Science Confirms Plant-Based Protein is the Same as Protein From Meat

No matter what you eat, ensuring that you’re getting enough protein is one of the biggest concerns that many of us have. Not only is it essential for those looking to build muscle, protein is good for muscular health, overall. For a long time, animal-based products have been at the forefront of our obsession with protein. However, as more and more people eschew animal products in favor of plant-based foods, plant-based proteins, such as pea protein, have been on the rise. As we start to see more plant-based proteins making their way into stores, naturally, many of us are asking which type of protein is the best. Well, one group of researchers had the same question — so they got answers.

A recent study published in this month’s issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that if muscle-building protein is what you seek, plant protein is just as good as animal protein. Researchers in this study analyzed the dietary protein intake of a sample of nearly 3,000 men and women, ages 19 to 72, as well as the sources that the protein came from such as dairy, meat, fish, poultry, fast food, and legumes. Then, they analyzed the participants’ lean muscle mass, bone-mineral density, and quadriceps strength. The results revealed that those who consumed low amounts of protein had the lowest measures of muscle mass and strength while those who ate a high protein diet had better muscular health. In both instances, researchers found that there were no significant differences in musculoskeletal health in relation to the type of protein participants consumed. However, the amount of protein consumed by participants did not seem to have a significant effect on bone-mineral density.

According to the study’s lead author, Kelsey Mangano, PhD, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, “as long as a person is exceeding the recommended daily allowance for protein, no matter the source in their diet, they can improve their muscle health.” But, Mangano also advises other factors that should be taken into account when choosing a protein source: “Choose protein sources that are lean—limiting saturated fat—and also those that are low in sodium.” What’s lean, free from saturated fat and sodium, and high in protein? Legumes!

Not only can plant-based protein go head-to-head with animal proteins, choosing plant-based proteins might be the better choice overall. A 2016 study conducted by the University of Copenhagen revealed that those who consumed meals made from legumes felt fuller for a longer period of time. Not only that, participants in the study who consumed a legume-based meal rather than a meat-based meal were shown to consume 12 to 13 percent fewer calories during the next meal. So, go ahead and give that pea protein a try.

So You Want To Go Vegan Huh? We’ve Got Some Pointers

So you’ve decided that you’d like to become vegan, but where do you start? Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle can seem really daunting but often the idea of a big lifestyle change is a lot scarier than actually doing it. If you focus on making one change at a time the progression to veganism will feel quite natural. It’s important to go at your own pace and to decide on a method that works best for you. Here are some ideas and guidelines to structure your transition to veganism, just be sure to tailor them to your specific needs.

LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

Before you even begin the transition the first step is to start familiarizing yourself with veganism. This will really help you feel prepared and knowledgeable as you begin changing your lifestyle.

  • Learn the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and educate yourself about the practices and costs behind the production of animal products. Find your own personal reasons for being vegan, there’s loads of them.
  • Learn how to optimally nourish your body on a plant-based diet.
  • Start reading ingredients lists – Learn how to tell if a product is vegan and familiarize yourself with the less obvious animal derived ingredients that show up in unsuspecting products.
  • Be on the lookout for vegan products at your local grocery store, research vegan friendly restaurants and grocery stores in your area.
  • Read, watch, learn. Seek out vegan documentaries, books, magazines, websites, blogs, forums, and people. They can offer valuable insights, support, and will help you to feel more confident in your transition.

ADD TO YOUR DIET BEFORE YOU SUBTRACT FROM IT

  • Begin incorporating more whole grain, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu into your diet. Familiarize yourself with their preparation, storage, and uses.
  • Start collecting and experimenting with vegan recipes that appeal to you.
  • Find a few different quick and easy vegan meals that you enjoy and get comfortable preparing them.
  • Switch out milk for a non-dairy alternative such as almond or soy. This is an easy switch for most people but there’s a lot of options, so experiment to find which you like best.

FIND AND REMEMBER YOUR MOTIVATION TO CHANGE

There is a huge difference between adopting a vegan lifestyle and “going on a diet”. It’s easy to be tempted into straying from diet plan or “cheating”, but it’s not the same with veganism. When you know exactly why you want to be vegan you simply don’t stray from the lifestyle. This is why it is so important to learn the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and the effect animal products have on our health, environment, and humanity. Once you’ve taken the time to open your eyes to the real effects animal products have on our lives it just sticks with you and there’s no going back on that.

KEEP A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Think of all the new and delicious foods there are to try rather than thinking about the foods you’re giving up. You may find yourself surprised at how many options there really are. Some of your favourite foods are probably vegan to begin with, there’s loads of international dishes that are suitable for vegans, it can be so easy it is to veganize your old favorite meals and recipes. Don’t worry about the changes you’re making, get excited about them!

BEGIN PLANNING YOUR TRANSITION

This is where you need to seriously think about what is going to work best for you. There are plenty of ways to go vegan you just have to find what’s best for you. Some common options:

VEGETARIAN FOLLOWED BY VEGANISM

  • Remove all meat from your diet, including fish and poultry. Take care not to increase your consumption of eggs and dairy to take the place of meat, focus on including more plant-based protein sources instead.
  • Pay attention to ingredient lists, avoid products containing gelatin, rennet, and other animal products (excluding dairy and eggs).
  • If you haven’t already, begin incorporating more whole grains, beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, and seeds into your diet.
  • Once you feel comfortable to move forward you can start phasing out dairy, eggs, and honey. Feel free to do this all at once, one food group at a time, or as slowly as you need to.

SLOW TRANSITION FROM OMNIVORE TO VEGAN

  • Remove any animal products that you won’t miss in your diet.
  • If you haven’t already, incorporate more whole grains, beans, legumes, tofu, nuts, and seeds to your diet while simultaneously cutting down on the animal products that you’ll miss the least.
  • You can gradually cut down on all animal products or remove one food/food group at a time.
  • Remove barrier foods after you feel comfortable with all of the other changes in your diet.
  • Pay attention to ingredient lists, you may find it easier to begin avoiding the less obvious animal derived ingredients one at a time. You can also choose to overlook them until you’ve removed all obvious animal products (meat, seafoods, dairy products, eggs, etc.) from your diet and you feel comfortable eating mostly plant-based foods.

GO ALL OUT VEGAN

Some people find relying on vegan alternatives and convenience foods to be very helpful in easing the transition to veganism. They’re often high in protein, fortified with lots of vitamins and minerals, quick and easy to prepare, delicious, and familiar. However, some veggie burgers, veggie dogs, vegan deli slices, etc. are highly processed. Once you begin to feel comfortable with your vegan lifestyle, the use of these products should be lessened. There’s nothing wrong with eating the products in moderation, but they shouldn’t be used as your main source of vitamins, minerals, and protein for the long-term.

Veganism is much more than a diet, it is a compassionate lifestyle. These guidelines are mostly for transitioning to a vegan diet as that tends to be the most difficult part of becoming vegan. It’s also important to learn about vegan alternatives for other products in your life, such as personal care items, clothing, shoes, and other household items.

ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING & FOOD BARRIERS TO VEGANISM

If you have the desire to become vegan but find yourself struggling with the idea of cravings or giving up a particular food, don’t worry, that’s completely normal! These are challenges, but they certainly don’t have to be barriers. Most vegans stop eating animal products for ethical reasons, not because they don’t enjoy the taste of them. It might sound silly but there’s lots of cheese-loving vegans out there!

Far too often people shrug off the idea of veganism for fear of missing a particular food, or they try veganism but end up giving it up in it’s entirety for similar reasons. This is often the result of jumping into veganism too quickly with too little preparation. That’s why it is so important to take the transition at a pace that works for you so that it’s sustainable.

There’s a couple of methods that are extremely effective at dealing with these “barrier foods”.

Learn the production practices of your barrier food

Learn the ins and outs of how the particular food is produced – this is often enough to turn you off the food for good.

Cut out all barrier foods completely and wait for the cravings to subside

Cut out all barrier foods at once. Most people find that cravings for these foods only last a few short weeks and then they subside.

Try slowly introducing vegan alternatives to some of your favourite foods. For some items in particular such as cheese and yogurt you may want to give it a few more weeks before experimenting with substitutions – many people find that the longer it’s been since they’ve  had the “real thing”, the easier it is for a vegan substitution to satisfy their craving. I found this to be very true for vegan cheese. As a new vegan, non-dairy cheeses didn’t do much for me but after a few months of having little bits here and there, the flavour of Daiya really began to grow on me. Now I find it does a great job at satisfying a cheese craving!

You’ll also have to find which products you like the most and learn how to prepare them to your liking through a little bit of trial and error.

Leave barrier foods to the end of your transition

If the idea of becoming vegan appeals to you but you feel like you’ll miss a certain food too much to commit 100% to the vegan lifestyle, then start the transition and leave that food until the end. Phase your barrier foods out in a very slow, controlled manner over a few weeks or even months. By this point, you might find that removing the food from your diet is a lot easier than you thought it would be!

If for whatever reason you feel as though you just cannot commit to a 100% vegan diet because of a barrier food, that’s okay! Don’t let that stop you from minimizing your intake of animal based products to whatever extent you can. Give up all of the animal ingredients and foods that you won’t miss, and allow yourself the occasional exception whether it’s a food, holiday meal, or favourite restaurant. I advocate following a fully vegan diet and I encourage you to strive towards that as a goal, but it’s just silly to abandon veganism in it’s entirety because you love bacon or cheese too much. Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to label yourself based on your diet, this is a sort of all-or-nothing thinking that’s simply not constructive. If allowing a little flexibility is what will help you sustain a mostly vegan lifestyle then that’s exactly what you should do! This also serves to make the vegan lifestyle a lot less daunting and more approachable to others.

HELPFUL HINTS AND REMINDERS

Every little bit counts. Whether you go vegetarian, vegan, or simply cut down your consumption of animal products, you’re taking a step in the right direction. Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to label yourself based on your diet.

Don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. Adopting a vegan lifestyle isn’t necessarily difficult, but there is a learning curve. Take your time, expect some mistakes, learn from them, and move on!

Recipe of the Week: Veggie Pizza w/ Homemade Vegan Beer Crust

Ingredients:

For the Vegan Beer Crust
  • 3/4 cup dark beer (I used a local IPA)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (1/4oz envelope)
  • 1/2 TBSP cane sugar
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt
  • 1.5 cups whole-wheat flour (plus about 4-5 TBSP for kneading and rolling)
For the Veggie Toppings
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 10oz bag of sliced (clean & washed) Cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8oz bag baby bell peppers (of mixed colors), sliced thin in rounds
  • 1 shallot, sliced thin in rounds
  • 1 green onion, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced thin in rounds (remove the rib and seeds if you do not want too spicy)
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce, marinara or other (I used Arrabiata sauce)* see note
  • 1-1.5 cups organic shredded mozzarella cheese (or any shredded cheese you like, vegan cheese too!)
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh basil, chiffonade style
For the Vegan Beer Crust
  1. Pour the beer into a sauce pan and heat over low heat for about 2 minutes. Put your finger in to test that it is warm but not hot (if the beer is too hot it will kill the yeast!). Remove from heat.
  2. In a large glass bowl, add the yeast and sugar and pour the warm beer in. Whisk well and then let sit for about 5 minutes until it is foamy and frothy.
  3. Whisk in 1 TBSP of the olive oil. Add the salt and 1.5 cups of the flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Spread a two tablespoons of flour on a clean work surface. Knead the dough with your hands adding more flour (1 TBSP at a time) if you need to (the dough should not be too sticky, it should come together and become elastic. It should bounce back when you poke it).
  4. Add the remaining TBSP of olive oil to the glass bowl you previously used and flip the bowl around so the oil coats the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the dough ball to the bowl and coat all sides of the dough in the oil. Cover the bowl with a dish towel or plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for two hours.
  5. Take the dough ball out of the glass bowl and place onto a clean work surface or parchment paper and cover with a warm, damp towel and let rise for another 20 minutes. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough for a later use.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat as well.
  7. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface into a 12″ circle. Pinch the sides so that you get a slightly raised crust edge.
For the Veggie Toppings
  1. Slice all the veggies into thin rounds. Remove the ribs and seeds from the bell peppers and jalapeño. Separate the shallot slices from each other.
  2. In a skillet, heat 1 TBSP olive oil over medium. Add the sliced Cremini mushrooms, salt and pepper, and sauté for about 3 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Place the rolled out dough onto the baking sheet or pizza stone you wish to cook the pizza on (if using a pizza stone careful not to touch as it will be hot!).
  4. Working quickly, spread a thin layer of the pizza sauce over the pizza dough, leaving room on edges so the crust is clean. Add the sautéed mushrooms on top of the sauce (use a slotted spoon here so that you don’t get any of the water that cooked out of the mushrooms). Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the sauce and mushrooms. Sprinkle the sliced shallot, green onion, bell peppers, and jalapeño over the top of the cheese in a colorful fashion. You may not use every veggie that you sliced, I didn’t. (Use any leftovers in a salad!) Bake for 20 minutes or until crust edges are golden brown. Once removed from the oven and cooled slightly, sprinkle the basil over the top. Slice into 8 slices, serve immediately and enjoy!