Plant vs. Vegan Protein:
Everything You Need to Know

As more and more people transition to a plant-based diet and the vegan lifestyle, confusion between the two is increasing. What classifies as vegan and what's considered plant-based? In making the switch, choosing protein sources is the biggest issue.

While it's easy to differentiate animal-based products from plant-based ones, it's not as clear-cut between vegan protein and plant-based. Is there a significant difference between the two? If there's any, is one supposedly better than the other?

Plant-Based VS Vegan: What's the Difference?

Let's first understand how these two terms differ from each other in general. People are turning to plant-based sources for a variety of reasons, which ultimately affect their choices. That's where the distinction between a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle lies: in motivations and how it affects the way they live.
Plant-based refers simply to the food consumed, while veganism impacts all other areas of life. It includes neither purchasing nor using items made of leather and other animal by-products.
Living vegan requires stronger motives, covering a wide range, from environmental issues to morals. Often, people adopt a plant-based diet for health reasons and not moral implications. Because of this, vegans are more strict with their food choices.
Where consuming meat, dairy, eggs, and such are a hard no for vegans, some people with plant-based diets may feel they can have them occasionally. There's a bit more flexibility when eating plant-based and boils down to your personal choice.

Protein in Vegan Living and Plant-Based Diet

The concern about getting enough protein in your diet is valid. It is foundational to good health, just like as needed for tissue repair, developing strong bones, and many other important bodily functions. However, most people don't need as much protein as they think they do.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the average non-athlete is 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram you weigh, or 0.36 grams for every pound. Let's say you weigh approximately 130 pounds. Multiply it by 0.36, and you'll see that you need only a minimum of 46.8 grams of protein per day to stay healthy.
Some researchers would argue that more protein is necessary, but they also caution that it doesn't equate to eating more meat and eggs. Rather, the emphasis should be on choosing healthier sources of protein instead of quantity.

Plant or Vegan Protein VS Meat Protein

Amino acids are linked together to form what is commonly known as protein. Out of the 22 amino acids the body requires, it produces 13 of these on its own. The other nine are collected from the food you eat.
These same amino acids can be found in both plant and animal sources. Even the Harvard School of Public Health recommends getting your protein from plants whenever you can. A variety of plant-based food is rich in protein and can provide your necessary RDA. Look for dishes made from legumes (such as chickpeas, edamame, and tofu), nuts, and whole grains.
Is there such a thing as too much protein? Yes. As with anything else, taking more protein than what your body needs damages your kidneys, ultimately leading to dehydration. If you're more active than the average person, it would be best to work with a doctor or a dietitian to determine your exact protein and calorie requirements.

Is Plant Protein Better Overall Than Meat Protein?

Health-wise, you have to consider what else you're consuming with your chosen protein source. Any you get from animals will always carry potential health risks in the long run, especially when you examine how they're cooked. Your favorite ham comes with unhealthy doses of sodium. A different dish may have too much-saturated fat.
It's essentially counterproductive to have meat as the main source of protein, not just in terms of health but for the environment as well. In farming, plants require less water for maintenance than cows and pigs. Cows are also the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in agriculture.
Spiritually, veganism shares core values with many religions. Many sects have long practiced plant-based diets in reverence and care for animals, aligning with their strong belief in kindness for all creatures. These include Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and even some Christian groups.

How to Transition to A Plant-Based Diet

Begin with the understanding you're not expected to let go of meat all at once. While it's highly encouraged to consider it, know that you're not required to go vegan if you're not comfortable with it eventually. To begin eating a healthier and more plant-based diet, start with these easy steps.

1. Focus on foods you already enjoy.
2. Pick a day of the week when you can eat only plant-based foods.
3. Start looking for plant-based or vegan versions of your favorite dishes.
4. When you want to increase frequency, include plant-based drinks or sides with your meals, like a vegan soup or smoothie.
5. Learn easy plant-based or vegan recipes that you can make on your own.

Welcome to Eating Plant-Based!

Whenever making any changes to your food choices, it pays to be extra attentive to the nutritional value of your meals. Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your health. Keep in mind that there are no hard rules or a single path to follow. Each person's journey is unique, and you need to discover yours.