The Vegan Diet: Debunking Myths about Protein For Vegans

Words: Crush

Where do you get your protein from? This is probably the most common question asked by non-plant based diet individuals to vegans. Newsflash! Not all protein has to be animal-based. There are lots of great sources of protein for vegans that are plant-based and just as (if not more) nutritious than animal-based ones. We debunk some myths about protein for vegans right here.

Vegetarian Versus Vegan

Firstly, let’s just clarify the difference between following a vegetarian lifestyle and a vegan one. Vegetarians will not eat animal products (i.e. meat) but may still indulge in animal byproducts such as milk and eggs.

Vegans, on the other hand, eat a purely plant-based diet and abstain from eating anything to do with animals, be it the product or a byproduct thereof.

Being vegan does not only encompass omitted animal products from the diet but often extends to the avoidance of using any and all products that are derived from animals. This can include but is not limited to things such as wool or leather, as well as any products that have known ties to animal testing/destruction of habitats (for example palm oil).


I Want to be a Supreme Athlete!

So, back to protein. There are a lot of myths surrounding the need for animal protein not only to survive but to build healthy muscles, and while it’s true that animal protein does these things, the truth is that you can get the same amount of complex proteins from plant-based sources.

If you’re thinking of using this as an excuse as to why you can’t aspire to live the life of a supreme athlete, think again. There are a number of well-known athletes at the very top of their game that promote living a vegan lifestyle – Nate Davis (UFC World Champ), Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton, and Tia Blanco to just name a few. Let’s bust some common myths about protein for vegans.

Protein for Vegans

photo courtesy of eurosport.com

Debunking Myths about Protein For Vegans

Myth 1: The vegan diet is protein-deficient and the protein is “incomplete”

Many top-tier vegan athletes would disagree with this statement. While most sources of protein in the vegan diet do not have the all amino acids in a single source, other sources make up for that discrepancy.

The human body is extremely smart, as it will store amino acids in a type of reserve if it has no need for it at a certain time. Which means if you didn’t get all the essential amino acids in your first meal, the next meals will certainly make up for the amino acids not consumed in the first sitting.

See our list of vegan protein sources right here.


Myth 2: Vegetables contain more protein per calorie than meat

The well-known comparison has been seen often, which is: beef 6.4 g of protein per 100 calories vs broccoli 11.1g of protein per 100 calories. To an extent this is true, however, you need to check both the portion size and the protein quality of your portion. The broccoli portion would almost be three times larger than the beef and would not hold all the essential amino acids within it.

Whereas yes, the beef would hold all the essential amino acids, the saying is true – too much of a good thing is bad. Too much red meat protein in your diet can lead you to be more susceptible to certain diseases and that’s besides the negative effects that commercial farming practices have and the cruelty involved.

The fact is you need to be clued up to get the right about of complete protein from the right sources and it is completely possible. Refer to myth 1 for great protein for vegans.


Myth 3: You Need to Drink/Eat Dairy to get Calcium, Protein and Other Nutrients

Food intolerance

Not true. The fact is that dairy milk is, in fact, meant to fed calves, not humans. There are plenty of alternative milk sources available these days (sometimes referred to as mylks) such as soy (check on the sustainability before you buy), coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk and various others. They contain protein and nutrients and are often lower in calories than dairy milk.

Myth 4: Vegan Diets Make You Weak

Again, top athletes and fit vegans will disagree. Vegan Body Builder and Mr Universe competitor, Barny du Plessis, is proof of that.

As Barny says – “Some of the strongest animals in the world eat a plant-based diet – think gorillas, elephants and buffalos!”

Many of those who have switched to a vegan diet say they feel stronger and have more endurance. A lack of strength in a vegan diet is a complete myth as long as you ensure you are getting the protein, vitamins and minerals you need for your body type and weight. Check out our list of vegan protein sources.


So, Should I Become a Vegan?

There are many benefits to the vegan diet, both environmentally and health-wise. Being vegan takes dedication and thorough research – it is a lifestyle choice that needs to be considered and followed properly to maintain optimum nutrition.

It’s easier than you think though, and with so many options becoming readily available it’s getting easier and easier to convert. As an easy reference, see our guide on vegan substitutes.

See our list of vegan-friendly and fully vegan restaurants in Cape Town.

Read our interview with Garth Tavares, AKA Cape Town Vegan on his lifestyle change.

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