Are vegans deficient in protein?

Vegans are protein deficient

A contribution by Carsten

I like to say it up front: with a vegan diet, you will cover your protein needs completely adequately and without any problems.

Protein (aka protein) is the building block of life and consequently everything that lives contains protein. So also plants.

But the value !?

Animal protein has a higher biological value, but basically no statement is made with regard to a plant-based, i.e. vegan, diet. The biological value indicates how well a protein can be used by the human body. The more essential amino acids there are in the protein, the higher the value.

Plant foods sometimes have a less favorable amino acid profile than animal products. This is due to the fact that one or more essential amino acids are only contained in very small amounts in the plant foods under consideration, or hardly occur at all.

So a defect after all!

Sounds like a “defect”, but in practice it isn't. Combining different foods increases their biological value. In other words, as soon as you have more than just one plant-based food in the meal, the amino acid profiles complement each other and thus increase the biological value. Combining is also part of everyday life. Raw foodists who consciously rely on mono meals, once excluded.

So if you make yourself a slice of bread with a lentil spread for breakfast or dinner and a few slices of cucumber or tomato, you already have an excellent combination of plant-based foods in front of you. And indirectly I have already given you a very handy and simple formula for the healthy combination of foods:

A grain, a green and a bean.

This simple formula was popularized by Matt Frazier, the "No Meat Athlete". In German-speaking countries, Katrin and Daniel von bevegt have created many great recipes based on this formula and published them on their blog and their excellent ebook. But even without instructions, you can combine your own dishes based on the formula, which then automatically provide ideal nutrient profiles.

“A grain” means grain, but also pseudo-grain (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat). The "green" can be translated very freely as a vegetable, so it does not necessarily have to be a green vegetable. And “bean” includes all legumes: beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy, lupins, etc.

So, you see, getting your protein through plant-based foods is pretty easy.

Does every meal have to be of high quality now?

No. Even if it is said from time to time that you should take all essential amino acids within 24 hours, I consider such a statement more as a recommendation than a law. On the one hand, our body has a depot of freely available amino acids. Quasi our own internal warehouse. If there is a need for an amino acid that was not supplied with the current meal, our metabolism uses this depot. In adults, the depot can sometimes be up to 90 g in size.

Plus, you won't die or get sick just because you haven't ingested amino acids for a few hours. In this context I am thinking of therapeutic fasting, for example, which clearly shows that it is sometimes possible to go without food for several days. And can even be healthy.

High value = healthy (?)

Finally, I have to make it clear that the biological value mentioned above does not represent a health statement. A food with a high biological value does not necessarily have to be healthy. The health aspect of a food arises from a multitude of factors: vitamin content, content of minerals and trace elements, whether it contains secondary plant substances, whether the food has sufficient fiber, how natural or heavily processed it is, etc.

A highly concentrated protein powder can therefore have outstanding biological value and still fall into the “unhealthy” category.

Quite simply, high-quality plant-based foods

A little personal tip at the end: sprouts and seedlings. These are real nutrient bombs and the germination process also optimizes the amino acid ratio. For example, I regularly end up on my plate: lentil sprouts, lupine sprouts, fenugreek sprouts, alfalfa, red clover sprouts, mung bean sprouts, chickpea sprouts….