Everybody will ask a vegan where they get their protein. But even vegans ask raw foodists where they get THEIR protein.
At first glance, eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds might appear to be a “protein deficient” diet. Upon further investigations, it couldn’t be further from the truth (well, mostly).
How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
A quick and easy way to calculate your protein needs is to do some simple math.
Step 1: Calculate Your Ideal Body Weight
For men, use this formula: 106 pounds for 60 inches of height (5 feet) and add 6 pounds for every inch over 60.
For women, use this formula: 100 pounds for 60 inches of height and add 5 pounds for every inch over 60. For example, I am 5′3″ or 63 inches tall, so my ideal body weight is 115 pounds (52 kilograms).
Step 2: Calculate Your Protein Requirements By Using Your Ideal Body Weight
Using the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, my daily protein goal should be 41.6 grams.
If you are very active or athletic, your protein needs may be higher.
Sources of Protein on a Raw Food Diet
Every food we eat has protein. This includes all fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. Not only that, but it is easy to make protein-rich, raw vegan foods that will meet or exceed protein recommendations set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Here are some excellent sources of protein for raw vegans:
Did you know that fruit has protein? It does! Many fruits contain between 4-8% protein and as a significant part of your diet, they provide a significant amount of complete protein. That’s right, fruit is a complete protein with all 8 essential amino acids! On an average day, I’ll get anywhere from 18-22 grams of protein from fruit, which provides almost half of my daily protein requirements.
Non-sweet fruit like tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers also have protein.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are a good source of protein. Two cups of kale has 4 grams while dandelion will have 3 grams. A head of leaf lettuce will provide about 5 grams. Basically, two large bunches of dark leafy greens each day will supply anywhere from 14-20 grams of protein. I eat most of my greens in green smoothies or shredded up in salads.
Vegetables are a good source of complete protein on a low fat, raw vegan diet. You can’t meet your daily protein requirements with just vegetables, but along with fruit, leafy greens and a small amount of nuts and seeds, vegetables like carrots and celery help supply enough protein to meet your needs.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with protein. Just once ounce of cashews provides 5 grams while the same amount of chia seeds add 4.4 grams. One-fourth cup of sunflower seeds provide 7.3 grams and a tablespoon of ground flax seed in your smoothie adds almost 2 grams.
I prefer to get most of my protein from greens, fruit and vegetables when doing a raw vegan diet, and I don’t go overboard on fats from nuts, seeds and avocados.
Other Raw Vegan Protein Sources
– Mushrooms (crimini, shiitaki, portobella)
– Sprouted Beans (mung beans, chick peas/garbanzo, etc…)
– Sprouted Lentils
– Sprouted grains (quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice)
– Spirulina (blue-green algae)
Protein powders are great when you are transitioning to a vegan diet or getting started with raw foods to ease your mind about getting enough protein while you figure out how to get enough from food. A protein supplement did help ease my mind about getting enough protein and the full range of essential amino acids every day.
If you choose to use a protein powder, your best raw option is hemp protein or sprouted protein like Epic Protein by Sprout Living. It’s an organic, raw, vegan, gluten-free, sprouted protein that has up to 23 grams of protein per serving. I have used this protein a lot in my smoothies and it doesn’t have a chalky texture like a lot of other proteins have. It comes in different flavors, but I prefer the original as it contains the most amount of protein per serving.
Complete vs Incomplete Protein
Many people think plant-based protein is incomplete and translate that into meaning “low quality” or “inferior”. The truth is that different types of plant proteins have different amino acid profiles. For example, while sprouted legumes might have higher levels of some amino acids and lower levels of others, a green smoothie with protein-rich leafy greens and fruit has a complementary amino acid profile that helps fulfill my overall requirement and provides all the essential amino acids and protein I need for the day.
Nutritionists now agree that it is no longer necessary to “combine proteins” in the same meal (ie: eating rice with beans) provided you eat a combination of different plant protein sources throughout the day.
The easiest way to ensure that you are getting complete protein from plant sources is to meet your calorie requirements with a varied diet consisting of fruits and vegetables (especially dark leafy greens) and small amounts of nuts, seeds and sprouted foods.
So, Raw Vegans Don’t Have To Worry About Protein At All?
Well, not quite.
While it is easy to meet established protein intake guidelines, even on a low fat, raw vegan diet (such as the 80/10/10), there are two essential amino acids that can be problematic.
Any raw vegan who consumes less than 2000 calories per day should track their intake of the amino acids lysine and methionine. These two amino acids are found in low amounts in all plant-sourced foods. It is possible to meet protein intake guidelines (grams of protein per day), but still fall short of these two amino acids.
Use a website or app (I recommend Cron-o-Meter) to ensure that you are meeting not only your basic protein requirements, but that you are also meeting your intake requirements for all essential amino acids.
Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.