Protein and Veganism

Protein! It’s an awesome macronutrient. Like holy heck, so awesome! It’s actually one of the most important nutrients for your health. It contributes to muscle synthesis (growth) and maintenance as well as many different biochemical reactions in the body (hello digestion and blood clotting!). Proteins make up many of our hormones which help to communicate between cells, tissues, and organs. They also help maintain proper pH in our blood and body fluids. Protein is vital for so many life sustaining operations and is mega important. Just to add one more amazing function, proteins help pump up our immune system, enabling us to fight infection! BAM! Protein is absolutely an important nutrition powerhouse.

In the land of cooking and eating, protein is an awesome variable that we get to work with to help create a delicious, satiating meals. Proteins help keep us full and feeling satisfied which is a pretty awesome (and important) thing.

I’ve got to say though, and I may be the only one here… I’m pretty sick and tired of the constant hype around protein. Say what?? A dietitian is saying this?? … Well, as a matter of fact, I am.

To be completely honest, there are a lot of other macronutrients and micronutrients that do a heck of a lot of things for our bodies and health as well. I honestly believe that protein has been promoted and marketed as the nutrient that will help solve all of our problems, especially when it comes to weight loss.

This is where I have some things to say because, as you’ll find out, I’m about intuitive eating and being.

I am the dietitian that doesn’t give a flying crap about a calorie, how many grams of fat are in the delicious vegan ice-cream I’m eating, “good” or “bad” foods, or how many grams of protein I’m getting in a day. To me, all of that is just noise.

Don’t get me wrong, I think knowledge is power. I believe having an idea of what you’re consuming and why is very important. However, I just feel like if we learn to grow, shop for, prepare, and cook wholesome and whole foods, we actually don’t have to worry about all that extra information.

When we get back to listening to our bodies, and actually listening to what our bodies are telling us we need, we will realize we don’t need to know as much as we think we do. Our bodies will let us know when we are hungry or full, and they will even guide us toward the kinds of foods that our body needs- this happens by tuning into what our bodies are craving, and honoring that craving. We don’t need to follow eating rules that tell us how often, what time, or when not to eat… because we will dang well be listening to what our bodies say and honouring that. Our bodies know, and it’s important we start listening.

Anyway, this post has stemmed from something I heard the other day. I was listening to a local dietitian chat about foods, fad diets, and attempting to debunk some of the ideas and myths around these diets. All of a sudden- veganism came up… as a fad diet, no less.

All good, chill out Sarah, hear them out… is what I told myself.

My belief, as a plant based eater, cooker, and lover of all plants, is that: veganism is a chosen lifestyle usually based on values, morals, and core beliefs. I believe that animal agriculture has many detrimental effects on global warming and our environment. Therefore, I am choosing not to support any of these industries anymore. I don’t want animals to suffer for my consumption benefits. My choice to be vegan is also reflective of higher health initiatives.

Maybe people try out veganism because it sounds cool (because let’s face it, us plant eaters are pretty dang cool). Maybe they think that this lifestyle will help them lose weight. Or perhaps they believe a vegan diet will finally conquer that chronic disease that’s been hanging around (making life not as great as it could be for way too long). Which, are all great reasons to move toward this choice.

The dietitian went on to say that if you do choose to go vegan, make sure you focus ALL of your meals and snacks around PROTEIN.

Cue Sarahs blood boiling.

I understand where that recommendation was coming from; however archaic it may be, and I totally support consulting a dietitian if you are transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet. It’s an awesome idea to chat with a registered dietitian just so you know what your protein options are and how to navigate the new world of food that you’re about to begin consuming.

But for the love of Pete people – that suggestion is all wrong. Just because a person makes the choice to cut out meat and animal products doesn’t mean they should to be told to consume and make their primary focus protein.

It seems that we live in a world where if a person chooses to eat animals and animal products, we can rest easy knowing that they’re eating a whole, healthy, and nutritionally complete diet. BAH – I call BS. I actually believe the opposite (obviously, hi, my name is Sarah, if you know me, you know I believe the opposite).

Just because a person makes the choice to follow a plant based diet, doesn’t mean that all of a sudden protein is a hard macronutrient to procure. Animals are one source of protein (and might I add that this choice doesn’t benefit us, the environment, or the animals giving their lives). Soy is another. Beans and legumes are another. I believe, 100%, that if you are plant based and take time to cook with whole foods, damn skippy, you’re healthier than a whole lotta people!

It was hard to hear this recommendation directed towards plant based eaters because whether you are a carnivore or vegetarian, your diet may or may not be nutritionally complete. And, perhaps even meat eaters may not achieve their macro and micronutrient requirements for the day, just as a vegetarian may not.

I think the moral of my story is that whether you eat meat or are vegan, we all have access to the same foods (geography and culture taken into consideration here), our protein sources are just different.

Read that again.

As a (healthy and proud) vegan, being told I need to focus all my meals and snacks around protein just seems whack-daddy. Not only because of what I have said above but because vegan or not, no one should be focusing our meals and snacks around protein all the time.

We need to move out of the stone age where we think eating animals and animal products is the best way and the only way to lead a healthy and nutritionally balanced life. Plants are the future. Animal agriculture is not.

I’ve read a lot of information about protein requirements and how you know if you’re achieving what you should be on a daily basis. Many professionals that specialize in these areas and who also advocate for a plant based diet simply say that as long as you are eating a well rounded diet full of colour and whole veggies and foods, you’re absolutely getting the protein you need!

I will list some plant based protein sources in this post. I am excited to share my cooking and recipes so that people can start to learn how to incorporate more plant-based meals into their lives.

For the record, I will not be the dietitian who makes recommendations to eat protein, protein, protein, or any large amount of any macronutrient for that matter. Some suggestions that I find are really valuable are: learn how to garden, shop local, support your local farmers, eat a lot of plants, eat a lot of colourful food, cook together, eat together, make mealtime a lovely, positive experience, and listen to your body because your body loves you and it knows best!

For now guys, I’m outta here!

See below for some awesome plant based protein sources:

  • Beans & Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts, etc.
  • Tofu & Tempeh
  • Spirulina
  • Hemp Hearts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Beans with Rice (this will give you all the essential amino acids)
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables rich in protein: Kale, broccoli, mushrooms, and more!
  • Silver Hills bread & ezekiel bread: both provide a great source of protein
  • Many more options, just shoot me a message if you have any questions!