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How to find Protein in a vegetarian or vegan diet

Is a vegetarian diet better that a diet including meat and fish? Is a vegan diet that excludes all animal products, even eggs and honey even better than either?

The fact is that some diets will suit some people more than others. 

The desire to follow different types of diet can be based on strong views about animal rights or disliking a particular food or beliefs about healthy food or for financial reasons.

 Whatever the reasons for eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, the diet must provide all the nutrients valuable to health. Simply cutting out meat or fish and carrying on eating as before will lead to deficiencies of important nutrients.  

The most important nutrient that may be low in a vegetarian or vegan diet is protein. Protein is vital for survival. It’s needed for every process in the body. All the organs are made of protein:  skin, nails, muscles and hair are made of protein. Protein is needed for growth, repair and maintenance of all parts of the body. It is also essential for immunity, and all aspects of mental and physical health. It helps stabilse blood sugar levels so is important in diabetes, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome (syndrome X).  If we had no protein we would quite simply die.

Protein is made from amino acids

The body makes its own protein from amino acids. Most of these amino acids can be manufactured in the body; however there are 9 essential amino acids that are not. 

These 9 amino acids have to be taken in the right proportion at the right time so they may be used efficiently to make human proteins. Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and nuts are all high in the 9 essential amino acids. However if any of these are missing or low in the diet the person is likely to have poor health.

There are other foods that contain some of the 9 essential amino acids. Seeds, Grains, Milk products and Pulses will all have different levels of the essential amino acids. It is important that these groups of foods are combined at the same meal to get the right amounts of all 9 amino acids so that the body can easily make human proteins. 

Grains and Pulses -If grains e.g. wheat or rice are combined with pulses e.g. lentils or beans then you will get all the 9 essential amino acids you need in the right amounts.  

Grains and Milk products - In the same way combining grains with milk products will give all the essential amino acid you need at that meal. 

Seeds with PulsesCombining seeds with pulses will also work well.  

To a lesser degree combining - grains and seeds; milk products and pulses; grains and milk products.

Cultures where the diet has for centuries been predominately vegetarian

In cultures where the diet has for centuries been predominately vegetarian, these combinations are always used as people have found this is the best way to maintain health. 

If Vegetarian or Vegan combine the foods in this way at every meal

If you are vegetarian or vegan you should aim to combine the foods in this way at every meal. It’s a lot easier that you may think. 

Use the easy to follow chart on how to combine these foods. 

Simply eating vegetables, although high in nutrients simply does not provide all the nutrients you need to be fit and healthy.

Click the link to make an appointment to help improve your diet and health more or for more information.

Jaine Kirtley MRN RN Reg. Nurse Reg. Naturopath

Practises in Tauranga and may be contacted on 07 571 3226


Submitted At: 28 March 2013 9:37am | Last Modified At: 16 January 2015 8:53am
Article Views: 2423

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