Vegan Basics: But where do you get your protein?

If you feel like no one cares about you, your health, or what you do, announce that you’re vegetarian or vegan, and people will dash in from other rooms to inquire about whether your nutritional needs are being met. Guaranteed.

At some point, we all decided that protein was the shining golden child of nutrients, and we likewise agreed that the only possible place to get that vital macronutrient was via animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, etc.

As it turns out, however, this is incorrect. Because you know what?

Plants have protein.

I know. Your whole world is shaken, turned upside down, imploded. If you need a moment to recover, go for it. No judgment here.

Okay. You good? Great.

So, as it turns out, plants have protein, and nuts and seeds and beans have protein, and they also have a ton of other good things like fiber and vitamins and nutrients that meat and dairy do not have, so altogether you can feel pretty good about eating them.

But TJ, you say, speaking aloud to your screen for some unfathomable reason. Sure, plants might have protein, but do they have ENOUGH protein?

Well, I’m glad you asked that, internet friend. And I shall answer by using Science.

So, here’s the deal with protein: If you’re eating enough calories, you’re getting enough protein. Doubtful? Of course you are. But I’m here with Actual Scientific Data (TM) to ease your doubts.

Consider a white potato. Not a powerhouse of protein, I think we can all agree. If you eat 17 potatoes in the course of a day and nothing else, that accounts to about 2500 calories. Your recommended number of calories per day is between 1500 and 2500 per day, depending on your gender (which annoys me as a gender nonconformist, but it is what it is) and whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, so this potato feast fits right in there.

Now, as for protein, it’s recommended that “the average sedentary man” get 56 grams of protein per day, while the “average sedentary woman” can coast by on 46 grams.

So how many grams of protein does a daily diet of only white potatoes grant you?

60.8 grams of protein. It actually exceeds the amount you need if you’re an average person not participating in Iron Man Triathlons and lifting small cars over your head.

Now, my point here is not to advocate switching to an all-potato diet, but rather to show that protein is really not something you need to be inordinately concerned about when going vegan or vegetarian, because as long as you’re eating enough food calories-wise, you’re almost certainly getting enough protein.

And speaking of calories, one thing that you need to remember when switching to a plant-based diet is that plants have far fewer calories than animal products, which means you need to eat more of them to feel full. I’ve heard more than once of people who try to go plant-based and then say, “But I had no energyyyyyyy. I think it’s because I wasn’t getting enough protein.”

No, dude, it’s because you weren’t getting enough calories. You just flat out weren’t eating enough food to sustain your body’s energy needs.

So, yes. To summarize: Plants have protein. Eat a ton of them. The end! ❤

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