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Can A Vegan Diet Provide Enough Protein?

Vegetables do contain protein, but is it enough if you choose not to eat meat? 

Nashville, Ark. – People who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet may be concerned about getting enough protein through the foods they eat. Vegetables do contain protein, but is it enough if you choose not to eat meat?

            So what does a vegan and vegetarian diet look like? A vegan is a person who does not consume or use animal products, including: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, dairy, cheese, honey, and eggs. According to the American Society of Nutrition, a vegan diet has become increasingly more trendy and popular in the last decade. According to the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, about 1.4 percent of Americans consume a vegan diet.

            Vegetarianism includes a variety of eating patterns that rely heavily on plant foods, while avoiding meat. It differs from the vegan diet, in that vegetarians may limit animal products, but do not exclude them totally. They may consume milk, dairy products, cheese, and eggs. About 46% of the population consider themselves to be vegetarian.

            Because of the variability in vegetarian diets, it is important for individuals to become familiar with their individual nutritional needs and potential dietary deficiencies. It is recommended that anyone considering either diet plan should consult their family physician to discuss the pros and cons of the diet. It is important for the individual to make sure they are not lacking in vital nutrients, especially protein.

            Protein is super important in the diet. Protein is needed in all parts of our body, especially for maintaining and building strong muscles. It is found in bone, skin, hair, organs and enzymes. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a vegetarian or vegan diet can meet the nutritional standards for protein, if a variety of plant foods that contain protein are included.

            Good sources of plant protein include soy foods, grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes. In fact, when calorie intake is adequate, vegetarian and vegan diets typically meet or exceed recommended protein levels.

            According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a plant-based diet has additional benefits of a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension some types of cancer, and obesity - all good reasons to include lots of vegetables in any diet. Does this mean you should change to a vegan or vegetarian diet? Again, this is an issue you will need to visit with your doctor about.

            Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and for optimum health we need adequate amounts of 20 different amino acids. Our bodies make some amino acids, but some amino acids must come from the foods we consume. Animal proteins include all the essential amino acids we need. Plant foods are low in one or two of the essential amino acids. If we don’t consistently consume all the essential amino acids our body needs, our physical and mental health suffers. Consuming a variety of plant sources of protein as well as vegetables ensures that if one food is low in a particular amino acid, another type of food will make up the deficit.

            The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein necessary for good health is approximately 62 grams of protein per day. The exact amounts depend upon your weight and sex. Men need more protein than women. If you choose a vegan or vegetarian diet, you will need to increase the amount of protein you consume.

            There are many websites and recipes available for you to check out. There is so much misinformation available on the web. Make sure you are looking at a reliable source. Any of the sources mentioned in this article are good websites. Plus you might check out a couple of Extension websites; extension.colostate.edu, canr.msu.edu or call the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 and ask for more information regarding the vegan or vegetarian diet.

            Finally, some people may benefit from a vegan or vegetarian diet; however, most everyone will benefit from including more vegetables and fruits in their current diet. For a well-balanced diet, check out the website choosemyplate.gov which includes all foods.

Recipe of the Week

            Here is the winning entry in the Arkansas Peach Cobbler contest that was held at the Nashville City Park in May. Congratulations to Nelda Barton! I have personally enjoyed this recipe all my life. It is delicious and a great way to enjoy fresh Arkansas peaches which should be ready soon!

Peach Cobbler

Filling:

2 quarts sliced fresh peaches

1 quart water

½ cup lemon juice

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 stick butter

            In a medium bowl, mix water with lemon juice. Peel and slice peaches and dip in water lemon juice mixture to prevent them from turning dark. Drain off and discard water. Add 1 1/3 cups sugar. Mix well with peaches. Transfer sugared peaches to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Dot with 1 stick butter. Set aside.

*Crust:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup shortening

1/3 cup cold water

            Preheat oven to 400⁰F. Sift flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until texture resembles coarse corn meal. Add water a tablespoon at a time until the dough can be handled and formed into a ball. Divide ball into 2 parts. Flour a smooth counter surface. Roll out 1 ball to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into 1-inch strips and layer on top of peaches. Push dough strips down into peaches. Roll out remaining dough to ¼-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch strips. Lattice top of cobbler. Bake at 400⁰F for 1 hour or until crust is golden brown.

*Note: This is a basic double layer pie crust recipe that can be used for any homemade pie! Super flaky and tender!

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517
jince@uaex.edu

 

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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