Have you recently made the change to become a vegetarian, or (shock, horror! ;-p), converted to veganism?
Well, I'm sure you've already encountered some slack from well meaning family & friends about your protein intake....... but read on to learn how to put their fears to rest - and get them off your back for good!
When it comes to a vegan or vegetarian diet, one of the first things people become concerned about is your protein intake (I mean honestly, won't someone think of the protein!). This is because most animal products are what we call complete proteins - they contain all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts, so you don't really have to think whether you're consuming enough.
Plant sources on the other hand, generally don't contain all the essential amino acids, or at least not in large enough amounts to meet your everyday requirements.
Essential acids are the building blocks of protein. Essential amino acids are the amino acids that must be consumed through diet or supplementation - as our bodies can not manufacture these on their own.
The essential amino acids are:
Arginine (a semi-essential amino acid, based on stage of life and other factors).
One way to ensure you are consuming adequate, complete, proteins as a vegan or vegetarian, is to include high protein plant protein sources in your diet, and also to eat a wide variety of foods. Simple!
High protein plant foods:
Microalgae (chlorella, spirulina)
Soya beans & soya bean products (soya milk, tempeh, tofu).
Protein combining is something that was reported on and became popular in the 70's, and was based on the idea that you needed to incorporate plant based sources of protein from 2 of the below ‘groups’ into each meal, to ensure a complete profile of amino acids were consumed.
In the past, we encouraged vegans and vegetarians to protein combine at every meal, however the need to do this has been debunked as a myth, as our bodies do store amino acids for a period of time. It is however helpful to know that the different groups below generally contain different protein profiles, so aim for a great mix of all three in your diet and rest assured that if you are consuming enough calories from a varied plant based diet, you will undoubtedly be consuming more than enough protein!
GROUP 1 (WHOLEGRAINS)
Barley & Corn
Wholegrain bread / bread products
GROUP 2 (NUTS & SEEDS)
Sunflower, sesame, hemp, pumpkin seeds
GROUP 3 (LEGUMES)
Peanuts / peanut butter