in depth


Where's the Protein

Bountiful Vegan Diet

Veganism is a word that often scares people and why wouldn't it? Most people think a vegan diet is bland, lacking flavor, variety and, most importantly, protein! But these thoughts couldn't be further from the truth. Being a vegetarian for many years, and a vegan off and on, my diet consists of a multitude of foods, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. So you ask, where do I get my protein?

Whole grains, especially quinoa, amaranth and millet are perfect proteins as well as containing loads of vitamins and minerals. They are a nutrient-dense food and easy to digest. Secondly, vegetables with their high amino acid content are a great source of protein. Protein is comprised of amino acids and when you ingest amino acids, they turn to protein in the body. Legumes, nuts and seeds are all sources of high levels of protein.

Although it is true that we need protein to survive, Americans especially have taken protein to an unhealthy level. We are eating above and beyond what our bodies need to survive, grow and heal, which can lead to an acidic environment, arthritis, digestive problems and a whole slew of other ailments. Studies have shown that plant protein allows for the slow-yet-steady synthesis of new proteins in the body, which is the healthiest way to acquire protein.

So how can you transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet? It does take some planning and a level of commitment, but it's worth it. You will feel healthier, look better and possibly live longer. Remember your body is like a bank account and you are making an investment in your health. So give it a try, give up meat maybe once or twice a week, and “cash in” on the vast bounty of vegan and vegetarian choices.

Melissa Costello
Healthy Food Chef, Founder of Karma Chow, Author of The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook: 125+ Delectable Plant-Based Vegan Recipes for a Fit, Happy, Healthy You  
Yogamint Food & Flow Chef
Yogamint videos on Healthy Eating

Gluten-Free, Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs Gluten-Free, Vegan Spaghetti and Meatballs (107 KB)

Recommended Read: The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide To A Healthy Vegetarian Diet by Vesanto Melina & Brenda Davis and The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell


Karen commented on 06-Apr-2011 12:19 AM4 out of 5 stars

Thank you for such a positive article on veganism. It's so lovely to see :) Yes, it requires planning and commitment AT FIRST - just like changing any set of habits, especially when there isn't a great deal of social support. It does become second nature,
though. I've been vegetarian for 23 years, and vegan for nearly 15, and it is just the way things are in our household. It took me about 2-3 months for my palate to change, to stop craving cheese; about 6 months to get comfortable cooking with new ingredients;
about a year to feel like my household was set up to support me, my family and friends knew it wasn't a phase, and I was not intimidated by at all by going out and asking for dairy-free vegetarian food. Everyone's timelines for change are different - just
know that there will be a series of internal shifts. I'd add a couple of books to the list of essential reading: Plant Based Nutrition & Health by Stephen Walsh (Science Coordinator of the International Vegetarian Union) - lots of hard data on human nutrition,
with an easy to read summary at the end of each chapter. Great book. The Animal-Free Shopper by the Vegan Society [UK], Animal Ingredients A-Z by the EG Smith Collective [US], or your country's equivalent: Having a small book or leaflet you can take shopping
with you is incredibly handy. You will become an expert label reader, and these books are brilliant for checking up on the ingredients you don't recognise or aren't sure of. There are also loads and loads of vegan websites around these days - you can get all
sorts of recipes from all over the world. The two really reliable sources of information on nutrition I know of are British (The Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation, and The Vegan Society), though there are plenty of national organisations around that provide solid
information - do check claims and counter claims about nutrition against reliable sources :) Most of all - enjoy!

Anonymous commented on 06-Apr-2011 09:47 AM3 out of 5 stars

What do you recommend as a substitute for Worcestershire sauce (since it is not vegan, or vegetarian, for that matter)? I don't eat anchovies.

Melissa Costello commented on 06-Apr-2011 10:50 AM3 out of 5 stars

Karen, thank you for all that amazing information!!!! You are an inspiration!

Melissa Costello commented on 06-Apr-2011 10:51 AM3 out of 5 stars

You can buy vegan worcestershire sauce at Whole Foods or other health food stores.

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