So here's some answers to common questions I get!
- Vegans and iron: Most vegan sources of iron actually have more iron per calorie than red meat. While iron is a concern especially for women, needs are about 18 mg a day for women and 8 mg a day for men, so that's not a ton. I usually try to go OVER my iron recommendations because
1. I'm a long-distance runner
2. I'm a young woman
3. Drinking coffee and tea makes it harder to absorb iron.
I get about 20 grams daily by eating lentils (3mg per 4oz), a few cups of spinach (3.2 mg per 1/2 cup), dark chocolate (2.3 mg per oz), and oatmeal (7 grams per half cup cooked). Note that men should not get excess iron, especially from animal sources, because it puts them at risk for heart disease.
- Vegans and Omega 3: While most automatically associate Omega 3's with fish, I automatically associate fish with mercury. I instead get my Omega 3s from walnuts (2.7 grams in a quarter cup) and flax seed stirred into oatmeal and yogurt. (6.3 grams per quarter cup.) Note that before you jump on the Omega 3 bandwagon, scientists have found the highest importance to be having a high Omega 3 intake compared to a lower Omega 6 intake. Omega 6's are in vegetable oils, fattier foods such as mayo and margarine, and peanut oil, among other foods that I avoid.
- Vegans and carnosine: To get real technical for a second (if any other nutrition know-it-alls are reading), carnosine is a dipeptide of amino acids. A dipeptide is just a fancy way of saying it's two amino acids (histadine and beta alanine) bonded together with a peptide bond. The rate at which you can produce carnosine depends on how much beta alanine you get. Because it's formed from amino acids, though, there is some evidence that it can be formed by eating an amino acid-complete diet. Quinoa, beans, oatmeal, hemp protein, pea protein, and other veggie-strong proteins provide our bodies with all these amino acids. There are also vegan supplements for beta alanine, the limiting amino acid to carnosine.
While vegans and vegetarians do show lower rates of carnosine in their systems, they can supplement if this concerns them. The main purpose of this is wrinkle/aging prevention. I'm not too worried.
Now on to the big protein question! If you're vegetarian or vegan, I'm sure you're with me when I say that it gets a bit tiring answering the question,
"Where do you get your protein?"
Oftentimes, I just fire the question right back. I mean, I know where meat eaters get their trans- and saturated fats, and their animal proteins evidenced to shorten life spans (source: University of Southern California Longevity Institute study, 2014). But where do they get THEIR high quality, plant protein?
The average person (who doesn't exercise/train a ton) needs about .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Excess protein not only won't benefit you, but it will be stored as body fat (because it's usually excess calories), it'll create an acidic environment in your body, and it'll hurt you in the long run. People with diets where more than 20% of daily calories came from protein were FOUR times more likely to die of cancer.
How does this protein requirement work out?
- A 150-pound person needs 55-60 grams of protein daily.
- A 120-pound person needs 43-48 grams of protein daily.
- A 200-pound person needs 73-80 grams of protein daily.
Now who needs more? If you're training for a marathon, a triathlon, or you really do work out more than 75 minutes a day at a high intensity (or 90 minutes a day, period) you have higher protein needs, .6-.9 grams per pound of body weight.
So, a 120-pound runner would need around 90 grams protein (120 times .75) instead of 48 grams.
A 150 pound body builder (who lifts/trains for hours daily) would need 120 grams protein (150 times .8) instead of 60 grams.
Now on to the question at hand...How do I possibly get 90 grams of protein on a vegan diet?
- Soy latte- 6 grams
- Luna Bar- 9 grams
- Lentil soup- 18 grams
- Oatmeal- 6 grams
- Spinach- 3 grams
- Black beans- 6 grams
- Mixed nuts- 12 grams
- Soy yogurt- 7 grams
- Grapes- 1 gram
- 2 apples- 1 gram
- Peanut butter- 8 grams
- Slivered almonds- 6 grams
- Soy nuts- 9 grams
I included the fruits to show that, even though its TINY amounts, most foods do include some protein! So even when I'm chowing down on berries, almonds, and flax for breakfast, the berries are helping me reach my protein requirement.
Also, I supplement protein. Luna Bars, protein powder in my oatmeal, and protein drinks. This isn't because I'm vegan. It's because I'm an athlete, it's hard to get all my calories in a day, and I'm busy! I know lots of carnivores who suck down protein shakes (they don't always NEED them...) so it has nothing to do with what's "missing" from my diet!
There you go!
Now, where do YOU get your protein?