If you’ve made the choice to go vegan, there’s a strong chance that you’ll have a few questions whilst establishing your new healthy eating lifestyle. One of these questions will undoubtedly be how to take in enough of the right nutrients to support your body’s functions.
There are several elements required in our diets, with protein being one of particular concern to vegans. Many non-vegetarians get much of their protein from meat and dairy sources, so vegans need to consider how to support their health whilst sticking to their principles.
Fortunately there are plenty of protein alternatives for vegans and vegetarians and vegans alike, with legumes, nuts and soy products a few that come to mind. However, if recent research is to be believed, not all vegan-friendly proteins are created equal. Here’s a look at which one is taking the spotlight.
Also known as the building blocks of life, the cells in our body are constructed of protein. We require this essential amino acid to support the repair and production of our body’s cells and tissue. Part of a balanced diet, proteins are abundant in the foundation layers of Nutrition Australia’s Health Eating Pyramid.
“People who choose not to eat meat, poultry and fish can still enjoy plenty of other foods in the ‘lean meat and alternatives’ food group, especially tofu, eggs and legumes, which are high in protein,” says Nutrition Australia.
“Legumes and beans can be an especially important part of a vegetarian or vegan diet to provide protein from non-animal sources.”
Finding alternatives for vegans
That alternate protein sources are readily available for those following a vegan diet is a fact endorsed by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), which states that vegans do not need to rely on animal products for their recommended protein intake.
“Vegetarians are able to get enough essential amino by eating a variety of plant proteins,” says the NLM.
The University of Wisconsin (UW) notes that our daily recommended protein intake depends on our gender, age and also our physical activity.
“Generally 10-35 per cent of your daily calories should come from protein,” says the the UW. “When you sit down to a meal, about one quarter of your plate should be a source of protein.”
In addition to being more environmentally conscious, the UW estimates that sourcing your protein from non-animal sources could also be more cost-efficient.
Algae takes the cake as a protein alternative
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has recently released a list of alternative proteins that top the charts for vegans. Algae was the star performer, alongside quinoa and legumes.
“Algae, quinoa and pulses are considered by some food technologists to be the best protein sources and strong alternatives to slow meat consumption, reduce food waste and help feed the world’s growing population,” reports the IFT.
Beata Klamczynska, from biotechnology company Solazyme, told the IFT that as a vegan-friendly protein source, algae also has a carbon footprint on par with other protein alternatives such as soy and rice products.
“Are consumers ready for algae as an ingredient? Yes, they are ready and excited about algae,” said Ms Klamczynska. “The more they learn, the more excited they get. Just a little education eliminates any doubts.”
Ms Klamczynska informed the IFT that algae is easily digested with a primarily protein-based make up (63 per cent), also including a good helping of fibre and lipids.
“There are thousands of algae strains to choose from for a variety of products,” said Ms Klamczynska.
Here at Uira, we recognise algae as a sustainable alternative to fish oil in creating an omega 3 supplement. If you’re interested in joining us on our journey towards ethical, environmentally friendly supplements to support a vegan diet, get in touch today to learn more.