A growing number of my clients have recently been showing interest in adopting some variation of a plant-based style of eating or have become really interested in vegan recipes. It could come down to ethical beliefs, to reduce saturated fat intake in a meat-heavy diet, or even to increase the anti-inflammatory potential of their diet. The plant-based diet principles align with the Mediterranean style of eating. Studies show that Mediterranean populations have significantly lower rates of chronic disease compared to populations following a typical Western diet, which contains a higher proportion of meat and processed food.
Whether this means they hit the ground running and cut out all animal products, or ease their way into the new lifestyle by just cutting out red meat and poultry to start, the most important thing for each individual to consider is what nutrients they may easily become deficient in.
There are a few variations of vegetarian and vegan styles of eating:
- Pescetarian – does not eat meat or poultry, but will consume seafood, dairy and
- EggsLacto-ovo vegetarian – does not eat meat, poultry or seafood, but will consume dairy and eggs
- Lacto Vegetarian – does not eat meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, but will consume dair
- Vegan – does not eat any animal product, including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs and hone
- Beegan – does not eat any animal product, including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy and eggs, but will eat honey
From top to bottom, there is more potential to become deficient in both macro and micro-nutrients, such as protein, omega-3, vitamin B12, Vitamin D, iron and calcium. In this article, we will be focusing on consuming adequate amounts of protein!
Once you have removed most (or all) animal products from your diet, there is a much more limited variety of good quality protein sources to choose from. Gram for gram, plant-based foods tend to be lower in total protein compared to animal products, and also tend to lack some of the essential amino acids that your body can’t produce. These amino acids contribute to muscle building and repair, immunity, the production of enzymes and the synthesis of hormones that keep your body functioning.
It can therefore be difficult to consume adequate protein as a vegetarian or vegan. Many people don’t realise just how much daily protein intake is reduced by cutting out animal products, without replacing them with plant-based alternatives. Extra care does need to be taken in planning a wholesome diet, otherwise there can be quite serious effects on your overall health, and your ability to stay strong and fit!
With careful planning, it is possible to consume just as much (if not more) protein than a person who regularly eats meat. You just need to be smart about the types of foods you
choose to fill your diet out with. Protein requirements vary greatly depending on age, gender, height, weight, body fat percentage and activity level – this range can sit anywhere between 75g/day (for a small, inactive female) and upwards of 200g/day (for a large, muscular, active male).
Here are my top sources of plant-based proteins to fit in with any variation of a vegetarian or vegan diet!
|FOOD||SERVING SIZE||AMOUNT OF PROTEIN|
|Reduced Fat Cheese||40g||12g|
|Fish and Seafood||100g White Fish||20g|
|VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN|
|Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)||75g (cooked)||5g|
|Spelt Grain||1 cup (cooked)||10g|
|Vegan Protein Powder||1 Scoop||22g|
If you or someone you know is considering a plant-based diet, it can be a great way to reduce your saturated fat intake, increase your fibre intake and even help reduce inflammation. Hopefully, this table has provided some handy hints to help you find some great alternatives for everyday protein sources. Remember that gradual transitions are always best when making any significant changes to your diet or lifestyle. If you are thinking about following a more plant-based diet, consult your dietitian to develop a plan that ticks off all your nutrition needs!