Welcome to the second installment of the protein blog. In the first part, I discussed what protein is, some protein myths, ways to increase your protein absorption, and how to get it on a whole foods plant based diet. You can also get a 1-day 90+ grams of plant-based protein meal plan there too. In Part 2, I will explore the issue of raw vegan protein.

This post will discuss whether you can become deficient long term. I’ll also give you some tips on increasing your body’s ability to absorb protein – a critical key to getting enough protein that is even more important to how much you eat.

raw vegan protein

In this post, I will also share 3 delicious raw vegan hemp seed recipes, that are full of protein. Grab them here:

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Table of Contents 

  1. How to Get Enough Protein on a Raw Vegan Diet 
  2. Can you Become Protein Deficient on a Long-Term Raw Food Diet? 
  3. All About One of the Best Sources of Raw Veagn Protein: Hemp Protein 
  4. Tips for Increasing Protein Absorbability on Plant-Based Diets 
  5. Increasing Absorbability of Plant Protein: How to Soak and Sprout 
  6. Main Takeaways

1. How to Get Enough Raw Vegan Protein

While protein abounds in plant foods, it is much less digestible than animal protein.

The difference between animal and plant protein is in the amino acid profiles, which direct the rates of absorption of amino acids in the body. Animal protein are used more rapidly than plant protein because they are so similar to humans.

This means it is best to eat a higher quantity of raw vegan foods to attain the protein your body needs. 

Some particularly awesome sources of protein for raw vegans can be found in each raw vegan food group:

  • Fruits are between 4 and 8% of calories from protein, and non-sweet fruits also contain protein. Veggies also have protein, but in smaller amounts. 1 medium nectarine, for example, has 1.5 grams of protein.
  • Leafy greens are about 20-40% protein. 2 cups of kale, for example, have 4 grams of protein, and a head of lettuce has 5 grams. 2 large bunches of greens will give you between 15 and 20 grams of protein.
  • Nuts and seeds are also packed with protein. For example, ¼ cup of sunflower seeds has 7.3 grams of protein. Hemp seeds are 22% protein.
  • Other amazing sources of protein on a raw vegan diet include mushrooms and sprouts, which have 20 to 34% protein. There are a whopping 10.6 grams of protein per half cup of pea sprouts!
  • Spirulina, an algae, is 68% protein, and is highly recommended for athletes. 1 tablespoon has 4 grams of protein!

raw vegan protein

2. Can you Become Protein Deficient on a Long-Term Raw Food Diet?

If you are consuming an oil free calorie-sufficient raw vegan diet, you should most likely not have protein deficiencies. Low-fat raw vegan diets require lots of movement and exercise so that a higher number of calories can be consumed, allowing you to get all of your nutrients from plant foods.

The essential amino acids methionine (found in Brazil nuts) and lysine (found plentifully in sprouted fenugreek seeds) are found in lower amounts in raw vegan diets. Try to consume 2 tablespoons of sprouted fenugreek seeds a few times per week (in 5.5 tablespoons, there is 1043 mg of lysine, and the RDA is about 2,400 mg). To get your methionine, make sure to eat a few soaked Brazil nuts daily.

Your ability to gain protein sufficiency depends on your ability to absorb protein. You need enough enzymes and HCL in your stomach to break down protein into amino acids. (See part 1 here to learn more about those). If your digestion is not efficient enough, you can eat all the protein you want and still not absorb it well enough, meaning you may end up deficient.

Some symptoms of protein deficiency include hair loss or changes in hair texture, slow healing time for small cuts, tiredness, loss of muscle, frequent colds, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, and breaking or brittle nails.

If you suspect that you have a protein deficiency, get a blood test and find out.

raw vegan protein

3. All About One of the Best Sources of Raw Veagn Protein: Hemp Protein

This one gets a special mention. And no, I am not talking about hemp protein powder.

Hemp seeds have a similar amount of protein (by weight) to beef and lamb. 2-3 tablespoons have 11 grams of protein, and they contain all essential amino acids. Yes, they even contain lysine and methionine, and their digestibility is very high. It is a great idea for raw vegans to consume hemp seeds daily.

Make 2 delicious raw vegan hemp seed recipes with me:

raw vegan protein

4. Tips for Increasing Protein Absorbability on Plant-Based Diets

Bioavailability (or how much you can absorb) of protein is impacted by the fiber in a plant’s cell wall. Protein in most whole plant foods is less bioavailable (between 75% to 92%). However, you can use certain techniques to make it more available: soaking and sprouting.

Benefits of soaking and sprouting include:

  • Soaking and sprouting legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds starts the breakdown of their protein, making it more absorbable for the body, both when you eat them raw or cooked. This breakdown means that their proteins split into shorter chains of amino acids, beginning the digestion process. For example, soaking raw peas for 6 hours increases their digestibility by 8%, and soaking them for 18 hours increases it by 31%.
  • The soaking process activates plant enzymes, beginning the protein breakdown.
  • When you soak, you destruct the phytates and trypsin inhibitors that limit digestion of those plants.
  • Sprouting increases digestibility even more, and also removes the compounds that cause flatulence from beans! Sprouting increases the amounts of essential amino acids like lysine.
raw vegan protein

Credit: Cain Studios

5. Increasing Absorbability of Plant Protein: How to Soak and Sprout

  • Soaking just means placing your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes in a bowl of fresh filtered water for a certain amount of time. Each one requires a different amount of time, and you can see the times here.
  • Sprouting is what you do after you finish soaking. Take the seeds/nuts/grans/legumes out of the water, wash them, and place in a jar. Make sure there is an air flow in the jar. The best thing to do is to place the jar tilted on a dish drying wrack. Wash them every few hours (about 5 times per day), and place back in the jar. You can cover the jar with a cheesecloth – something that will allow air flow. After 2-3 days the sprouts should be ready (you will see small tails come out), and you can place them in the sun to get a beautiful green color. When they turn green, consume!

Main Takeaways:

    1. Plant foods are rich in protein, but the protein they contain is more difficult for your body to digest than animal protein. To get enough, you must consume a great variety of plant foods.
    2. Yes, there is a chance you could become protein deficient on a raw vegan diet. A raw vegan diet tens to be low on the amino acids methionine and lysine. If you are feeling any general ill health symptoms, get an amino acid panel done.
    3. Soaking and sprouting are great strategies to increase protein absorbability, which matters even more than how much protein you consume.
    4. Hemp seeds are an amazing source of raw vegan protein. Get my 3 protein recipes here:

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  1. http://nutritionstudies.org/animal-vs-plant-protein/
  2. Edward Giovannucci et al. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific MortalityJAMA Internal Medicine, 2016 DOI:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182
  3. Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas Campbell M. The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2005. Print.
  4. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-health/slaying-the-protein-dragon/
  5. Becoming Raw
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20977230

Remember, I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. Information presented here is my opinion alone. If you are experiencing any issues, please be sure to consult a licensed professional. 

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Marina Yanay-Triner is a wellness coach and recipe developer through Soul in the Raw. Marina creates easy and delicious vegan recipes and writes about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, focusing on evidence-based nutrition information. She loves to help clients go and stick to plant based eating through her powerful coaching program, combining nutrition and cooking education along with transformational mindset work. Marina adopted a whole food, plant based lifestyle over 7 years ago, inspired by her mother's incredible healing story of reversing a crippling bladder disease. She has reversed PMS symptoms and encourage emotional healing from trauma as a result of this transition. Marina is incredibly passionate about the vegan diet for human health, animal welfare, and the well-being of our planet, all of which she envisions as co-dependent.