There are so many vegan pro athletes in any sport category that are at the top of their game. Yet, one of the most common misconceptions about veganism is still that we are not getting enough protein. It’s fascinating how such a false statement sticks around and people are still convinced that vegans are slowly dying from a protein deficiency while there are so many studies out there that prove otherwise. We have seaweed, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, beans, quinoa and many more legumes and grains, plant-based and lab-grown meats, hundreds of different plant-based protein powders and so much more. The alternative protein market is currently estimated around 2.2 billion USD globally with a steady growth.
Many plant-based sources of protein have similar amounts of protein as meat. Additionally, they are not classified by the WHO as carcinogenic, unlike processed and red meat. Moreover, people tend to only compare one source of protein to another and try to then make the case that plant-based foods don’t deliver enough protein if their content is a little less than the compared animal-derived source. People tend to not consider that we don’t just simply eat one source of protein a day, but many. Also, I can guarantee that I know better how much protein I need or am actually consuming than some of my friends who suddenly became nutritionists when I turned vegan while eating McDonalds three times a week. 😉
Advancements in vegan protein
Over the past years there has been a steady increase in new sources of plant-based protein. There are many new vegan protein powders in the market, and they are generally cleaner and more easily digestible than whey protein as whey protein, which many people can’t digest properly. Most of us are lactose-intolerant (or rather we are not supposed to consume dairy from another species) and thus, drinking a shake containing lactose and milk products on a daily basis is more harmful than helpful. There are many more health benefits of vegan protein compared to animal-derived protein. A long-term study actually shows that animal protein increases the risk of premature death by almost 25% alongside other potentially serious health risks. Unfortunately, many vegan protein powders are still quite expensive compared to whey protein, which often makes it difficult for people to use them. Thankfully, it’s getting more affordable each year. One of my personal favorites is the PBN Powder which you can buy for around 26 Euros for a 2kg box, or the different flavors from Nutri-plus.
Lab-grown meat and protein sources have been on the rise and are set to become a more sustainable replacement for traditional farming. While it’s still debatable whether lab-grown meat counts as vegan or not, as there are cells derived from animals in the process, it is certainly a far better option than animal agriculture. Lab-grown alternatives don’t harm or kill animals, it creates less waste and pollution, reduces emissions, it’s more efficient and the nutritions can be monitored precisely. It also doesn’t create the risk of food-borne illnesses and pandemics unlike our animal consumption has done multiple times in the past two centuries.
Late in 2021, Upside Foods opened a lab-grown meat plant in Berkeley, CA—the largest such factory yet. The company hopes to launch in the market at some point in 2022. Before they can do that, the FDA and the Department of Agriculture will have to sort out how to regulate this new product. As of now, Singapore is the only country in the world where you can purchase cultivated meat (a term preferred by these companies, as it sounds more palatable than other options). But that is due to change soon, if market forces are any indication.
The future of protein
There are many different plant-based protein sources and no vegan has to suffer from a protein deficiency ever. Even if you believe that whole plant-based foods won’t give you all the nutrients you need, there are many delicious plant-based protein powders that can be used as an easy supplement. Moreover, there is constant progress being made with lab-grown and cell-based alternatives. The lab-grown meats will offer a more healthy, more sustainable and cruelty-free alternative to farmed meat, while also offering the same amount of protein and the same taste as meat that people have been used to. This will be a good alternative for people who have yet to go vegan or who are too worried that they will miss the taste of meat too much and can be a good stepping-stone to remove animal products from ones diet.
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