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Are Vegan Protein Sources Enough for My Body?

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Fred Layno · Updated Mar 09, 2022

    Are Vegan Protein Sources Enough for My Body?

    When we think of protein, what comes to mind are big chunks of meat or eggs. However, protein does not come solely from animal foods. There are many vegan protein sources which can supply your body with protein. 

    If you’re considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan, or if you’re just reducing meat a few days a week, you can still get the nutrients you need. In fact, a diet full of vegetables can reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses and generally put you on the right track to healthier living. 

    Which Foods Are High in Protein?

    There are many vegan protein sources that you can find in non-specialty grocery stores. These foods are also high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients:

  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Chickpeas
  • Leafy greens/spinach
  • Lentils
  • Nut butter
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peas
  • Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Seaweed
  • Soy products (tofu, soy milk, tempeh)
  • Vegetable pate
  • How Much Protein Do You Need? 

    When it comes to how much protein you need in your diet, there is insufficient data available that can tell us the exact amount required. 

    According to the National Academy of Medicine, the recommended amount of protein an adult should consume is at least 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, or approximately 7 grams per 9 kilograms of body weight. For example, a person weighing 65 kilograms should consume about 50 grams of protein per day. 

    The range of acceptable protein intakes is between 10% and 35% of daily calories. 

    A Harvard research study of more than 130,000 men and women, which spanned for up to 32 years, found that the  proportion of calories in total protein intake was not associated with overall mortality or specific cause of death. However, the protein source was important. Plant-derived proteins have lower anabolic activity than animal proteins due to their low digestibility, low content of essential amino acids (especially leucine), and lack of other essential amino acids such as sulfur lamination and lysine.

    Are Vegan Protein Sources Enough? 

    Nancy Gaive RD, LDN,  a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at the Center for Diabetes and Nutrition, Cleveland Clinic Martin Health, explains that you still can get the required protein allowance when you eat plant-based proteins.  She says, “On a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can get enough protein if you eat an adequate number of calories from a variety of whole foods.”

    Complete and Incomplete Proteins

    Foods with complete proteins have all the amino acids that our body needs, including those that it cannot produce on its own. Some amino acids cannot be naturally produced by our body.

    There are 20 different amino acids that join together in chains to form proteins. Our body is capable of producing eleven of them. The other nine, the so-called essential amino acids, are what we need through food. Many foods contain different amounts of some, but not all, essential amino acids. Many vegan protein sources are incomplete proteins.

    According to a 2013 article published in the journal Culinary Nutrition, incomplete plant proteins can combine with other incomplete or complete plant proteins to complete amino acids. This process is called protein complementarity.

    Chefs and cooks can unknowingly supplement recipes with vegetable protein. You can also do so at home by mixing and matching vegan protein sources. For example, you can eat a peanut butter sandwich using whole wheat bread. This already combines the incomplete proteins of both foods to produce the full range of amino acids. 

    Food scientists have since found ways to supplement plant proteins through protein technology in the development of new products. For example, some wheat pastes contain soybeans. There are also legume flours that contain ingredients that already have all the essential amino acids. It was once thought that incomplete protein should be supplemented in every diet. In general, there is little danger if you eat a diet that is well-balanced in calories, fruits, some root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and cassava), or a diet that is largely independent of refined fats, flour, and sugar. 

    Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Expertly reviewed by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Fred Layno · Updated Mar 09, 2022

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