protein sources; soya, spirulina, quinoa, lentils, nutritional yeast, beans, etc. In addition, they offer a range of micro-nutrients, digestive enzymes, and fiber.
Legumes contain a lot of protein, and unlike meat and dairy products, help to maintain alkaline acid balance.
100 g of lentils have more protein than 1 egg, but also more minerals, vitamins, and fiber.
Quantity wise, we can easily obtain protein from plants - but what about quality? Many fear that plant proteins are not of good quality, at least not as good as animal proteins.
Complete and incomplete protein
Proteins are relatively large molecules, too large for absorption, that is why enzymes dissolve them to amino acids in the digestive tract. There are hundreds of amino acids in nature but the human body only needs 20, of which 11 can be produced by the body itself. The rest of the amino acids are essential. The protein profile is said to be perfect when it contains all 9 amino acids in sufficient quantity.
Meat and animal products contain all essential amino acids, so we say that these products contain a complete amino acid profile. That's understandable because the animal's tissues are similar to ours, so they contain all the amino acids we need. Even large herbivorous animals such as cows obtain essential amino acids from plants.
There are also plant sources of perfect protein such as soya, spirulina, alfalfa - but these are rarer. Most of them don't contain enough of all 9 amino acids - does that make plant protein worse? Is it important that our source of protein has a complete amino acid profile?
Our body doesn't need all the essential amino acids in one meal, but we must aim to provide them to our bodies every day. Therefore, various sources of incomplete protein sources can be spread throughout the day, thereby ingesting all 9 required amino acids. The variety of plant consumption provides us with everything our body needs to synthesize proteins. Erroneous theories about the urgently needed planned combination of several sources of plant protein have already been refuted on several occasions. If we eat enough calories from cereals, legumes, fruit, and vegetables, we will obtain enough vitamins (except B12), minerals, protein, and all essential amino acids that our body needs.
We still don't have enough protein?
Do I consume enough calories from whole foods and therefore protein?
Do I have any signs of liver or kidney disease? - both organs contribute to the synthesis of protein from amino acids
Do I have irritable bowel syndrome or Celiac Disease? Both diseases exacerbate the absorption of nutrients from the gut.
Protein Adequacy Is Primarily a Matter of Protein Quantity, Not Quality: Modeling an Increase in Plant:Animal Protein Ratio in French Adults (2017)