There’s protein in nearly all foods! So long as you are eating adequate calories from whole plant foods, you should easily be able to meet minimum (or surpass) protein requirements. Raw vegans typically fulfill their daily caloric needs with either overt fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.) or sweet fruits. On any diet, there is no real risk of a protein deficiency so long as caloric requirements are met. Too often, people focus on one macronutrient instead of viewing their dietary choices as being wholly nutrient-based. Protein should only comprise 5-15% of the total calories per day, according to well-known vegan authority Dr. McDougall M.D. and this health guide published by the Harvard Medical School. In fact, the average American eats too much protein, which can lead to calcium deficiencies, osteoporosis, kidney stones, and even cancer.
The absolute best way to ensure adequate protein consumption is to carefully track nutrient and calorie intake (I love cron-o-meter.com for this purpose). We are striving for health, after all, and by paying careful attention to what you are lacking or even eating too much of, tales of sickly vegans will hopefully be a thing of the past. Awareness of the nutrient density of your food, how you feel after certain foods, food combining, and other factors, will help you identify what and how much food works for you.
A raw vegan diet must be even more closely monitored, simply because the high water content of raw foods is filling, leading to a full stomach on very little calories. A head of lettuce may seem like a lot of food, but in reality it is only 106 calories and 8 grams of protein. One common reason people fail at adopting raw veganism as a lifestyle is not getting enough calories, which leads to nutrient deficiencies and a general sense of malaise. If it is too difficult or expensive to obtain calories from a completely raw diet, never fear! Many people follow a high raw diet eating anywhere from 10-20% of their calories from cooked food and receive similar benefits, and have a higher rate of sticking to the lifestyle.
Some sources of raw protein are:
Nuts–Almonds have 21g of protein per 100g serving, Cashews have 18g per 100g serving
Leafy greens–Kale has 4.3g per 100g serving, Spinach has 2.9g per 100g serving
Broccoli–2.8g per 100g serving
Avocados have 2g per 100g serving
Most fruits are around 5% of calories from protein
Simply eating a well balanced diet that is sufficient in calories, guarantees no real need to worry about a protein deficiency. Here is a delicious raw stuffed grape leaves recipe that is full of healthy protein from..psst…cashews!
Raw Vegan Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas)
Jar of Grape leaves, or if any green leaf to wrap
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Head of cauliflower
Pepper to taste
1/2 Vidalia onion
1 and 3/4 handfuls of chopped mint
Sun dried tomatoes (at least 1 ounce)
Vegan “Tzatziki” sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp dill
1 Clove garlic
Salt to taste
1. Wash and take leaves off cauliflower. Cut into small pieces for easy handling. Put pieces through a salad shooter, a food processor, or a hand grater. It should look like rice! Place into a large bowl.
2. Chop the rest of the ingredients for the filling very finely, and mix into the cauliflower rice.
3. Take the grape leaves out of the jar..this is kind of a difficult process, so patience is key. You may rinse the grape leaves if you wish, but my grandpa expressly told me not to because of a recipe his father wrote. Try a dolma with a rinsed leaf and one that is not to see your preference.
4. Spoon out a little stuffing into the middle of an unrolled and flat grape leaf. Wrap by folding the sides in, and rolling towards the tip of the leaf.
5. Make your tzatziki! Combine all ingredients in the blender, and pour into a serving dish or drizzle over the top of your dolmas.
6. Enjoy, they don’t last very long…my dad kept stealing them from me as I was preparing them!
Also by Jessica: Mystery Ingredients Hiding in Processed Vegan Foods
Photos by my awesome mom, Amy Sorvillo <3