Veganism can be great for your health, with the overall reduced risk of most cancers, heart disease and diabetes, not to mention the environmental benefit that is healthy for us all. This information is becoming more and more widespread, and I find myself wondering why everyone isn’t already vegan!
While being vegan CAN be healthy, being a junk-food vegan is also possible. For example, you could go home and eat the amazing Earth Balance Cheese-Snacks for every meal, and you would probably not end up with the most balanced of diets ☺ And, the animals need you in fighting shape!
While there is a lot of confusion out there about nutrition in general, and for vegans in particular, with this handy guide, I hope you’ll find great ways to manage your whole-health, mostly with whole plant foods, and maybe sometimes with a very well researched vitamin supplement here and there, and the healthy food shopping list found at the bottom of each article in this series. (Or you can Jump to Part 1: B12 or Part 3: VItamin D)
Do vegans need a protein supplement?
Where do vegans get their protein—a question as old as omnivore time. In a word: plants! Humans get their protein just like most other land mammals, in fact.
Plant foods are an excellent source of protein, some have higher amounts, and some have different kinds of protein within them, but luckily, adequate protein needn’t ever be an issue for vegans.
The largest obstacle facing vegan protein intake (itself, a rather small obstacle) is getting the balance of all the 20 different amino acids needed to form what is known as “complete protein”. Sometimes these complete proteins can be found in one plant food on its own, like quinoa, and other times the complete protein is formed through common combinations, some you may already be familiar with like red beans and rice or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While plant foods tend to be lower, overall, in protein than many animal products, there are several plant foods that are much better for you, are not processed, and still manage to pack a punch in the protein department.
Foods with high complete proteins include pistachios, soybeans (especially tempeh), quinoa, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, and buckwheat and chia seeds. Other nuts and seeds like cashews, sunflowers seeds, and hemp seeds, have almost all of what you need, and just by tossing a few extra in can serve to complete off other proteins you are likely already eating.
A diet that has enough calories (for this I mean a diet with at least 1000+ calories a day) from whole plant sources (sorry Earth Balance Cheese Squares), is highly likely to have more than enough protein for the average, non-athlete. Vegan athletes, of which there are several notable ones (ahem, Venus Williams, David Carter, Kyrie Irving, Mac Danzig) may want to consider adding tofu, beans, or vegan protein powders made from soy milk, peanuts or other plant sources, to encourage muscle recovery and muscle density for peak performance.
Please note, diets high in protein, regardless of their sources, are linked to digestive and liver cancers, as well as reduced absorption of many essential vitamins and minerals. And, as always, consult a doctor when considering any physical training regimen, including protein packing for athletic demands!
Below is a list of every health happy food mentioned in this article. Basically, if you just take this list shopping with you at the grocery store, and eat some of them in one meal and some in other meals, you’ll be happy and well-fed.
Condiments and Oils
Himalayan Pink Salt
Nuts and Seeds
Vegetables (and things treated as a vegetable)
Dried shitake mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms
Dried seaweed (nori sheets, lavar)
Bell peppers, like green peppers
Citrus fruit, like oranges and lemons
Grains (and things treated as grains)
Steel cut oats
Soy milk protein powder
Peanut flour (protein powder)
Plant milk (like rice milk, soy milk, cashew milk, flax milk, and almond milk)