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Vegan diet: Yes it's possible to get protein without animal cruelty

Vegan diet: Yes it's possible to get protein without animal cruelty

There are plenty of vegan sources that effectively provide the protein our body needs without the fat and cholesterol.

Written by Bhuvaneshwari Gupta |Updated : February 22, 2014 11:55 PM IST

veganIf you think only meat and dairy can help you get the required amount of protein intake in your body, you are wrong. There are plenty of vegan sources that effectively provide the protein our body needs without the fat and cholesterol. PETA nutritionist Bhuvaneshwari Gupta lists out various vegan protein sources that you can eat.

When people find out that I'm a nutritionist and that I recommend eating a healthy and humane vegan diet, invariably, the first thing they ask me is, 'But how do vegans get their protein?'

The short answer is 'food'. Almost all foods contain some protein, and as long as you're eating a varied diet full of whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and fresh vegetables, you should have no trouble meeting your protein requirements. In fact, if you stick to these good-for-you plant foods, you'll get your daily dose of protein plus a punch of other vital nutrients, including fibre, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, minus the saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal products. (Read: 10 reasons to turn vegan)

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So what's the long answer? While protein is an essential nutrient our bodies use it to build, maintain and repair tissues only 10 per cent of the total calories consumed by the average person needs to be in the form of protein (some people, such as pregnant women, are advised to get a little more). The recommended dietary allowance for both men and women is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight.

But people who eat animal products can easily consume twice that much and in the case of protein, more isn't necessarily better.

Too much animal protein can cause impaired kidney function and cancers of the colon, pancreas and prostate. High protein levels also leach calcium from the body, ultimately leading to osteoporosis.

According to Dr T Colin Campbell, an American biochemist who wrote the ground breaking book The China Study and Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, 'The association between the intake of animal protein and fracture rates appears to be as strong as that between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.' (Read: Vegan diet good or bad for health?)

Vegan protein powerhouses

So how can you ensure that you're getting enough but not too much protein every day? I recommend following these general guidelines:

Five or more servings of whole grains every day: Foods in this category include oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread or pasta.

Three or more servings of vegetables: One cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables equals one serving.

Two to three servings of legumes: Cooked beans, peas, soya milk, tofu, tempeh and nuts are a few examples.

Try the following suggestions for a tasty, protein-packed day:

For breakfast, enjoy a bowl of hot oatmeal with fresh fruit, or whole wheat bread topped with peanut butter or almond butter. For lunch, have a bowl of spicy mung dal soup. Or perhaps a salad made with spinach, chickpeas, broccoli and mushrooms, or curried chickpea pita pockets.

Soya yoghurt or a handful of walnuts or pumpkin seeds are smart snack choices. And for dinner, try mixed-bean chilli served over brown rice, spicy sesame noodles made with peanut butter and whole-grain pasta, or stir-fried tofu with veggies.

Bhuvaneshwari Gupta is a nutritionist and campaign coordinator with PETA India. One of PETA's founding principles is promoting a vegan lifestyle, and Gupta a professional nutritionist is at the helm of every project. Her tasks include everything from organising PETA's trademark public demonstrations to working with restaurants and other businesses to offer more vegan options to raising public awareness about the health, environmental and animal-related benefits of going vegan.

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