Monday, October 7, 2013

"If you're vegan, where do you get your protein from?"

By Giselle Wedemire

Long before Picky Bitchez was conceived, I created a little vegan blog to help a few friends transition to a cruelty-free lifestyle. That blog is now defunct, but one of the posts I'm most proud of contains information that's relevant to every vegan (and to those curious about veganism). 

I'm sure almost every single vegetarian and vegan has been asked the question, "If you're veg(etari)an, where do you get your protein from?" This question makes me chuckle because: 1) It's super easy to get protein from a plant-based diet, and 2) that question reminds me of this Mean Girls  scene.

That's why I've decided to re-run that post here to help any future picky bitch commit to a plant-based diet. Without further ado, here is a breakdown on vegan protein sources (re-printed with permission from, um, myself?):

"Once I went veg, almost every social gathering became a mild interrogration that was a lot like this scene from Everything Is Illuminated:

As a veg(etari)an, you're undoubtedly going to hear the phrase, 'Where do you get your protein from if you don't eat meat?' at least 500 times a day.  People generally are wrapped up in the notion that you can only get protein from meat.  Once you eliminate meat from your diet, it's as though Pandora's box has been opened, and people begin smearing themselves with poop and speaking in tongues -- it sort of awakens in them a sense of mass confusion and hysteria because they just don't seem to comprehend that there are other means of acquiring full nutrition.

Here's the lowdown on where you can fill your protein quota, so you'll forever be ready to combat that pesky question:

Soy: An obvious protein go-to is tofu, which is made from fermented soybeans that have been ground and shaped into blocks.  Soybeans (a.k.a. 'edamame') are a complete protein, which means that they have an adequate combination of amino acids.  You can get your soy fix in a number of ways, including: edamame, soy milk, tofu, and tempeh.

Quinoa: Pronounced 'keen-wahh', this grain-like food is also a complete protein, cooks like rice, and is extremely wallet-friendly.  You can get a massive bulk bag of quinoa for maybe $20, and it'll last you around a year or so -- however, I'd suggest you buy a smaller bag on the first go, just to see if you actually like quinoa's slightly nutty taste.  Quinoa flour is also being made more readily available, which is awesome news for those with gluten sensitivities.

Pulses: Pulses refer to legumes and beans (Why didn't I just say 'beans', then?  Well, because I'm showing off my smarty pants, and it's my blog, so deal with it.).  Included are: chickpeas/garbanzo beans, lentils, red peas/kidney beans, black eyed peas, etc.  In the beginning, try testing out which pulses you like by buying them canned.  After you ascertain what you do and don't like, think about buying your pulses in bulk.  Where I shop, 2 or 3 cans of chickpeas is the equivalent of the cost of a 1kg bag of dried chickpeas (which ended up lasting me 9 months after very regular use).

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds of any kind are a good way to sneak in more protein when you're on the go, and they're generally cheap (unless you wear fancy pants and insist on buying macadamia or Brazil nuts).  They're higher in fat than other plant-based protein sources, but those fats are mostly good fats (i.e. poly- and monounsaturated fats), so don't throw them out the window!  (I mean, you did spend money on them, after all)

Whole Grains: Brown rice, barley, quinoa (as mentioned above), kamut, and millet are all examples of whole grains that have impressive protein track records.  They're all easy to store and buy in bulk -- plus, you won't feel like that much of a hippie when you're at the checkout of the supermarket with these items, as opposed to a cart full of tofu and soy milk (not that I ever give a damn about looking like a hippie).

As much as people like to tell you that being veg(etari)an can lead to health problems associated with a lack in protein, protein deficiency in herbivores is extremely rare (and when it manifests itself, it's usually due to an overall lack in proper nutrition, which is not the fault of a typical plant-based diet).

If you find that the people around you still won't shut up about the apparent lack of protein (i.e. slab of meat) on your plate, some good options for silencing them include: putting your iPod on, walking away from them, or yelling something ridiculous."