Category Archives: Vegan: FAQ

Powerful Protein


If you’ve ever told anyone that you are vegetarian or considering it, you’ve probably heard one of these questions:

  • “Do vegetarians get enough protein?”
  • “Isn’t plant protein inferior to animal protein?”
  • “Where do vegetarians get their protein?”

We hear these questions usually because people are legitimately concerned for our health.  These are very valid questions and perhaps you also are not sure about the answers, so let’s see what the research says.

What is protein and why is it important?

Protein is a nutrient that we cannot live without.  It is made up of amino acids.  Some of these amino acids are created within our bodies, and some are not.  Those that are not are called ‘essential’ amino acids and must be consumed within our diets.

The protein we consume helps to grow, maintain, and repair our bodies.

How much protein do we need?

This is a complicated question.  Many factors affect how much protein you need: your age, your sex, and your weight.  In order to know how many grams of protein is recommended for you, you should average .9 grams of protein for every kilo of weight.  In other words, use this calculation:

Body weight (in kilograms) X 0.9 = recommended protein intake

EXAMPLE: A 60-kilo person needs about 54 grams of protein per day

This calculation includes a safety margin to make sure every individual’s needs are covered.  In fact, many people do just fine and actually thrive on a diet including slightly fewer than the recommended guideline.

Do vegetarians get enough protein?

Vegetarians / vegans get their protein from plant sources.  Some people are under the impression that plant protein sources provide protein that is less complete because it may contain only some of the essential amino acids.  According to research (cited below), every plant protein includes at least some of every essential amino acids.


Courtesy of Ron Diggity

Also, it has been a popular belief that you must combine certain foods in order to obtain protein from certain plant foods.  For example, eat bread and beans at the same meal in order to get “complete protein”.  Considerable research has been carried out over the last few years and has consistently shown that our livers can store amino acids and they can be used when needed at a later time, so there is no need to combine certain foods at the same time.

So, where do vegetarians / vegans get their protein?

Here is a short list of some foods and the amount of protein in each.

Plant-Based Food Protein in grams
1 cup of firm tofu 40 g
1 cup cooked soybeans 29 g
1 cup cooked lentils 18 g
1 cup pinto beans 15 g
1 cup black beans 15 g
1 cup cooked chickpeas 15 g
1 cup cooked fava beans (foul) 13 g
1 cup red kidney beans 13 g
1/2 cup almonds 12 g
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds 12 g
8 ounces soymilk 8 g (same as cow’s milk!)
2 tablespoons peanut butter 8 g
1 cup oatmeal 7 g
1 cup bulgur (make some Tabouli!) 6 g
1 cup broccoli 6 g
1 loaf of baladi bread 6 g
1 cup brown rice 5 g
1 medium potato 4.5 g
1/2 ounce walnuts (7 halves) 4.3 g
1 cup white rice 4.1 g
1/2 ounce almonds (12 nuts) 3 g
1 cup chopped cooked cabbage 2 g
1 cup tomatoes 1 g
1 medium carrot 0.6

This is a short list.  Many more foods not listed here contain protein as well.  As you can see, a wide variety of foods contain protein and it is possible to get more than enough protein in a vegetarian / vegan diet that includes a selection of these foods.

Too much protein: a health risk?

Recently, diets very high in protein and very low in carbohydrates have been the rage.  The value of such diets, emphasizing high intake of meat and very little fruits and vegetables is not supported by the research in the field.  In fact, they may have negative effects on our health, including contributing to osteoporosis, cancer, impaired kidney function, and heart disease.  To avoid over-doing the protein, the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends trying to include the following in your diet each day:

  • 5 or more servings of grains
  • 3 or more servings of vegetables
  • 2 or 3 servings of legumes

Protein is one nutrient of which we should be conscious as we plan our diets.  There are others that we will discuss here soon.

More information about Protein:
Vegan Health.org: Where do you get your protein?
Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine: How Can I Get Enough Protein? The Protein Myth
Compassionate Cooks: Protein: Getting the facts straight
Nutrition data.com

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Why Vegan? For Your Health!


This month is Vegetarian Awareness Month and we’ve been posting every day to help raise awareness about what it means to be vegetarian / vegan.

Having been vegan for more than a decade now, we’ve had our share of moments when people first discover the reality of our choice.  Almost right away, questions start.  And usually, the first one (or second one, after the protein one) is WHY?  So, we thought we’d tackle that question in today’s post.

Why become vegan?

Actually, the answer to “WHY BECOME VEGAN?” does not have one simple answer and for every vegan the answer is different.  Many vegans have chosen their lifestyle because of a variety of reasons, as is the case with us.  So, we will explain why we became vegan in a series of posts.

Today’s reason is HEALTH.

When most people make the switch to a more plant-based diet, their health is drastically affected – for the better.  I was a big fast-food eater before I became vegan.  Once I made the switch, I went from a size 16 to a size 6!  (Remember I said most!)

What does the research say about a vegan / vegetarian diet?

Vegetarian and vegan diets are connected to lower rates of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, gallstones, and kidney stones.

The reason for these connections is because:

  1. Vegans / vegetarians usually eat LESS fat.
  2. Vegans / vegetarians usually eat LESS cholesterol.   (Vegans eat NONE because cholesterol in the diet comes from animal products.)
  3. Vegans / vegetarians usually eat MORE fiber.
  4. Vegans / vegetarians usually eat MORE antioxidants.
  5. Vegans / vegetarians take in just the right amount of protein.  Too much protein has been linked to higher risks for osteoporosis, kidney disease, raised cholesterol and cancer.
  6. Vegans / vegetarians usually eat MORE phytochemicals, which help prevent all kinds of disease.

Don’t get us wrong:  it is possible to eat a vegan diet that is NOT healthy!  After all, potato chips, french fries, and OREO cookies are all examples of vegan foods!  Avoid the junk and go for the whole foods and you’ll be good to go!  (And, of course, get up and move around!  Exercise is an essential aspect of a healthy lifestyle!)

If you’re looking for a way to improve your general health, try adding more plant-based foods to your diet!

Want to read more about health issues and veganism?  Try these resources:

Better than butter!


Your favorites: adjusted…

Do you eat your foul with butter?  Or maybe you like to fry your onions in butter or spread butter on your steamed veggies.  Many people think that changing to a plant-based diet means eating an entirely new, strange, and boring group of foods.  Just the opposite!  The key to really changing your diet is to find tricks to continue eating your favorites in more healthy ways while you slowly discover all the new delicious plant-based foods waiting for you.

Substitute: Oil

Olive oil

So, how do you continue having your tasty, foul without using butter?  Well, butter really is just fat, right?  So, you could always substitute a plant-based fat: oil.   Not all oils are equal, of course, so be careful.  Olive is known to have the least of the saturated fats – which may contribute to weight gain, and other health problems, so use olive oil to substitute for butter as much as you can.

Oil in baking?

Baking is a bit different, but oil works most of the time in place of butter, especially if the recipe calls for melted butter.  I usually substitute about 7/8 of a cup when the recipe calls for 1 cup.  Canola oil is especially useful as a substitute for butter when baking.  It is available in Egypt and we will be posting about it soon.

Do away with fat entirely?

If you’re really trying to decrease the amount of fat (and calories) in your diet, you can try this trick:

  • When frying onions or garlic for a recipe, instead of using oil, use water.

This trick really works and you honestly will not know the difference!  (You will, however, need to keep your eye on the pot to avoid burning!)

What about ‘samna nabeti’ or ghee made from vegetable oils?

Yes, many people use this as a substitute for oil.  However, it is made up of a collection of oils that have been chemically altered and contain trans fatty acids which can be dangerous for your heart health.  There are some special occasions and some foods that are very hard to cook without such an ingredient.  (My pie crusts always come out better when I use ‘samna nebety’.)  So, let’s agree to use this as little as possible in our cooking – only for a special holiday, for example. Doing so will help your heart stay healthy!

Keep your heart healthy

Today is World Vegetarian Day!


Happy World Vegetarian Day AND the official start of Vegetarian Awareness Month!*

Besides eating a vegetarian meal, we thought one way to celebrate this special day would be to help you understand more about what vegetarianism is.

Many people may label themselves as vegetarians, but actually define ‘vegetarianism’ quite differently.  There are three major types of vegetarians.

1.  Lacto ovo vegetarian:

This type of vegetarian avoids eating animals, but not animal byproducts.  In other words, a lacto ovo vegetarian would not eat meat, fish, or poultry, but would eat eggs, cheese, ice cream, and milk.  This is why when you order a ‘vegetarian’ pizza, it usually has cheese on it!

2.  Lacto vegetarian:

This type of vegetarian avoids eating all kinds of animal meat AND eggs.  A lacto vegetarian does, however, eat animal byproducts including milk and cheese.

3.  Vegan:

As we have discussed before, a vegan does not consume any animal products at all.  This means that all meats and dairy are excluded from their diets.  Most vegans also carry this philosophy over to other parts of their life including fashion, beauty, and cleaning products.

It is true that being ‘vegetarian’ may be different for everybody.  When a person decides to try a ‘vegetarian’ diet, even if for a limited time, it is a unique, personal experience that differs from person to person.

You may think that being vegetarian means there are things you CAN’T eat and that you are going to suffer from lots of restrictions if you adopt one of these diets.  Actually, the amount of new flavors, textures, and colors available in the plant world are utterly amazing.  Alf Hana is our way of sharing these fantastic food fantasies with you!

*Read more about World Vegetarian Day and Vegetarian Awareness Month at http://www.worldvegetarianday.org/

I know what a vegetarian is, but what’s a vegan?


What is a vegan?

Plant-based diet:

A vegan is someone who enjoys a diet based entirely on plant-based foods.  That would include all kinds of vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, breads, pastas and cereals.  That’s a bounty of wonderful, delicious, whole-foods from which to choose!  
A vegan is someone who would not consume animals or products made with any of their secretions.  This includes milk, cheeses, meats, fish and for some, honey.

Compassionate lifestyle:

Vegans become vegan for many reasons (which we will write about soon).  One of them is their desire to do as little harm as possible to all beings.  Therefore, not only do they not eat animals or animal products, but they also do not use them for fashion or beauty products.  This means that vegans would typically not wear leather shoes, belts, or jackets, cashmere or wool clothing, carry leather purses, buy leather couches, or use products like Oil of Olay that contain ingredients that come directly from animals.  Also, vegans are careful that beauty products they purchase are not tested on animals, since this is also a source of harm towards animals.

Not a sacrifice, but a new awareness:

Most vegans do not feel they are sacrificing anything.  Once they start to discover the wealth of dietary options available, they soon wonder why they didn’t try them earlier!  Maybe veganism isn’t for everyone, but it does offer a rich variety of options, as we will discover together at Alf Hana!

Would you think of trying to eat vegan for a day or a week…or a month?