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  • Writer's pictureJenni Foshey

Where Do Vegans Get Protein?

One of the first questions people ask vegans is “how do you get protein?”  When vegans hear this, we get irritated because you don’t need to eat animals to get protein. It is a very common misconception that society has engraved into our brains- the thought that you need to eat meat to get protein. When have you ever met someone who is protein deficient? Probably never. When was the last time your doctor did blood work on you to check protein levels? Probably never. Yet when someone says they’re vegan, there is an automatic association with protein deficiency. Biologically, it just doesn’t make sense. This blog post will tell you why. 

The first thing I ask people is “do you know where animals get their protein from? Plants. They get protein from plants.”  When you think about it, isn’t it more efficient to just eat the plant directly versus getting it from a secondary source (meat)? The reason for this is because as you move up the food chain/trophic levels, nutrient levels decrease. Let’s say a plant has 10g of protein. If a cow eats it, perhaps they will use 5g of it for bodily functions and the other 5g is stored. So, when you choose to eat the cow, you are getting 5g of protein when you could’ve gotten 10g if you ate the plant directly. 

I never knew that plants were a source of protein until I went vegan. Nobody ever talks about that. They only talk about how fruits and vegetables are good for you because they have a lot of vitamins and nutrients. 

From my own researching and googling, the best sources of plant protein include: 

  • Quinoa

  • Lentils 

  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, walnuts…)

  • Soy (Soy milk, vegan cheeses, meatless meat brands- Gardein, MorningStar Farms, Tofurkey, etc...)

  • Avocados 

  • Grain (eat multigrain bread)

  • Peas

  • Rice

  • Hemp 

  • Chia seeds (I put them in smoothies)

  • Peanut butter 

  • Tofu 

  • Vegan Chicken Nuggets/Burgers/Etc (Just look at the package for info- many contain more protein than the similar animal-based option) Brands: Gardein, Morning Star Farms, Tofurkey, etc...

  • Oats

  • Broccoli

  • Edamame (good in stir fry)

  • Chickpeas (hummus) 

  • Kale

  • Mushrooms

  • Tempeh

  • Nutritional yeast

  • Tempeh 

  • Seitan

  • Amaranth 

Another thing to consider is that there is a difference between animal and plant proteins. 

Each type of protein (plant or animal), and each protein source (broccoli, nuts, fish, etc…) has different amino acids, which play an important role for body function and structure. When deciding between plant or animal based proteins, consider the other components besides protein. For example, animal foods have higher cholesterol and plant-based proteins have none. Also, plant-based foods have antioxidants, while animal-based foods do not. 

There have been a lot of research studies on the effects of animal and plant proteins on health and there are a lot of varied results. The majority of research links plant-based protein to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease among other common deadly diseases. 

Watch this quick video from the documentary Game Changers to see how a plant-based meal improves your blood flow.  

The main takeaway is that just because someone doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t mean they are protein deficient. It’s all about the variety of protein sources you are consuming. It is recommended to diversify  your protein sources to ensure you are getting a complete panel of all essential amino acids. 



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