Although veganism can bring about several health benefits, it is a fact that plant foods can hardly compete with animal foods as sources of protein. That being said, vegans are able to get the protein they need by carefully selecting the items included in their diets and there are even vegan bodybuilders who build muscle by depending on plant protein. Yet, plants almost never offer complete proteins, which means a source of protein that contains all the essential amino acids the body needs. That is why vegans must learn about the essential building blocks that are rare in plant foods and find ways to compensate for it.
One essential amino acid vegans have a hard time getting in their diet is Methionine. Methionine is found mostly in high protein animal sources such as meat and eggs and is rare in most plants. However, there is a discrepancy on whether running low on Methionine is good or bad. Research suggests restricting the dietary intake of the amino acid Methionine can slow down aging and extend lifespan. Still, one has to remember that Methionine is an essential amino acid that can not be synthesized in the body and to maintain the metabolic functions that require this particular substance, it has to be taken in the diet. Methionine deficiency is linked to liver degeneration and increased risk of depression. WHO recommendation of daily Methionine intake is 10.4 mg per kg of bodyweight.
A more serious issue with the vegan diet is the lack of essential amino acid lysine. Lysine is most abundant in chicken, turkey and fish and it is also found in considerable amounts in dairy and milk products. Vegans consume none of these animal sources of protein leaving them with few options to meet their daily lysine needs. Lysine deficiency is known to cause fatigue, irritability, mood changes, lack of concentration, anemia and even hair loss. WHO recommends a daily intake of about 30 g of lysine per kg of bodyweight.
The best way to fulfill the daily amino acid requirements is to learn about the various types of foods available in a vegan diet and go for the combinations that provide high lysine and methionine contents. Plant foods rich in methionine are sunflower seeds, oats and brazil nuts. Plant foods rich in lysine are lentils, kidney beans and tofu.
Vegans can also resort to the several vegan protein powders available in fitness stores for both reinforcing the protein content of their diet and for ensuring the adequate intake of essential amino acids. When choosing the vegan protein, one has to research about the amino acid profile of the product and make sure it makes a useful contribution to the daily intake of methionine and lysine.
Finally, another solution for getting the needed essential amino acids is to take l-lysine and l-methionine supplements. Vegans who decide to use such supplement should make sure they are derived from plant proteins.