So the news headlines are blaming a vegan diet as the reason Jaden Smith’s skin went grey, but by his own admission he wasn’t eating enough food. Jaden admits to skipping meals when he didn’t get around to eating, so his poor health was nothing to do with avoiding animal products as the article implies! But "Young man feels unwell because he doesn’t eat enough” doesn’t make such a good headline.
The article suggests Jaden was missing out on protein because he was following a vegan diet. All plant foods contain protein and it really isn’t difficult to get enough if you eat enough calories – wholegrains, pulses, tofu, nuts and seeds are all packed with protein!
Rather than going vegetarian, Jaden would have been much better off tucking into some cashew nut butter or hummus on toast, or a tofu stir-fry, as plant protein is much healthier than animal protein which raises your levels of the growth hormone IGF-1, linked to some cancers. Animal protein also promotes harmful acid production and encourages toxic gut bacteria.
Government health guidelines say men should aim for around 55 grams and women 45 grams of protein daily. If you are very active or want to build muscles, you may need more. It’s also important to ensure that children get enough protein to help them grow and develop normally.
Here are some tips! If you start the day with toast, hummus and cherry tomatoes; lunch on lentil dahl, spinach and a small portion of brown rice; and for dinner, have a medium baked potato with a vegan frankfurter and baked beans, your protein intake would be 58 grams.
Alternatively, a medium-sized bowl of muesli with soya milk and a banana, a falafel and hummus wrap and a tofu stir-fry with mixed seeds adds up to 46 grams.
On another day, toast and peanut butter for breakfast, two sausage rolls with a green salad for lunch and vegan spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, made with vegan mince, also adds up to 46 grams.
These suggestions don’t include drinks, snacks or fruit so the final figure will be even higher. It’s simple – consume enough calories in a varied vegan diet and you’ll get all the protein you need.
To read more about protein see Viva! Health's A-Z of Nutrients.