For a Vegan
there's no reason to be concerned about protein
, since even on vegan diets there is little risk of deficiency. Plant foods such as grains
, and seeds are all high in protein. Soy
products (such as tofu
) are especially rich in high-quality protein; vegetables provide smaller amounts of protein.
The issue of protein quality has received a great deal of attention in the past. This concept has to do with the amino acid makeup of proteins. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; foods contain varying arrangements of twenty-two different amino acids. Humans use amino acids from foods to create new proteins that the body requires such as enzymes, hormones, and muscle tissue. The human body can actually manufacture many of these amino acids provided it has the raw materials. Nine of the amino acids, however, are dietary essentials since the body cannot make them.
Plant foods like grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables do contain all nine of the essential amino acids. Nevertheless, plant proteins are slightly lower in quality than animal proteins because they are not as well digested and their amino-acid patterns are a slightly poorer match to our bodies' needs. All this means is that vegans need to eat more of them. Vegans have a somewhat higher protein requirement than omnivores and perhaps lacto-ovo vegetarians as well. This might seem worrisome since vegans also consume less protein than these other groups, but in fact it isn't a problem at all. Even with higher needs and lower intakes, vegans appear to have no difficulty meeting protein needs. The old rules about carefullycombining proteins have fallen by the wayside. As long as you eat a variety of plant foods throughout the day and you eat enough whole plant foods to meet your calorie needs, you will achieve adequate protein intake.