So there I was printing off some charts, with nutrient sources for vegans, to stick on our fridge when I started to do a bit of reading on the subject, it's really quite interesting. So, here we are!
When it comes to vegan nutrition it is probably one of the most common questions people get asked "where do you get your protein?" Not where do you get your iron or calcium which are probably more appropriate questions.
I don't know if people even know what a protein deficient person looks like - I'm assuming this is probably because protein deficiency is actually not that common in Australia!
Protein deficiency is more common in areas of severe poverty. Children who are malnourished, skinny and have a big swollen belly are typical of having a protein deficiency.
So whilst it does occur and we need to ensure we are getting enough protein, it is easily achievable with a plant based diet. If you are eating sufficient calories it is unlikely you will be protein deficient.
Protein is found in a variety of plant based foods such as beans, lentils, peanut butter, tofu and oats. A fillet steak has around 27 grams of protein per 100g whereas 100g of pumpkin seeds have around 30g of protein.
And yes, whilst you may think eww tofu and soy beans, it's what you can actually turn these foods into that is the most interesting. The sausage rolls I cook at home for my kids (who wouldn't know the difference) are made up of primarily oats, tofu and pecans. Who would have thought!
Recently hemp has become legal for food consumption (about time!) here in Australia and I have been mixing hemp seeds into a lot of my foods ever since ... and no, unfortunately I haven't once gotten stoned! I do however feel like I have more energy when I eat them. If I go for a few days without having them I feel tired and sluggish.
I get ours from Hemp Foods Australia and on the back of their hemp seeds packet it says
"Gram for gram, Hemp seeds contain more essential Omega 3 and 6 than fish, chia, flax or even sacha inchi seeds - in fact, more than any known whole food.."
"They also contain the most protein and what's more, Hemp Seeds are the only known food to contain Protein in the form of Edestin and Albumin, the same proteins the body used for its immune system"
Hemp seeds contain 31 grams of protein per 100g!
If you look at just those two examples, one requiring as much effort as literally opening a bag and adding them to your food, you can easily see how you can meet those protein goals on a nice healthy plant based diet.
The most important factor with a plant based diet is variety. You need to ensure you are eating a range of foods in order to get all the essential nutrients, you can't just stick to the same foods. Not only that, but variety is the spice of life - if you don't mix it up a little, your food becomes dull and repetitive.
The other important factor is understanding a little about absorption and inhibitors. Plant based foods may be rich in certain nutrients but depending on factors such as what we have with it may decrease or increase the amount our bodies absorb. For example to absorb more iron into the body you should also have something in the same meal that is rich in vitamin C.
There are so many great resources on the net for finding ways to cook foods - especially things like tofu. A quick flex of your google muscles for "vegan tofu recipes" will net you around 18,000,000 results! That's a lot of healthy tofu...
I am also not a dietitian or qualified in plant based nutrition (the above is simply some things I have learnt along the way), so please do your research before you jump head first into any big lifestyle changes with your diet or speak with a dietician. ♥ Lisa