If you are an exercise fanatic the question of “how much protein is enough” has certainly crossed your mind more than once, but even if you are not so sporty, it is good to understand the importance of protein and the role it plays in our lives. Furthermore, Anyone who eats a vegan or vegetarian diet is sure to have doubts about how much plant-based protein they are getting through their dietary choices, with the looming stereotype being that plant-based diets are in dire need of protein supplementation. However, as we will discover there are a great number of protein rich foods available to the vegan diet as we explore 10 Plant-based protein sources in Japan.
What does protein do and why do you need protein in your diet?
Protein is incredibly important for the body and a key element of your diet. It is so important, that protein is classified as a “macronutrient”, and like the other two macronutrients, lipids (fat) and carbohydrates (sugar), we need a lot of them to survive. “Micronutrients”, on the other hand, such a vitamins and minerals, are needed in lesser quantity.
Protein, contrary to the other two macronutrients, is not stored in the body, and thus requires its quota to be met through diet. Protein plays a vital role in the structuring of your body, as it is used to build bones, muscle, skin and cartilage, produce blood cells, repair tissue, and make bodily chemicals, enzymes, and hormones.
More information on plant-based protein can be found in my article on the Top 5 Vegan Protein Powders in Japan.
How much protein is needed for the average man and woman vs someone sporty?
The actual amount of baseline protein your body requires depends on a few factors, such as age, gender, physical activity levels, and body size, so the following numbers are only a guideline. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) of protein in the U.S. follows the simple calculation of about 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
At the top of the list come adolescent boys and active men, clocking in at around 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This puts a sporty 68 kg man at around 80 to 130 grams of protein per day. An average sedentary male should be able make due with around 55 grams per day. Average sedentary women and young children on the other hand should try to take in about 45 grams, while active women and teen girls should aim for around 55 to 115 grams of protein per day depending on levels of exercise.
Sporty individuals are in particular need of extra protein due to its muscle repairing properties, helping to maintain and build muscle mass. As a rule of thumb, the more you work out and the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more protein you will need.
Reasons to go for plant-based protein
If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, you’ve probably never thought about how to get plant-based protein, however there are more than a few reasons to change your diet, or at least incorporate more plant-based foods.
By cutting out meat from your diet you can reduce a large amount of fats, promote healthy gut bacteria, and help to decrease animal cruelty.
Reasons to eat non plant-based protein
Meat and animal by-products such as milk and eggs, offer complete proteins in higher quantities than plants. In addition, red meat, dairy and eggs all contain vitamin b12, something it is difficult to get from plants alone, and which plays a crucial role in protecting your nervous system, creating red blood cells, and synthesizing your DNA. Luckily, there are some reliable sources of b12 for vegetarians (eggs and dairy), and a few for vegans as well, such as shitake mushrooms and nori seaweed, both of which are easily available in Japan.
Vegetarian vs Vegan – which proteins are available to which diet?
As mentioned above, dairy products and eggs are still an option depending on which kind of vegetarian you are. This kind dietary choice is known as lacto-ovo vegetarianism. Some vegetarians choose to eliminate eggs as well, but still consume dairy, and are called lacto vegetarians.
Vegans on the other hand, do not eat any animal or animal byproducts, and are thus restricted to plant only proteins.
Which plant-based foods are high in protein?
While it might not seem like it as first, finding plant-based protein sources in Japan is not too difficult. The following list of food items are all high in protein and perfect for a vegan diet.
- Tofu – Tofu is such a staple in Japan, even the convenience stores carry it. Soy products have a good amount of calcium and iron, which is great if you don’t eat any meat.
- Edamame – Gaining popularity even outside of Japan, edamame are a delicious protein packed appetizer that go well with most anything.
- Lentils – Aside from their high protein levels, lentils are also good source of fiber, iron and potassium.
- Chickpea – Chickpeas are high protein legume and a good source or fiber, iron and potassium.
- Peanuts – As long as you don’t have a nut allergy, peanuts are a great protein source and also contain healthy fats.
- Quinoa – Beloved by many vegans as a source of protein, quinoa is also high in magnesium, iron, and fiber.
- Chia seeds – Low in calories, high in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, chia seeds are a complete protein and are easy to add to many meals. Just sprinkle them on and enjoy.
- Hemp seeds – Hemp seeds are also a complete protein, but come with other benefits too. Magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium are all packed into these amazing seeds.
- Potatoes – Sometimes the solution is a simple one, and when it some to getting plant-based protein, potatoes deliver. No need to talk about the plethora of recipe options with potatoes, but did you know they are also good sources of potassium and vitamin C?
- Seitan – Seitan is made from gluten, so it’s not an option for everyone, but it is complete protein when cooked with soy sauce, and is easy to incorporate into many recipes. Check out this vegan Mongolian beef bowl recipe to give you some inspiration. You can find Japanese seitan using the link above.
How do you buy plant-based proteins and are they expensive?
Many of these items are available for purchase at most supermarkets in Japan for a reasonable price. The cost of plant-based only proteins may seem high at first, but with closer consideration, the price is justified.
Plant-based protein sources in Japan are surprisingly easy to come across and in a variety that allows for a great range of culinary options. So whether you are vegetarian or strictly vegan, you don’t have to worry about getting the necessary level of protein for your lifestyle.
If you are particularly active, consider supplementing your diet with some vegan protein powder for a quick and easy protein boost. To learn more about vegan protein powders, please check out my other article on the subject.
Also, browse our other vegan products on the HealthyTOKYO shop.
Before you go, just remember:
- Protein is one of the macronutrients needed to keep your body working
- Depending on exercise levels, the average person needs about 50 to 130 grams of protein per day.
- There are many plant-based foods that are high in protein
- Plant- based proteins come along with many good vitamins and fiber