Vegan Food Guide, Protein, and New Book

Lots of stuff packed into this post. First, I’ve updated my food guide to create separate groups for legumes and nuts as a way to ensure adequate protein intake.
I’ve been thinking about protein a lot lately for a number of reasons. The main one is that I’ve been working on a book on vegan nutrition with dietitian Jack Norris. It’s called Vegan for Life, and will be published this summer by Da Capo Press.
We worked on our book for more than a year and spent a lot of time researching and debating every single aspect of vegan nutrition.  Based on protein and amino acid content, we decided that nuts and legumes aren’t quite similar enough to be in the same food group.
Legumes (which include soyfoods) are an important part of vegan diets. In particular, those who avoid these foods may not meet requirements for the essential amino acid lysine. But, nuts have some important nutritional and health benefits, too, and—as long as you aren’t allergic to them—it’s a good idea to include a daily serving or two of nuts in meals. So giving each of these types of foods their own group ensures that you’ll get enough of both.  
I’ve also been giving lots of thought to protein because—no doubt about it—I’ve had ex-vegans on the brain over the past few months. I’ve wanted to focus on what can go wrong with veganism, and how we can do everything possible to make sure that all vegans and aspiring vegans have access to the safest nutrition information possible. And when people experience deficiencies on a vegan diet, we need to be able to help them increase nutrient intake from plant sources.  
For example, I happened across a comment on a veggie board a month or so ago posted by a vegan who was thinking about adding eggs back to his diet. He felt he needed a protein and fat boost. Well, okay—it may very well be true that his diet was falling short on these nutrients. But he could get both pretty easily from plant foods. A large egg has around 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. You could get equivalent amounts of both by eating ¼ cup of tempeh, or ½ cup of beans topped with a couple tablespoons of avocado, or a cup of quinoa tossed with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
People often don’t think of plant foods as a way to boost protein and fat intake, though, because vegan diets have a reputation for being low in both. In fact, this is often touted as one benefit of plant-based eating, which could cause some people to avoid higher-protein plant foods.
To ensure that vegans meet needs for protein and lysine, I recommend a minimum of three servings per day of legumes. A serving is ½ cup of beans or soyfood or 1 cup of soymilk. This is a fairly generous amount—more than some people require—but it leaves room for some low-protein foods in your diet—fruits, fats, and treats.
Here is a quick guide to meeting vegan protein needs. I’m including information about lysine, too, just to demonstrate why legumes are so valuable in the diets of vegans. Don’t obsess about your lysine (or protein) intake, though. As long as you are including legumes/soyfoods in your daily menus, you’ll meet requirements for both.
To find your protein requirements, multiply your ideal weight (in pounds) by 0.45.
To find your lysine requirements, multiply your ideal weight (in pounds) by 21.5.
 Protein needs are based on lean body mass, which is why we use ideal weight rather than actual weight to calculate requirements. So a person who should weigh around 140 would need 63 grams of protein and 3010 milligrams of lysine. You can check the chart below to see how you are doing in terms of meeting protein and lysine requirements. You may also want to check out Jack’s updated protein page to learn more about how protein needs are determined and where vegans stand in this regard.

 

Food
Total protein in grams
Total lysine in milligrams
½ cup cooked legumes
7-8 grams
485-625
½ cup soybeans
14
575
½ cup firm tofu
10-20
582
½ cup soft tofu
8-10
1 ounce veggie meats
6-18
Varies considerably but veggie meats that contain soy protein are likely to be good sources of lysine.
1 cup soymilk
5-10
439
¼ cup peanuts
8
310
¼ cup other nuts
2-6
80-280*
½ cup grains
2-3
55-85**
½ cup vegetables
0.5-2.5
60-165
*Pistachios are an exception; ¼ cup provides around 6.5 grams of protein and 365 milligrams of lysine
**Quinoa is much higher in protein and lysine than other grains, providing around 4 grams of protein and 220 milligrams of lysine
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67 Responses to Vegan Food Guide, Protein, and New Book

  1. Dave Shishkoff January 24, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Oh wow – congrats on the new book, can't wait to see it! Glad to see reasonable protein suggestions.
    I presume the body weight numbers we're supposed to use above are in pounds? Many of your readers use metric (which ironically is how the protein itself is listed. ;)

    • Ginny Messina January 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      Oops–yes, it's supposed to be pounds. I just added that to the article.

  2. Lisa S. January 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I had, for years, taken for granted the fact that I was getting enough protein as a vegan. But when I made the switch from soy milk to almond milk I quickly found out what happens when I didn't replace the proteins lost. It was easy enough to go back to soy to reverse the effects, but it also made me become more aware of my protein intake. I'm much more careful now – even though I start the day with 16oz of soy milk (as a banana/blueberry smoothie) I still watch my protein carefully.

  3. JL goes Vegan' January 24, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    Thank you for this post!  You always give me much to consider.
    I'm excited to learn that you are collaborating with Jack Norris on a book. I will be looking for it this summer!

  4. Amy January 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    It's too bad I see a lot of vegans afraid of soy because of the negative WAPF type hysteria around it but then they aren't really looking for their protein elsewhere either, this problem seems to occur more with raw vegans who are also afraid of gluten.

    • beforewisdom January 24, 2011 at 2:48 pm #

      I wonder why people, both veg*ns and anti-veg*ns talk about soy and gluten as if it is the only veg*n protein option?   There are dozens of legumes cheaply and easily available.  Dozens to hundreds of recipe for them.   If you know how to prepare legumes properly, they are totally comfortable to eat.

      • Amy January 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

        well, I agree, I do make an effort to get my protein from other sources like nuts. beans and legumes. It's not too difficult especially if you cook at home – I'm not always eating soy and gluten. But if you eat a lot of convenience foods or if you eat out a lot, it can be difficult to find vegan options that don't have those ingredients in them.
        I for one don't think I could subsist on green smoothies and salads!

    • Rose July 23, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

      Amy, I am on a gluten free diet. I am not afraid of it. It was simply just killing me….the reason behind my fibromyalgia, histamine intolerance, salicylate sensitivity, fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance. Gluten does in fact, harm everybody. Fortunately, after 3 years GF, I am partially healed from some of the food malabsorptions, but am stuck with other things forever. Trying to be dairy free, grain free as well as vegan isn’t easy, so finding this article is helpful. Soy actually also damages the small intestine. Google it. This is not just my personal opinion.

  5. beforewisdom January 24, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    I’ve had ex-vegans on the brain over the past few months.

     
    LOL!

  6. Harish January 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    It is awesome to learn that you and Jack are working on a book on vegan nutrition! The most popular vegan "nutrition" books out today are not consistent in their adherence to good science. Your book will be a much needed one and I can't wait to read it.

    • beforewisdom January 24, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

      "Becoming Vegan" is excellent, though getting a bit old.  "Becoming Vegetarian" is more up to date and is pretty much a vegan nutrition book despite the title.

  7. Robert January 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    I'd like to see some non-bias studies that conclude that it is safe. Particularly daily consumption of non-fermented soy foods. Not studies sponsored by sources that have financial or other interests in the soy industry. Until then I'm still leery of soy foods, especially for men.

    • beforewisdom January 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

      Robert, if you feel that way you will have a problem with your own opinion as most of the anti-soy hysteria is also funded by people with financial interests.

      • Robert January 26, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

        I take it then by your response that you are willing to accept the results from studies that are biased? I'll look at studies that identify any conflicts of interest. I've seen many studies where this information is provided. Until then I'll err on the side of caution and only consume modest amounts of soy foods, preferably fermented varieties as do the Asians.

        • Ginny Messina January 27, 2011 at 11:47 am #

          Robert, I'm not sure what you mean by studies that are "biased." Funding has a limited effect on study outcome. The findings are what they are, and the researchers can't change them just because of the source of their funding. Admittedly, it may affect the way in which some researchers interpret and talk about their data to the media. But as long as we look at the actual study–and not just the press release–the evidence is pretty straightforward and reliable. 

          Also, I think you'd be surprised to know how little research is funded by the soyfoods industry. Most is funded by the government. And the anti-soy hysteria comes almost exclusively from those with a pro-meat agenda who reference a handful of pretty useless animal studies on soy.

          Likewise, they spread the myth that people in Asia eat mostly fermented soyfoods. In fact, the evidence from the FAO, the Japanese government's food survey, and a number of studies through Asia show that about half of all soy intake is unfermented.

  8. Vegan Snorkeler January 24, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

    This post, as always, is super informative and so important!  I will definitely take this into account when planning my meals, and I look forward to the book.

  9. Sayward January 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Very exciting about the new book – congratulations! I can't wait to read it.
    I have also been doing a lot of exploring in light of the ex-vegan issue. I'm glad to see you addressing protein and particularly lysine. Another amino acid I'm concerned about is tryptophan, especially its role in depression (which many ex-vegans claim to have experienced when eating plants and to have cleared up when adding animals). Are you familiar with Julia Ross' work? Do you have any thoughts on tryptophan?
    Congratulations again! As always, I love your work (Jack too) and really do appreciate it.
    ~Sayward

  10. Tracy January 25, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    Thanks for looking out for us! Can't wait to get your book. :)

  11. Jan January 25, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    I'm curious whether hemp protein and pea protein are sources of lysine? I've been adding them to my morning smoothies, which is bumping up my protein intake considerably, but maybe not in a way that's amounting to a higher lysine intake?

    • Ginny Messina January 25, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

      Pea protein should be a good source of lysine. I know that split peas are high in lysine like all other legumes. Immature peas–the kind eaten as a vegetable–are quite a bit lower though. But I would imagine that the isolate protein portion itself is a good source.

      I don' t think that hempseed has nearly as much lysine, though. But I think that most hemp protein products are fortified with other amino acids. Check the label and see if yours has added lysine in the ingredient list. What kind are you using?

      • Jan January 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

        The hemp product I'm using is actually just hemp hearts — that's the only ingredient. The brand is North Coast Naturals. The pea protein product I'm using is from Vega, made of yellow pea protein as the first ingredient. I can't see anything on either package about lysine, although google searches suggest there is some lysine in both. thanks for your reply. I look forward to your book.

        • Ginny Messina January 27, 2011 at 11:56 am #

          The pea product looks like a pretty good source of lysine (although I couldn't read their labels online that well. The hemp product is pretty high in total protein, so no doubt your getting some lysine from that, but it's probably not a great source.

  12. Lisa H. January 25, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I'm so excited about the new book. I'll be getting a copy as soon as it's out.
    Thanks for posting the food guideline chart. I've printed that out.
    I've always felt fine as a vegan, although it turns out I do have some deficiencies, and I suspect I also had them years ago before I was a vegan. I don't think veganism has anything to do with them. My B12 has always been fine. I do, of course, supplement with B12.

  13. Denise January 25, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Thank you!  I was looking for something like this the other day. 

  14. Sandy January 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

    I do the P90X workout, and have struggled trying to find enough protein to accelerate my progress.  I like Gardein products, tho they are high in sodium.  Lifetime Life's Basics Pure Plant Protein is great for a protein shake, and it's made up of hemp, chia seed, yellow pea and brown rice proteins.
    What I was wondering is if your book will cover coconut.  My nutritionist has gotten me to use coconut oil and coconut butter (the flesh), as an addition to nut butters.  I've found that using the coconut butter as a spread on bagels is incredibly filling.  At first I was worried about the saturated fat content, but I was assured that because coconut fat is a medium chain fatty acid, it isn't as dangerous as others.
    Regardless, I look forward to the release of your book!

    • Ginny Messina January 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      We do have a little bit of information on choosing healthy fats and we talk about coconut oil a little bit. I agree that the medium chain saturated fats don't appear to be a problem. And it doesn't seem to be a risk for heart disease in populations that use lots of it (probably because they also tend to eat lots of plant foods). I'd just like to see more research on it before recommending it for regular consumption. I use it occasionally–and I agree that it's filling and, also very tasty! But, I think, like all fats, it should be used in moderation.

  15. gymmie January 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Congratulations! I look forward to the book!
    That's how I am too Lisa. I'm not anal about anything because I eat such a variety that I figure even if I'm short a day or two, I'm more than making up for it on another day.

    • vegetude February 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

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  16. Ginny Messina January 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I didn't suggest 3 servings of legumes per day to meet protein requirements–I suggested them to meet lysine requirements. It's a very different issue. It's certainly not impossible to construct a diet that doesn't include legumes but still meets lysine needs–but it would be a very strict diet that was low in fruit and didn't allow for any higher fat foods or occasional treats. That's not a diet that is going to entice very many people to go vegan nor is it an especially healthy way to eat IMO.

    And, often, what is "generally accepted" on vegan websites isn't actually supported by real research.

    But I appreciate the fact that you think I mean well. :)   

  17. mmmm January 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    I have been vegan for about 12 years.  A few years ago I had an amino acid profile done, as a result of longterm, pretty severe fatigue, and it revealed that I was extremely low in taurine, which is, of course a non-essential amino acid (or at least it's supposed to be). I have since found a protein powder that is a combination of pea, hemp and brown rice proteins and it seems to work in warding off the fatigue, and presumably the taurine deficiency.  I also take taurine supplements, though on their own they don't seem to work as well as in tandem with the protein powder. The whole experience really unnerved me, and made me think that at least for some people, the question of vegan protein is more complex than most vegans generally prefer to believe.

    • Claudia October 15, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      I have been vegan for about 10 years…and am determined to continue…even though my experience has had it’s ups and downs. I’m still trying to tweak things. Interesting about your lack of taurine. I’ve heard taurine is important for vision. Since I was having muscle issues, I’ve added vegan supplements of acetyl l-carnitine and carnosine. I agree that vegan nutrition may be more complex than we realize. Certain individuals may need more (or less) of certain nutrients…and this could undoubtedly hold true for meat eaters, also.

  18. Leslie January 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Mark;
    Would it be rude to ask you what your education and field are?

  19. Mork January 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    I'm excited to hear about your book!
    I have a question about protein.  I've heard it said that 40 grams is enough protein for an adult.  That's really easy to reach if you eat mostly whole foods.  But I'm a bigger person, and by your standards, I should be eating over 100 grams of protein a day.  That's a lot of protein without a big hunk of dead animal every day.  How do nutritionists anticipate that larger folks will be able to reach these standards?  I would have to eat three of those pre-packaged blocks of tofu to reach that.  The next highest-protein contender would be white beans at 5 cups a day! I like both of these foods, but those amounts make my stomach hurt just thinking about them.  Like a lot of people, I don't digest isolated soy protein well and I stay away from soy supplements, so that's not an answer.  I've lost a chuck of weight recently, too.  It leads me to wonder what the people who are hovering my old weight of 260 are supposed to do.  That's 117 grams of protein.  
    Also, do you have any research on wether exercising will increase protein needs?  The folks at my gym are very insistent that I need to supplement with whey protein every time I work out or I won't build muscle.  I don't follow their advice.  I know they are overreacting.  The anti-soy hystaria has them believing that even touching soy will give them man-boobs.  But it does plant the seed of distrust that I could be ruining my health with all this plant food.
    The exercise issue plus the grams/pound issue make me think that maybe us fatties really can't be healthy on a vegan diet.  Frankly, these aren't thoughts I would share without the anonymity  of the internet, but they are there.  I'm beginning to feel like an ex-vegan waiting to happen.

  20. Lisa A. January 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    I am too looking forward to reading your book. It is great that the two of you are collaborating on a project like that.

  21. Ariann January 26, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Mork, did you use your ideal weight in Ginny's formula or your current weight?  The formula calls for ideal weight.  That being said, 40g of protein for an adult seems low.  I don't know how I'd eat a varied vegan diet and maintain my current weight (~160) and not just accidentally eat more than that.  I'm pregnant now and easily eating 80 grams of (vegan) protein a day without using protein powder or processed fake meats (just trying not to eat too much sodium).  120 g doesn't seem like so much if you're eating enough and choosing higher-protein foods at each meal. 

    • Ginny Messina January 27, 2011 at 11:59 am #

      Right, the calculations are based on ideal weight–so if you are overweight, that shouldn't drive up your protein needs to any significant degree. And even someone whose idea weight is 200 would need less than 100 grams of protein. Keep in mind that bigger people need more calories, and all of the grains, nuts, legumes, and vegetables you eat provide protein.

  22. Robert January 26, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    A cup of brocccoli provides 3 grams of protein. By your words the same serving (1 cup) of tofu provides less protein? An average sized baked potato provides 2 grams of protein. A half cup of raw, firm tofu provides 20 grams of protein. Where on earth do you get your numbers from?

    • beforewisdom January 29, 2011 at 10:08 am #

      Robert, there is a trend among some nutritionists to evaluate a food by the amount of nutrition by calorie.   My own opinion as someone without formal credentials In this conversation ( I believe Ginny is the only person in this conversation with credentials ) is that this not a useful way of measuring nutrition for practical purposes.
      Your points strongly imply as much, too.
      Personally, in practical terms of making sure I get the nutrition I need, I find it practical to evaluate the nutrition of a food by volume.   I only have so much volume in my stomach.  1 cup of cooled legumes gives me far more protein than 1 cup of cooked broccoli, even though broccoli has more protein per calorie.
       

  23. Bea Ⓥ Elliott January 27, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    Thank-you "soy" much!  And congrats on your upcoming book!

  24. AlisonM January 27, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    This post is so well timed Ginny. I hadn't long discovered your blog before you went off radar for a while. I'm a life long veggie, but only went vegan 4 months ago, and only really cleaned out the traces of dairy etc about 1 month back. I have been having doubts though about the appropriateness of the diet given how physically active I am, and in particular, the fact that I lift weights. The gym community is obsessed with protein, and it's hard not to have your thoughts infected by that. I–like the OP you mention–was considering adding eggs again, for protein and B12. It has been causing me a great deal of conflict though, as I am convinced that ethically, a vegan diet is the right diet. It's just that from a self-centered perspective, with my own physical goals in mind, I have been doubting it.
    Anyway, reading this post has given me the courage to keep going. Thanks for the support.
    Alison 

    • Robert January 27, 2011 at 9:12 am #

      AlisonM,
      I've found that in general the vegan community, especially raw vegans, downplay the importance of protein while the gym community (I was a member at Gold's Gym many years ago so I know it well) tend to overstate its importance. My feeling is that the truth lies somewhere in between the those two extremes. Personally I think Ginny's numbers are closer to reality.

      • Ginny Messina January 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

        Robert and Alison, I agree with both of you that there is a happy medium–and that sometimes needs get overstated by those involved in weight training.   Alison, you might want to take a look at Jack Norris' page on vegan diets for weight lifters: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/weightlifting

        And congratulations on going vegan :)

  25. JL goes Vegan January 27, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    Alison, have you heard of Robert Cheeke? He is a vegan body builder and has a new book (Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness).  I'm not sure of the dietary merits of the book but he is an example of a long-time vegan who is a successful athlete.

  26. mike January 27, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Hi.  This is great info, but here's a twist that makes it hard – and I'd love your input.  I am a vegan who is on a low-oxalate diet, so soy, nuts, nut milks, certain seeds (e.g. hemp), and many beans must be eliminated or minimized (when speaking of traditional protein sources).  What are your thoughts on how I and others can get their protein requirements?    Thanks.

    • Ginny Messina January 27, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

      Admittedly, that's a real challenge. It depends on how low your oxalate intake is. And, of course whether being on a low oxalate diet is really helpful for you. For some people it's not, because they are high oxalate-formers anyway. And there is some evidence that some high-oxalate foods are more harmful than others. But if your doctor wants you on a very low oxalate intake, then I agree that veganism is tough. How much oxalate are you allowed to consume?

      • mike January 27, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

        Hi.  My doctor did not give me a specific number; he provided me a list (which came from a company that has a dedicated RN who's worked with oxalate diets for years) and advised me to avoid any food in the 'high' category.  As the list was geared toward a general omnivore, I did hours of research of my own.  There are some protein sources that are OK, especially lentils, garbanzos, and black-eyed peas, and I've been finding a variety of ways to cook them.  I also do a non-GMO pea protein isolate.  However, I'm always looking for additional options.
        Thanks for your help.

  27. Kyle Key January 27, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    If the terminology and numbers that you used are correct, it seems rather unfeasible to get enough lysine. If a 140lb person requires a minimum of 3 grams of lysine and the highest source on the included chart is 625 mg (from what? lentils?), that's 5 servings a day. I've been vegan for 5 years, but 2.5 cups of beans a day is a hard sell. And that's the highest source listed! Either the requirements here are wrong, the chart is missing some critical foods, or veganism looks much more difficult now, not easier.
    The NutritionData entry for 1 cup of "Soybeans, mature cooked, boiled, without salt" (http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4376/2) says that they contain ~1906 mg of lysine, which is the highest I've found, and hopefully you won't tell me that this is grossly inaccurate. That is far more manageable, especially for a small person. For comparison, a beef steak of the approximate equivalent mass in grams has roughly 4500 – 5000 mg of lysine.
    I hope I'm missing something important here.

  28. Ginny Messina January 27, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Kyle, I'm not suggesting that you should get all of your lysine from beans/soyfoods. They're just important to give your lysine intake a boost. But grains, vegetables and nuts all provide lysine, too. A 140 pound person eating enough calories to maintain weight should be eating enough of all diffrerent types of foods to meet lysine needs. In fact, technically, you don't need any legumes in your diet to meet lysine needs. It's just that, without these foods, it takes some very specific planning.

  29. Mork January 27, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    OK.  I've taken a few deep breaths.  I've never really analyzed every bite of food I take in.  Maybe it adds up to more than I think?

  30. AlisonM January 28, 2011 at 4:25 am #

    Hi again Ginny. For some reason I'm unable to reply to comments above, so I have to post a new one..
    Thanks to both you and Robert for the measured response on protein. I think it would be hard to find two communities that are as diametrically opposed as body builders and vegans when it comes to diet! Finding myself pulled between the two, it's really good to be reassured that I can, and indeed should, occupy that middle ground. I am still struggling a bit with the issue of variety, but I'm sure that if I experiment, as well as making good use of the resources you and others have suggested to me, then I can make progress in that regard.
    Many thanks again,
    Alison

  31. Ji January 30, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Exciting! I will buy the book as soon as you release it. One request though: please try to as far as possible use english that international (non-native english speaking) readers can easily follow. Also, consider also including all measures in metric too. Or at least add some handy conversion tables and comments on them. I’m asking because your book could likely become THE book to go to for a lot of vegans also outside native english countries.

  32. CeeCee February 1, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    I struggle with the whole nutrition/weightlifting dilemma as well.  Add to the equation that I will be fifty this year, and how that affects my (female) metabolism!  I have followed the blogs of Robert Cheeke, Mike Mahler and other vegan athletes but my calorie requirements aren't as high as theirs. 
    I try to stick with minimally processed foods, organic when possible.  I have started relying more heavily on sprouted legumes and seeds in the hopes of getting the most absorbable sources of protein/nutrients .  I do use vegan protein supplements.  I feel like a kitchen alchemist!  I am now sprouting quinoa regularly and adding it to foods where I can use
     it in its raw state.  I think it is much easier for people to live the vegan lifestyle if they are not lifting weights.  I feel like Jack Norris oversimplifies things when he discusses weightlifting and vegan nutrition- just my opinion. 
     

  33. Michael Carter February 2, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    Hi Ms. Messina,
     
    That's great news about the upcoming book — i'm a great admirer of the work of both you and Mr. Norris.
     
    May i make a suggestion regarding content?  One aspect of nutrition that's almost always ignored is bioavailability.  In other words, how available are the food or supplement's nutrients to an average human?  Just because a cup of Food X has Y mg of Nutrient Z doesn't mean that i, or anyone else, is going to actually be able to derive Y mg of Nutrient Z with the human digestion system.  I particularly wonder about this regarding fortified foods.  For instance:  Rhubarb, spinach, beet greens, and chard are quite calcium-rich, but very little of it is considered bioavailable — mostly because they're also high in oxalic acid.  Hence, they aren't worth eating for calcium, but are for other nutrients.  Admittedly, this oxalic acid issue is addressed in good nutrition books, blogs, etc., as is the difference between animal and plant sources regarding bioavailability of protein.  (Note: i've been vegan since 1995.)  But i wonder about other nutrients.  For example: there are at least several forms of calcium supplements (as pills and in fortified food); which are most bioavailable?  This is rarely addressed, in my experience.  And:  Many trumpet that chia seeds, like flax seeds, are superb sources of omega-3s, but how much is actually absorbed by us?  I've seen nothing but hearsay and anecdotes on the internet about this, even from experts i normally respect.  In other words, no research has apparently been done regarding the bioavailability of the omega-3's, calcium, and iron that chia seed is so rich in — seems like rather important data for us to know.  Another  example:  By the numbers, i should've been getting more than enough vitamin D from several cups of my fortified rice milk, but taking a vitamin D supplement pill caused some minor skin blemishes to clear up.  I experimented several times, and found this correlation to be true.  As you might imagine, this experience only intensified my frustration with the general lack of attention paid to the nutrient bioavailability of most foods (both whole and processed, and including supplementary pills and powders).  I know it's a difficult issue to adequately broach (because everyone's body is unique,  and because what i ate today, and how active i was, are significant influences), but ignoring it completely, as is often the case, seems foolish (to me).  What are your thoughts on this?  And could you give it attention in the upcoming book?
     
    BIG thanks for all you do,
     
    M

  34. Tommy February 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Great post.  I've written about protein intake on my new veggie blog, http://www.switchtoveggies.com, but one thing I'm conflicted about is soy products.  I read so many negative affects of soy, (too much estrogen, overly processed, etc).  I'm wondering how you feel about soy, and whether there is good and bad soy.  
    Thanks so much!
    – Tommy

  35. Mark Sutton February 12, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Ginny:  please delete, at my request, my comment made 01/25/11.  Upon reflection and re-reading, I'm not comfortable with the tone and structure of what I wrote.  I'd had a particularly bad day regarding arguments over protein with my stepmother (she thinks she knows everything about nutrition from taking classes towards her being an RN 40 years ago…).
    That being said, there's no real excuse for not being more polite in commenting. I would appreciate your removing the comment, and this comment will keep people from thinking you were censoring!
    My sincere apologies.  Thanks…. Mark

  36. Fran Costigan February 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I am greatly looking forward to your new book. I am a great admirer you and Jack Norris. If anyone can help  provide clear and research-based information, it is you. I regularly cite you as the best resource for accurate information about soy to my students and other who bring very concerned email queries to me.
    I thank you for your your work.
    Fran

  37. Laurie Thomas March 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    Why are people still worried about getting enough protein from a plant-based diet? After all, gorillas don't hunt, they don't fish, and they don't keep chickens or cows. They don't drink protein shakes. They don't combine foods to "complement" the proteins. Their diet is 99.9% vegan (the other 0.01% consists of termites and other creepy-crawlies). Yet a silverback male gorilla can grow to be 500 pounds and ten times as strong as a man!
    Nutrition scientists have known for over a century that protein deficiency simply isn't a problem for human beings who are getting enough calories from any reasonable plant-based diet. As William Bayliss wrote back in 1917, if you take care of the calories, the protein takes care of itself. Research by WIlliam Cumming Rose back in the 1940s and 1950s showed that the same was true of all of the essential amino acids.

    • Robert March 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      Gorillas are folivores and can therefore get all the nutrients they need from their diet. They also spend most of their waking hours ( around 60%) foraging and eating. That's essentially their "job". Humans aren't folivores and if you tried surviving on a diet of nothing but leaves you'd end up with nothing but health problems. That's even if you have the time to spend eating all the vegetation. Don't compare folivores with omnivores. Its an apples and oranges comparison and don't give in to the fallacy that because we share 97% of their genes that it logically follows we must eat like them. It is a fallacy and potentially quite dangerous.

  38. Emily August 8, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Hey, I have a question. My daughter is on a Gluten free diet to help her have control over some autistic tendencies. The diet is wonderful and works well. I much more recently switched to a vegan diet. We eat alot of beans and quinoa as well as rice and GF pastas. How can I make sure that my little family has the right amount of protien?

    • Ginny Messina August 8, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      Emily, being on a gluten-free diet shouldn’t make it difficult to meet protein needs. All grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables provide protein. As long as you are consuming at least 3-4 servings per day of legumes–which includes all beans (except green beans), soy products, and peanuts–you should be getting plenty of protein. Quinoa is a good source of protein, too, so including that in meals will help give them a protein boost, too.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Meeting Protein Needs on a Vegan Diet: The Calorie Connection | The Vegan RD - March 13, 2011

    [...] from protein. I had several questions about this after I posted my recent article about protein in vegan diets. After all, human breast milk is around 6 percent protein and it supports health [...]

  2. New Egg Labels…or the Vegan Paradigm? | One Green Planet - July 28, 2011

    [...] First, let’s note that the human body has no nutritional need for the eggs of other animals. If you’re looking for a way to increase protein or fat intake, you need not expect help from a bird. Beans, avocados, or quinoa with chopped nuts can do the job. [...]

  3. What We Ate Wednesday: My Night | Bonzai Aphrodite - April 9, 2013

    [...] + onion + corn // carrot sticks and snap peas // smoothie // garlic roasted pistachios (high in lysine, they count as an “honorary legume”!) // the leftover refried [...]

  4. “But Where Do You Get Your Protein?” | Live Simply ⋅ Dream Endlessly - April 20, 2014

    [...] http://www.theveganrd.com/2011/01/vegan-food-guide-protein-and-new-book.html [...]

  5. The Science Of Salad: How To Make A Salad That Serves As A Real Meal, And Actually Keeps You Feeling Full | Bonzai Aphrodite - May 15, 2014

    [...] So without getting too tangential (too late!), if vegans don’t eat enough legumes we can fall short on lysine, which means that even though our bodies are disassembling, there won’t be enough of all the right building blocks when reassembly time comes. Make sense? You can read a more comprehensive discussion of this topic here, on The Vegan RD. [...]

  6. Vegan Sources of Lysine Amino Acid | aminoacidinformation.com - June 18, 2014

    [...] diet, and admitting that he may have been nutrient-deficient, it was suggested that he could get equivalent amounts of protein and fat from vegan sources. For instance, a large egg has about 5 g of fat and 6 g of protein, but so does eating a 1/2 C of [...]

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