Whether you are choosing vegan or plant based eating for religious, economic, ethical, environmental, human or health reasons. Plant based diets can provide your body with all of the required nutrients (vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats) but a little more planning and care is often required. If you have made the decision to become vegan,then you should also make the commitment to ensure that your diet is nutritionally adequate.
If you are following a vegetarian diet, it is important to take extra care to ensure that adequate sources of protein are provided in your diet.
Protein is required for growth, repair and maintenance of body tissue and the immune system. When protein is digested it is broken down into amino acids. There are 23 amino acids provided by foods, of these eight are considered essential as they cannot be manufactured by the body.
Whole plant foods contain all the essential amino acids. Soy protein in particular is high in all the amino acids and should be included in the plant based diet regularly. Legumes (lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, soy), quinoa, amaranth, pistachios and pumpkin seeds are high in an amino acid called lysine which is the amino acid most at risk in a plant based diet. Include lysine rich proteins in your diet daily.
Special Vegetarian Products
TVP or textured vegetable protein is a plant protein derived from the soybean. It can be used as a meat substitute and comes mainly in the dehydrated form. There are other products available also such as nutmeat, vegetarian sausages and ‘vegie’ burgers. These products are not essential in the vegetarian diet and are more expensive than legumes. Despite this, they provide quick and tasty meals for those times when you don't feel like preparing a meal from scratch and should be relatively well-accepted by the non-vegetarians in your household (if there are any). Quorn products (in the frozen section of the supermarket) are made from extracted protein from corn and may also provide a convenience protein source (Quorn does contain egg white so may not be suitable for Vegan eaters).
Getting Enough Protein Each Day
Adults need about 40-100g of protein a day. Vegetarian and vegan foods containing protein include milk alternatives and soymilk, soy cheese & yoghurt, legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans and other beans), tofu and other soy products, nuts and seeds. In order to consume the required amount of protein each day, vegans should eat at least 3 serves of dairy alternatives as well as at least 1 serve of meat alternatives at least twice per day.
One serve of meat alternatives provides about 12g protein and is equal to:
- ¾ cup cooked legumes/beans (e.g. ½ can baked beans)
- 50g nuts/seeds
- 100g Tofu
If you have recently turned towards a plant based diet, and aren’t quite sure if your diet is adequate, come and see an Eatsmart dietitian at one of our 11 locations.