Today’s solocast topic is: Getting Enough Protein on a Plant-Based Diet
Beauties, I get this question all the time: can you get enough protein if you’re on a plant-based diet?
I’m excited to be discussing this question on this episode, and addressing a lot of the confusion around vegan and vegetarian diets, as well as explaining why we don’t need to be consuming high-protein diets.
A lot of people avoid going plant-based because they’re nervous about getting enough protein! I’m going to share with you my favorite protein sources, show you eye-opening research on the topic, and explain why a plant-based diet is effective in providing you with (more than) enough protein.
Topics Covered In Getting Enough Protein on a Plant-Based Diet
#1. How much protein we actually need and misconceptions around protein
#2. Our recommended protein intake
#3. Risks of a high-protein diet
#4. If we can get enough protein on a plant-based diet
#5. My favorite plant-based protein sources
#6. Some recommended resources for learning more on the topic
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Additional Research Resources:
- Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI)
- Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids?
- Low carbohydrate-high protein diet and incidence of cardiovascular diseases in Swedish women: prospective cohort study
- Dairy Intake and Acne Vulgaris: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of 78,529 Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults
- Nutrition Concerns and Health Effects of Vegetarian Diets
- Protein and vegetarian diets
- More plant protein tied to longer life
- Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in a Japanese Cohort
Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Hey Beauties, welcome back to our Monday solocast episode where our topic today is Getting Protein on a Plant-Based Diet. I am very, very passionate about this topic because I have gotten this question probably thousands of times over the past decade or so, and I think that it is a legitimate question because we are so used to hearing about needing protein from animal sources in the mainstream media.
I just want to say right off the bat that you do not need to eat meat to get enough protein. As you’ll see in our show today, it is very, very easy, and not only that, but there’s so much more to health and wellness beyond protein. So when you eat more plant-based foods, not only are you getting enough protein, but you’re getting fiber, which only comes from plant-based foods. You’re getting a ton of micronutrients and phytonutrients that work together synergistically, like antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.
I also want to say that I have been vegan and plant-based now for over a decade. I am seven and a half months pregnant now. I feel great except for an aching back, which I think is pretty normal for most people that are pregnant, but I was pregnant my first pregnancy with Bubby.
Bubby is fully vegan, plant-based. He’s never had meat or dairy and he is exceptionally healthy. He has never been to the doctor except for mandatory check-ups. Whatever phase you are in life, this is a lifestyle that can be accommodated for your needs. It’s a very powerful way to live.
The first reason I became plant-based was when I went to India on my around the world trip and I started learning about working with energy on a deeper level and yoga and meditation. And I was learning about why the yogis were so adamant about being vegetarian, having to do with energy transfer and not putting decaying matter in your body, which can weigh down your meditations.
That’s actually the beginning of my journey with this. And then of course I got into it for health reasons and my skin reasons and my skin started clearing up, and then the environmental reasons, or once I became very passionate about really helping to lessen our load on the environment. So I’m obviously really passionate about this topic. There’s a lot I have to say about it.
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Our recommended protein intake
Let’s get into it. I’m obviously very passionate about this topic. Again, I think it’s something that there’s a lot of misconceptions around, a lot of fear around, so I just want to clear it up. Now, first of all, how much protein do we really need? And this is something there’s all sorts of charts out there. I even included a chart in the Radical Beauty book that I wrote with Deepak Chopra. But let’s just talk about the numbers, okay? This is by the National Institute of Health. The recommended daily allowance for the average person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is about 46 grams of protein for the average woman.
For the average man, it ends up being about 52 to 56 grams of protein. Now, if we want to if we’re pregnant, then we need about 70 grams of protein. And even athletes or those that lead a very active lifestyle according to the International Journal of Sports Nutrition, even endurance athletes need about 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, this is a lot lower than the amounts that we’ve heard from like the 80s or in the past with bodybuilders that just had egg whites all day and chicken breast and tuna and were trying to get over a hundred grams of protein every day.
How much protein we actually need and misconceptions around protein
What we find is that if we’re eating too much protein, as I mentioned earlier, we can have something called protox, which is basically loading up on toxins from having too much protein. There is so much protein oxidation.
When animal protein is cooked and charred, it goes through oxidative stress, and this, in turn, changes the physical and chemical properties of the animal protein. It’s going from a pink piece of chicken to white or brown, and this really does cause a lot of negative side effects on your body. It is just a charred, potentially carcinogenic mess that is very difficult to digest and very much does weigh down your body.
Now there’s a lot of other research out there about having higher levels of meat and protein being correlated with lower levels of longevity and also higher rates of cardiovascular disease, heart conditions, so on and so forth. I mean we could take up the whole podcast and talk about this aspect of it, but I just want to imprint the overall idea that too much protein is a problem.
So this idea that, when in doubt I’ll just eat more protein and I can’t overdo the protein, that’s not really true. It really is a balance where again, if we could get around 46 grams of protein for the average woman, say 56 grams for the average man, you’re doing really good. And remember that these recommendations tend to have a cushion already built in.
Risks of a high-protein diet
We have an internal recycling program where we actually recycle amino acids and protein, and utilize them in our bodies. So we know that too much meat, too much dairy weighs down our system, congests us, is a huge digestive burden. And I also want to point out this study from 2018 where researchers found that in 80,000 young adults, dairy consumption contributed to a higher risk of acne.
I bring this up because our skin is an eliminative organ and our skin usually does really reflect our overall health and wellbeing. And if our skin is getting congested and clogged from a particular food, there’s good reason to believe that that food is clogging internally in the body, and instead of elevating our vitality and our circulation and helping us feel great, it may be in fact doing the opposite and weighing us down.
If we can get enough protein on a plant-based diet
There’s so much amazing research now about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet. I’m going to be linking to this in the show notes, so if you’re interested in taking a deeper dive or really you love to read the research, you love to know about different studies.
I’ll say that there’s one from a Dr. Winston Craig from Andrews University who’s done extensive research on vegan and vegetarianism and found that they more than easily meet all recommended nutrition requirements. Medical Journal of Australia published research proving that plant-based diets can easily meet protein requirements.
This is research of plant-based protein tied to a longer life. Researchers with over 71,000 Japanese adults found, that were studied for an average of two decades at a time, found that they were getting more than enough protein.
Another great resource for you guys just came to mind is … Oh sorry. One more study I want to mention from JAMA Internal Medicine, found that those who replaced red meat with plant-based sources had a significantly lower risk of death, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as I was mentioning earlier.
Some recommended resources for learning more on the topic
I really love the work of what’s going on right now with documentaries, and particularly Game Changers. I was at a birthday party last weekend and I actually met James Wilkes, who is someone that is the main person narrating the documentary and moving it along. And he is so wonderful at showing, and the film is so wonderful at showing, performance athletes and recovery and really big guys, even bodybuilders that are performing, and champions and NFL players and just all across the sports world, we know that plant-based is a really growing trend.
And all these weightlifters, gorgeous, amazing bodybuilders are becoming plant-based because again, they are getting more than enough protein, but there’s faster recovery time and there’s less stress on the body. And the body tends to recover faster and not age as quickly, for us women especially who may not be bodybuilders and NFL players, but we are interested in skin health and are parents, which I think most all of us are.
It’s not the end all be all, but we do care and there’s nothing wrong with that. And not aging as quickly and preserving our vitality, when something weighs down our system so much, like eating a very heavy animal protein diet, we will definitely tend to age faster. So I think films like The Game Changers is definitely worth watching. It’s about an hour and a half or so. It’s on Netflix. I can’t encourage you enough to watch it with you and your family.
I’ve also had the good fortune of having Brendan Brazier on here, who is a former professional Ironman triathlete who’s written books about being a vegan athlete, and I will link to his podcast, my podcast interview with him in the show notes. I definitely encourage you to go back and listen to that.
And also my podcast with Dan Buettner. Dan Buettner is so wonderful because he isn’t tied to vegetarianism or veganism for a vested interest. He’s not an environmentalist, he’s not an animal rights person. He’s really a sociologist and a National Geographic explorer.
He is interested in what is moving humanity forward, and he’s who found the blue zones, which are five different pockets around the world where people have the longest rates of longevity, the highest rates of centenarians and the lowest levels of neurocognitive disorders and other conditions. And across the board he found that these five areas were 90% to 100% plant-based.
Lots of evidence scientifically, lots of evidence from a cultural standpoint, examining real life societies and cultures, these long lived people are all healthy and mostly plant-based. And again from a performance and recovery standpoint, we’re seeing that plant-based is one of the top trends in athleticism today and across all these different sports.
My favorite plant-based protein sources
Now I want to talk now practically about great plant-based sources, and these are ones that I am personally eating a lot of myself, especially now that I’m pregnant and I am bumping up my protein even more. And I want to emphasize how easy it is to eat and get enough protein on a plant-based diet. I don’t feel like it’s this arduous struggle, that it’s so hard, that I’m really going out of my way.
I’m really just having an extra Power Protein Smoothie, which is pretty easy to do. I blend it in under five minutes. Probably going to have one in the next few minutes as I go pick up Bubby from school. In my car, I like to have it a lot. It’s easy to drink and get in another 20, 22, 25 grams of protein just from that, depending on how much protein powder I put in.
Remember, dark leafy greens are a great source of amino acids, so protein doesn’t have to be super concentrated. You don’t have to think you have to get it from chicken or fish. A kale salad is a wonderful source of easily digested protein that will go into your body and nourish your body and not weigh it down.
Also, lentils are a really great source of protein. There’s like 18 grams per cup. Whole gluten-free grains like millet and quinoa, which are really like super seeds, have a ton. If you don’t have a soy allergy, you can try some organic tempeh or even tofu. Work it into your flow.
Seeds and nuts, which also have filling protein and fat. Portobello mushrooms are really fantastic as well. They have that nice meaty texture so to speak, so they feel like you’re having a steak almost and they’re great for barbecues coming into summer. Anytime you want to grill something, you can work in some portobello mushrooms. Sprouted hummus is something I eat all the time in my wraps.
And again, I want to mention some of these salads and these recipes that we have in our beauty detox Solluna community, like the Dharma’s Kale Salad, combine kale with nutritional yeast, which is really, really dense in protein, and hemp seeds. And so as a meal synergistically it works together to be really, really dense and really super filling.
And again, if you are looking to bump up your protein, I definitely recommend just adding in an extra Power Protein Smoothie a day. One a day is generally what I recommend. What I have is a scoop and a half. So instead of having two separate protein smoothies, I just have a little bit more density in mine. It’s upwards of 25 grams or so of plant-based protein that is easily digested and absorbed and assimilated.
Now remember that, I want to leave you with this, that came from the Beauty Detox Solution. This is something that researchers have been saying for decades, but if you are getting enough calories, it’s almost impossible to have less than 9% protein from a whole foods based diet. So, you don’t have to try too hard. If you’re not eating junk food, you’re not eating refined sugar all day, you’re not eating crap all day.
Just stick to whole foods. Like I said, all these different foods, some of them are very inexpensive, like lentils and quinoa, tempeh, kale salad. Just vary it up and you are going to really nourish your body. Your body’s going to get enough high quality protein and you don’t have to stress about it. You don’t have to worry and obsess. Please don’t fall into that fear-based thinking that’s out there so much in our culture because a lot of it’s based on misinformation.
Now I’ll say that I have meal plans in my books, especially Radical Beauty, you’ll see in that chart I was talking about in the back, it’s in pillar five, where it’s really easy to get more than 46 grams of the recommended protein per day. We have programs like our 30 day roadmap for healthy weight loss where you’re getting lots of protein.
If you’re looking for some guidance, something a little bit more structured, I encourage you to check those out. And I just want to say that I can’t encourage you enough to watch The Game Changers and listen to my podcast with Brendan Brazier and Dan Buettner. For more information on this topic, which I think can be super, super helpful. And I just want you to feel comfortable.
I want you to know that by eating a more plant-based diet or full plant-based diet, as I’ve been doing now for over a decade, you’re going to get more nutrition, more antioxidants, more phytonutrients that work synergistically in your body, vitamins and minerals. There’s so much more to health and wellbeing than just protein.
And at the same time you’re going to get enough protein, and at the same time you’re going to get a lot of fiber, which cleanses your system and also feeds the short chain fatty acids in your gut. And at the same time you’re not going to be weighing down your body with excessive heaviness, which comes from animal protein.
There’s so many reasons to trade animal protein for plant-based protein and we didn’t even get into the environmental reasons. It’s a wonderful choice for the environment. We know that deforestation and all these gas emissions are largely contributed from animal agriculture.
When someone eats organic grass-fed pasture raised cattle, with our growing population and how much people eat, that means that forests have to be plowed down to make room for them to graze in the land, and it’s so much more efficient and better for the environment if someone was to eat a lentil or a bean-based meal instead of choosing that organic pasture raised cattle.
Lots and lots to think about. Checkout all the different resources, check out the studies in these show notes. Thank you so much, Beauty, for being part of our community and tuning in. I send you so much love. I am so grateful for you and our community.
Remember you can always go to mysolluna.com/askKimberly, and submit any questions that you may have for our Thursday Q and A podcast. I will see you back here in a few days. Until then, remember we have lots of recipes, plant-based recipes, resources over at mysolluna.com. We are on social, which is @_KimberlySnyder for daily inspiration. Sending you so much love, Beauty, and I will see you back here very soon.