How will you get enough protein if you do not eat meat?
“But, where do you get your protein?” is a question that every vegan hears on a regular basis. It is a common misconception that meat is the only viable source of protein. We have been misled for decades by advertisement campaigns and government food pyramid charts to believe that meat is the only viable source of this essential macro-nutrient. However, protein is already in many foods we encounter daily. It is easy for a vegan diet to fulfill daily protein needs without powders or supplements.
The average person needs about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily to prevent protein deficiency. For example, a 150-pound person would require approximately 54 grams of protein daily. (0.36 x 150 = 54)
Fortunately for vegans everywhere, nature supplies us with many meat-free protein options. Some are edible and healthy in their raw form, while others require a bit of processing. Either way, it is relatively easy to meet any daily protein requirement when eating a plant-based diet.
COMPLETE VEGAN PROTEINS
Twenty amino acids, nine essential and 11 non-essential, all work together to make up protein. Non-essential amino acids are those that the body can manufacture for itself. Essential amino acids, however, must be obtained through the foods we eat. A food that contains all nine essential amino acids is called a “complete protein”. The following is a short list of plant-based complete proteins.
Spirulina is a form of algae that is often called a vegan super-food. It is a complete protein because it offers all nine essential amino acids. A tablespoon of Spirulina has 4 grams of protein. Spirulina powder can be mixed into any liquid, such as smoothies, or sprinkle some on your salad. It can also be used as a healthy green food color substitute in most recipes.
Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, or deactivated yeast, contains 8 grams of protein. It offers all nine essential amino acids and is therefore considered a complete protein. Nutritional yeast is an excellent additive in vegan dishes.
A three-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds provides around 10 grams of protein. Hemp seeds are a delicious addition to salads, pasta dishes, or even your breakfast smoothie for that extra protein boost.
Tempeh’s chewy texture and nutty, earthy flavor make this a popular ingredient in many vegan dishes. One cup of this fermented soy product packs 34 grams of complete protein.
Mix this versatile grain into your favorite recipes, or sprinkle a little on your salad. However you choose to enjoy them, flax seeds will add 1.9 grams of protein per tablespoon.
Chia seeds are another healthy product that packs plenty of complete protein. Two tablespoons supply 4 grams of protein.
Soybeans are a staple of the vegan diet. Just one cup has 29 grams of complete protein.
One cup of tofu, also known as bean curd, has 20 grams of protein. Its subtle flavor makes it a great ingredient in numerous dishes as it quickly absorbs flavors.
Bulgur wheat is a cereal grain used in soups, salads, and pilaf. It is a good substitute for rice or quinoa in many different dishes. Just one cup of bulgur wheat contains six grams of protein.
Amaranth is an ancient grain packed with nutritional value. It is also gluten-free. One cup of amaranth has 9 grams of complete protein.
Farro is whole-grain wheat similar to barley. This grain is the perfect addition to soups or salads. A fourth of a cup of farro has six grams of protein.
Another great super-food to add to any pantry is quinoa. It is highly nutritious. One cup of quinoa offers 8 grams of complete protein.
Barley is another healthy cereal grain with many nutrients, including complete protein. One cup of cooked barley has 3.5 grams of protein.
Pea Protein Powder
Pea protein is technically a complete protein. It does contain all nine essential amino acids but only has a small amount of methionine+cysteine. Pair it with dried seaweed, Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, or oats to make it a complete protein. A one-ounce serving of pea protein powder has about 22 grams of protein.
ALMOST COMPLETE VEGAN PROTEINS
Many other plant-based foods have plenty of protein even though they are not “complete proteins.” There are so many plant-based protein options that it would be hard to list them all. Most of the following foods have at least eight of nine essential amino acids. It is easy to pair them together to create a whole protein.
Seitan is a protein-rich food created with vital wheat gluten. One ounce of Seitan can provide 21 grams of protein.
Pumpkin seeds have 20 grams of protein per serving. You can eat the whole seed or use pumpkin seed powder as an additive.
½ cup of cooked lentils has 12 grams of protein. Most people pair them with rice to create a complete protein dish.
½ cup of kidney beans has 7 grams of protein. Pair them with nuts, hemp seed, or wild rice.
Mung beans are very versatile and a great addition to your vegan diet. A half-cup serving contains seven grams of protein.
Cannellini beans, also known as white beans, have 8 grams of protein per ½ cup. Many vegan recipes use these beans as a low-fat substitute for cashews.
Black beans pair great with grains. One cup has 15 grams of protein.
Sunflower seeds make a delicious snack. They can also be used in a variety of vegan recipes. One ounce of sunflower seeds has 3.4 grams of protein.
One ounce of almonds has nearly 6 grams of protein. Enjoy them on their own, or add them to your favorite recipes.
One cup of lima beans has 12 grams of protein. They make a perfect side dish.
Chickpeas / Garbanzo Beans
Another great protein to incorporate into a vegan diet is chickpeas. One cup has a whopping 14.5 grams of protein.
Three tablespoons of sesame seeds have 5 grams of protein. They complement beans and legumes well, as sesame seeds have the amino acids most others lack and vice versa.
Green peas are another delicious side dish with 7.9 grams of protein per cup.
These whole wheat kernels can be baked into bread, added to salads, or ground for flour. A fourth cup has 4.5 grams of protein.
This highly nutritious cereal grain offers a fast and easy way to eat healthily. Three-fourths of a cup has 4.4 grams of protein.
Rice pairs well with various dishes, making it an easy addition to any meal. One cup of rice has 4.2 grams of protein.
As with any way of eating, variety is vital to give the body everything that it needs. Vegans will have no trouble meeting daily protein requirements when consuming a wide variety of protein-rich, plant-based foods. Do not rely solely on a single food for protein intake when there are so many options to choose from. Pairing delicious plant-based foods together create complete proteins while offering delicious meal options.