Vegan protein: know foods and protein supplements

According to the Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics (IBOPE), about 29% of the Brazilian population above 18 years of age declares themselves to be vegetarian or vegan, which can range from not consuming meat to not consuming and using any food or product of animal origin.

And whenever there is any food restriction, nutritional monitoring (which is essential for all people) becomes even more important, avoiding possible deficiencies or lack of any component.

This is the case with protein, which is generally associated with animal products, such as milk, eggs and meat. But the plant world also has its protein sources.


What is vegan protein?

When talking about proteins , they are usually associated with foods of animal origin, such as meat, milk and eggs. However, they are also present in the plant kingdom properly – so, vegan proteins are those obtained from vegetables, legumes, oilseeds or cereals.

According to the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), which provides parameters for good nutrition, the ideal percentage of consumption is between 10% and 15% of the total caloric volume, reaching 20%.

That is, considering the total sum of calories ingested, between 10% and 20% must be from protein sources.

The BLS also points out that the idea that plant protein is incomplete is false, and, in fact, each food has higher concentrations of certain amino acids and lower than others.

Remembering that chained amino acids form a protein, it is simpler to understand that it is enough to have a varied diet to get good amounts of all of them and, therefore, a good protein intake.

According to the Brazilian Vegetarian Society (SBV) and other studies, vegetable protein has a lower digestibility than animal protein for most foods, which indicates the amount of proteins from the food that can be digested.

However, study methodologies have assessed that the action of gut bacteria on plant fibers may make it appear that plant proteins have been less absorbed.

In addition to those naturally present in food, there are vegan supplements, which are products rich in protein, but with a vegetable base. In general, they are produced with vegetable blends, such as soy, rice and peas. This optimizes the protein rate, as soon as it has an appropriate combination of amino acids.

Read more: Spirulina: what it is for, benefits and harms and how to use

Which protein-rich vegan foods?

According to the BLS, among the foods rich in protein and that should be part of the vegetarian diet are:

  • Whole grain cereals: oats, brown rice, rye, quinoa, wheat, barley;
  • Refined cereals: rice, rice flour, corn starch, wheat flour, pasta;
  • Legumes: black, white, red beans; lentils, broken green peas, chickpeas;
  • Oilseeds: almonds, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, dry coconut, toasted sesame, flaxseed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, watermelon seed, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, macadamia nuts;
  • Fruits (vegetables): eggplant, onion, pumpkin, zucchini, chayote, tomato, cucumber;
  • Sweet fruits: pineapple, avocado, plum, banana, persimmon, carambola, fig, guava, jackfruit, kiwi, orange, apple, papaya, mango, watermelon, melon, strawberry, pear, peach, tangerine, white and red grape.

Read more: Kiwi: what it is, how to use and nutritional properties

What is vegan protein powder (supplement) for?

Vegan protein powder is a dietary supplement suitable for people who need to supplement their diet. This is necessary when it is not possible to meet nutritional needs only through a balanced diet.

In general, vegetarian and vegan people are able to ingest the indicated amounts of protein only with a balanced menu. However, some conditions of malabsorption (such as health problems), or difficulties in maintaining an adequate intake can cause professionals to recommend the supplement.

The supplement can also be used for those looking to gain muscle mass (hypertrophy) and need larger amounts of the nutrient. Thus, it can be indicated in conjunction with weight training or the practice of muscle strengthening activities.

What supplements should a vegan take?

With a good diet, you don’t necessarily need to make use of dietary supplements. However, medical and nutritional monitoring is important to assess whether any nutrients are missing from the body.

According to SBV, the nutrient that deserves the most attention is vitamin B12. In general, pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children should use the supplement, due to the greater need in these phases. Those who do the vegan diet (without meat, eggs and milk), can use it preventively.

However, before investing in any supplement, the ideal is to consult specialists to adjust a balanced menu, which has adequate amounts of:

  • Vitamin B12: present mainly in fortified foods;
  • Calcium: found in fortified vegetable milks, kale, arugula, okra and broccoli;
  • Proteins: present in legumes in general, tofu, vegetable milks, quinoa, sesame, soy;
  • Omega 3: present in flaxseed and chia, for example;
  • Iron: present in legumes, cereals, nuts and dark green vegetables;

All of these nutrients can be found in supplements if you need to use them.

Read more: What is Quinoa for?

What is the best vegan protein?

The best vegan protein will depend on the needs of each person. In general, when there is no difficulty or problem with absorption and a good diet, nutrients can be acquired only through the diet.

However, if there is a need and medical or nutritional guidance, specialists will recommend the most appropriate supplement. Supplements, in general, are composed of blends, which means that it is able to offer an appropriate combination of amino acids.

How to consume vegan protein?

If protein is ingested through food, the ideal is to keep an eye on the choice of foods and balance them appropriately, so that it is possible to supply the needs.

This does not mean that you need to eat all the amino acids at every meal, but rather that throughout the day they need to be ingested in adequate amounts.

For those who are going to consume the vegan protein in supplement, the ideal is always to consult the indication of use on the packaging and the amount according to medical or nutritional guidance.

In general, the amount of scoops indicated on the package should be mixed with 200mL of water or another vegetable drink, shaking well and ingesting afterwards.

It can be consumed at times between meals, like mid-afternoon or before bedtime, or with them, as at lunch.

Vegetable milks: know the options to include in the diet

Price and where to buy

Vegan proteins can be found in physical and online pharmacies, as well as in markets, supplement stores, health food stores or houses specializing in vegan products.

Among the options and the average price are:

  • Nutrify Veganpro Protein Powder 30g: R $ 16;
  • Nutrify Veganpro Protein Powder 30g sachet : R $ 16;
  • Shake Proteico +Mu Muke proteína vegetal 22g: R$7;
  • Proteína Atlhetica Best Vegan Protein 500g: R$140;
  • Nutrify Veganpro Protein Powder 550g: R $ 160.

* Prices consulted in July 2020. Prices may change.

Contraindications: is vegan protein harmful?

In general, vegan protein itself has no contraindications because it is vegan. Attention is to allergies to its components or protein food.

Before taking any supplements, pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with any chronic illness or who are undergoing any type of medical follow-up should consult with specialists beforehand.

What also deserves care is in relation to the use of supplements or excessive consumption of proteins in general. Which means that supplementing without nutritional need can lead to excessive protein intake, overloading the kidney and leading to weight gain, for example.

Vegan protein supplement makes you fat?

The protein supplement does not put on weight as long as it is consumed properly and under nutritional supervision. What can occur is the unnecessary consumption of the nutrient, increasing caloric intake, which triggers weight gain.

Another factor that may be involved is that the protein participates in building lean mass . Therefore, when supplementing and practicing hypertrophy exercises, muscle gain is facilitated, increasing body volume.

Vegan protein is one of the most common topics and surrounded by doubts among those who choose the diet. However, it is possible to have a balanced diet, so that protein needs are met.

When it is not possible to do this just by eating food, vegan supplements can help, as long as there is medical or nutritional guidance.

Want to know more tips for having a balanced diet? The Healthy Minute helps you!