Blog, Health & Wellness, Vegan and Vegetarian Health

A Complete Protein Eating Guide for Vegans and Vegetarians


One of the most popular misconceptions that people have about a plant based diet is that it is impossible to get enough protein without meat. Well guess what? I’m here to inform you that this is a myth!

It is entirely possible to get your daily requirement of protein without eating meat. In fact, the leanest, cleanest sources of protein are beans and other legumes, as less than five percent of their calories from fat. They are also free of cholesterol, hormones, and antibiotics.

So what makes a complete protein?

A complete protein refers to the building blocks of protein, called amino acids. There are twenty different amino acids that form a protein, and nine that the body can’t make on it’s own. These nine amino acids are called essential amino acids. They are essential because we need to eat them, as our bodies can’t make them.

For a food to be deemed a complete protein, it must contain all the nine essential amino acids in close to equal amounts.

So while meat and eggs are indeed complete proteins, nuts and beans aren’t. But hold the phone! This doesn’t mean you can’t get all of your essential amino acids on a plant based diet! We don’t need every essential amino acid in every bite of food, we just need a sufficient amount of each amino acid every day.

So with a combination of different plant based foods each day, it’s easy breezy to get all of the essential amino acids your body needs!

First, let’s go over the plant based foods that are complete proteins. And as we discussed earlier, a complete protein means that you get all of the nine essential amino acids by eating a portion of it on its own.

Vegan Complete Protein Sources:

  1. quinoaQuinoa- 8 grams of protein per one cooked cup
  2. Buckwheat- 6 grams of protein per one cooked cup
  3. Avocado- 3 grams of protein per one avocado
  4. Soy- 10grams of protein per ½ cup firm tofu, 15 grams of protein per ½ cup tempeh. (Please eat soy in moderation, make sure it is non-GMO, and remember to only eat soy in its fermented version- tempeh, tofu, miso)
  5. Quorn (Mycoprotein)- 13 grams per ½ cup serving.
  6. Protein powder- The content varies by brand, but most have around 22 grams per serving. Make sure when buying to choose one that is non-GMO, and that has a complete amino acid profile.
  7. Ezekiel Bread- Ezekiel bread is made from wheat (they also make a gluten free version), barley, millet, beans, lentils, and spelt, making it a complete protein. The bread is also made using sprouted grain, which increases the bread’s fiber and vitamin content. This also makes it easier to digest.

Honorary members:

You might have notice that hempseeds and chia seeds are missing from this list. Although they do contain all nine essential amino acids, they are both too low in lysine to be considered complete. But they are still excellent forms of protein! I love to add them to my smoothies and oatmeal. Hemp seeds are also great stir-fried with vegetables, and they make an excellent salad topping.

  1. Hempseeds- 10 grams per 2 tablespoon serving
  2. Chia Seeds- 4 grams per 2 tablespoon serving

Now, let’s talk about how to pair plant based foods to create a complete serving of protein.

The Amazing Duos: 

  1. Rice and beans-

Rice and beans complement each other perfectly as beans are low in methionine and high in lysine, and rice is low in lysine and high in methionine. Combine these two and you have a meal with heaps of complete protein.

  1. Peanut butter sandwich-

Combine peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter)  with whole grain and you get a complete protein! Remember to choose organic peanut butter with no oil and sugar, as the oils tend to be full of hydrogenated fats and sugar is toxic. Make sure to use a whole grain bread, and even better, choose a gluten free bread!

  1. Hummus and pita-

Wheat is deficient in lysine, but guess what? Chickpeas are high in lysiene! Pair these two for a complete protein.

     4. Spirulina with grains

Spirulina is lacking in methionine and cysteine, but combine it with nuts, seeds, or oats and you have a complete protein. My favorite way to combine these is in a green smoothie.

  1. Oats with nuts or peanut butter-

Add some peanut butter or nuts to your oatmeal and you are in business.

Basically, combine any grain with a nut, seed, or legume, and you have yourself a complete protein. The possibilities are endless.

So what is the right amount of protein?

You should eat on average 0.75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.

According to women’s health specialist Dr. Sara Gottfried:

“For women of average size, aim for 75 to 125 grams per day, depending upon your level of activity and weight. So for a 150-pound woman with 25 percent body fat, that’s 31 pounds of fat mass, and 119 pounds of lean body mass, so the range is 89 to 119 grams of protein per day. For an athlete, aim for the higher end of the range. If you’re less fit, aim lower on the range. In general, that’s about 8 to 12 ounces per day. When it comes to protein consumption, you want to determine the correct dose. Too little protein will mean you lose lean body mass, and in people who’ve lost weight, weight regain.”

That’s why for vegetarians and vegans, and even my omnivore clients, I recommend one protein drink a day from a clean protein powder source such as pea protein.


Health Coach Jenna


Blog, Health & Wellness, Vegan and Vegetarian Health

Which Type of B12 Vitamin Should You Be Taking?

Photo by Colin Dunn

Photo by Colin Dunn

Vitamin B12 is essential to the human body, and chances are, even if you are a meat eater, you have a deficiency. I recommend that my clients take a B12 supplement daily, however, if you are a vegan or vegetarian it is even more vital.

Vitamin B12 “helps support adrenal function, helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and is necessary for key metabolic processes”. Signs of deficiency “include fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, heart palpitations, bleeding gums and mouth sores, nausea, poor appetite and diarrhea”. [Source: Dr. Weil]

Symptoms may present themselves slowly and may not be recognized for some time, and just because you don’t notice them doesn’t mean you are not deficient. That is why it’s better to be safe than sorry, and take a B12 supplement before any symptoms surface.

So now that you have decided to jump on the B12 bandwagon, which one should you take? Currently, there are three types of B12 supplements on the market:

  • Hydroxycobalamin B12: Is not a form normally found in the human body, primarily produced by bacteria but can be converted in the body to useable, coenzyme forms of B12, methylcobalamin and adenysylcobalamin, the only forms able to cross the blood brain barrier.
  • Cyanocobalamin B12: Is the cheapest and most stable form of B12 and has a long shelf life but needs to have the cyanide molecule taken off, so has an extra conversion before being converted to methyl or adenyslcobalamin.
  • Methylcobalamin B12: This is the most natural form of B12 and needs no converting. It is already in its “ready to use” form. Methylcobalamin is the active coenzyme form necessary for any biological activity. It is also the least stable with the shortest shelf life, converting back to hydroxycobalamin if not stored correctly. Methylcobalamin is sometimes referred to as “active B12” as it is in a form ready to be used by the cells.

Source (Metabolics)

Okay, so if you are on information overload take a deep breath. Choosing the right B12 supplement doesn’t have to be difficult.

I recommend taking Methylcobalamin because it is the most natural form and doesn’t need converting. While all of the above are called “Vitamin B12” they are not all the same. Methylcobalamin B12 is the superior form, as it is active and is in a form ready to be used by the cells. Despite this, most doctors in the US still use the form called Cyanocobalamin, even though it requires a higher dosage, and facts about Vitamin B12  show that is does not work for B12 deficiency. In fact,  doctors in Japan and Great Britain use Methylcobalamin nearly exclusively.

So the choice is obvious. Choose a Methylcobalamin B12 supplement, preferably in a liquid or lozenge (absorbed quicker and more efficiently),  and extra brownie points if you get one that includes a full spectrum of B vitamins, including biotin, thiamin, B12, riboflavin and niacin. They don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg either. Many outlets such as iHerb sell them for as little as US$11 for 90 days worth.


Health Coach Jenna