People may choose to follow a cruelty-free diet for a variety of different reasons. You may choose to go cruelty-free as a form of activism against animal mistreatment, or you may follow a diet that is considered cruelty-free because of dietary restrictions or allergies.
A “cruelty-free diet” may mean different things to different people, but the most agreed-upon definition is a diet free of products that were obtained through the mistreatment or killing of animals. In many cases, cruelty-free diets are essentially vegan diets and exclude meat and other animal products.
One of the largest points of concern regarding cruelty-free diets is how to get enough protein without including animal products like meat and eggs. Fortunately, there are lots of non-animal products containing high quantities of protein and amino acids to help you stay healthy.
More than protein
Before you incorporate handfuls of nuts, seeds and tofu into your daily diet, you should understand the basics of protein and why it is so important for your health. Protein is a necessary macronutrient that helps rebuild cells, keeps the skin, bones and muscles healthy and maintains proper organ function.
However, not all protein in food is the same. Protein is made up of 20 different amino acids, each of which serves a particular purpose within the body. You need all of these amino acid “building blocks” to form different types of protein in the body and stay healthy.
Some amino acids are able to be created within our bodies, but others are only available in certain foods; these are called “essential” amino acids. Certain foods may contain one or a few amino acids. Others contain all the essential amino acids we need; unfortunately, many of these foods, called complete proteins, are animal products.
That being said, it is not impossible to eat a healthy, high-protein diet while remaining cruelty-free. It just takes a little more effort and attention to the types of foods you’re eating! Eating a wide variety of non-animal protein sources is essential to getting adequate levels of each essential amino acid.
Top sources of cruelty-free protein
There are many sources of plant-based protein that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet. Many of these foods are versatile and delicious, making the perfect centerpiece or side for your breakfast, lunch or dinner!
- Seitan: Seitan is a meat substitute that is derived from wheat gluten. Vegans and vegetarians have widely adopted this product because of its similarities to meat in texture and appearance and because it is an extremely rich source of protein.
- Beans: There are a wide variety of beans available, and most of them contain high amounts of protein per serving. Not only do they make excellent sides or staple parts of dishes, but they contain other valuable nutrients and may also help decrease health risks as you age!
- Soy-derived foods: Soy foods such as tofu and tempeh are staple items in vegan and vegetarian diets because of their protein-rich components. Soybeans are complete sources of protein, and they also contain a variety of other nutrients like calcium and iron.
- Nuts and seeds: Foods like peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds and more contain lots of protein in small packages. Eating nuts and seeds is a fantastic way to supplement your protein intake throughout the day without eating many heavy meals.
- Lentils: Lentils contain high amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and antioxidants, and they can be incorporated into dishes in a variety of ways.
- Protein powder: If your typical diet does not include some of the above-mentioned protein sources, you have allergies to certain cruelty-free foods or you’re looking for an easy alternative, making shakes or smoothies with plant-based protein powder may help increase your protein intake.
Education is important!
If you’re interested in making the change to a cruelty-free diet but aren’t quite ready to eliminate meat and other animal products entirely, make sure you’re doing research on where your food comes from. There are options for cruelty-free farms or local providers that contribute to animal welfare that you can pursue as you make the adjustment to an animal-product-free lifestyle, if that is your choice. Try researching brands that offer cage-free eggs and reduce your meat intake overall to make a difference.
Additionally, even if you have eliminated meat and other animal products, it’s still important to do research and choose your food products carefully. Buying vegetables and other food items from local farmers instead of large corporations may help you make more ethically conscious choices.
Through careful consideration and creative recipe building, it can actually be very easy to transition into a cruelty-free diet while maintaining high protein intake.