A plant-based diet easily provides all the protein the body needs. There is no need for meat, dairy products, or eggs for protein, and you are better off without them. Vegetables, grains, and beans give you plenty of protein, even if you are active and athletic. And there is no need to eat these foods in any special combinations. The normal mixtures of food people choose from day to day easily satisfy protein needs.
For people who like technical details, protein is made up of amino acids. Each amino acid molecule is like a bead, and many amino acids together make up the protein chain. There are many different amino acids, and all of the essential ones are found in plants.
And by all means, do not fret about protein grams or feel any need to count them. But if you are interested in the numbers, simply divide your body weight (in pounds) by three. That gives you an approximation of the number of grams of protein your body needs, plus a margin for safety. So, for example, for a person who weighs 120 pounds, 40 grams of protein is more than enough on a daily basis. Some experts believe that the actual amount of protein required is actually much less than this figure.
The bottom line is to have a healthful mix of vegetables, beans, whole grains, and fruits, and protein takes care of itself.
6. What's the scoop on soy?
This bears repeating, so that you can feel really clear. Soy products have been around for thousands of years and are a dietary staple in many regions of Asia. Research has shown that people in these regions have lower rates of heart disease, breast and prostate cancer, fewer hip fractures and fewer hot flashes. In addition, dozens of clinical studies have indicated the health benefits of diets rich in soy.
Some have raised the question as to whether soy has untoward effects. Happily, these concerns have been set aside. Girls who consume soy products in adolescence have about a 30 percent reduction in breast cancer risk as adults. Women previously diagnosed with breast cancer have a significantly greater survival if they include soy in their diets, compared with women who tend not to use soy products.
However, if a person is uncertain or simply does not want to include soy, I always remind them that a vegan diet does not mean joining the Soy Promotion Society. A vegan diet can mean many things: a Latin American tradition with beans, rice, and tortillas; a Mediterranean tradition emphasizing vegetables, pasta, beans, and fruit. Soy products come from an Asian tradition and are totally optional.
7. What if I think I'm allergic to soy?
Again, eating a diverse diet of whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables will give you everything you require in terms of protein. As for allergies, in some cases, they will change over time. For example, it is very common for children to have allergies that disappear as they get older, and that occurs in adulthood, too. Also, quite often, allergic responses diminish when people stop consuming dairy products.
For example, a person who is allergic to cats or has asthma symptoms in response to pollen will find that these symptoms diminish when they leave dairy products aside.
8. Where can I get my omega-3s if not from fish or fish oil?