“But how do you get enough protein?” Sound familiar? It is probably the most common people ask vegans, and if you’re new to plant-based eating, you might have asked it too. It’s a common misconception that plant-based diets lack protein, and understandably so — the meat and animal-based foods have marketed their products to be the only way people can achieve their daily intake of protein. In a recent post, we mentioned some of the top-performing athletes who lead plant-based lifestyles, and as you know, consuming an adequate amount of protein is crucial for any athlete. Plant-based protein powders are a great supplement to boost your protein intake, but you can easily meet the recommended protein intake with many plant-based foods as well.
Just how much is enough protein?
Experts recommend that adults have a daily intake of 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight. As an example, an adult weighing 55kg would need about 41.25g of protein daily. Depending on your physical activity level, you might benefit from more protein, as athletes are recommended to consume up to 2g of protein per kg. But don’t get too fixated on your protein consumption. Vegans are reminded to have a varied diet throughout the day — also, this helps you get enough of other essential vitamins and nutrients to keep you healthy.
Benefits of protein
Gym buffs praise protein for its muscle-building attributes, but there’s more to it. Protein is an essential macronutrient that’s made up of amino acids. Amino acids are crucial for growth and development because it is a building block of our skin, bones, and muscles. Aside from that, it helps repair and makes new cells while fueling the body with energy throughout the day. Don’t forget that our red blood cells also carry a protein compound that oxygenates the body. This then aids in supplying the body with the necessary nutrients that help us function.
7 Best Plant-Based Protein Sources
Legumes are types of plants that bear pods with seeds. Some common examples of legumes are lentils, peas, edamame, peanuts and beans. Speaking of beans and peas, there is a bit of confusion over the difference between legumes and beans, so let’s clear that up. We’ve already explained earlier that legumes have pods with seeds. Beans/peas are the seeds collected from legumes. “Legume” is an umbrella term. Legumes are plants, and while all beans/peas are legumes, beans/peas merely make up the seeds of legumes. Most legumes are easy to prepare. Blanch, boil, or even saute them. One of our favourite snacks is roasted chickpeas — with only three ingredients (chickpeas, EVOO, and salt), they are super easy to make on the fly. They are also delicious additions to salads and soups.
Here’s a favourite among vegans and non-vegans alike. Botanically speaking, most nuts come from the pits/seeds of the fruit. They make a healthy and convenient snack that you can pack on the go — almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and more. Add them to a trail mix with dried fruit and shaved coconut for a quick protein-packed pick-me-up. Nut butters, such as almond and cashew, are also a great source of tasty plant-based protein.
As for serving suggestions, nuts are very versatile. You can have most of them as-is, salted, or roasted. Eat them on their own or sprinkle them on your salads. It’s a good ingredient for savoury meals and even desserts.
Another favourite snack of health aficionados, seeds are packed with protein and iron, calcium, and magnesium, among others nutrients. The most commonly known seeds are flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds.
You can easily mix flax seeds into your cereals, granola, and smoothies. The same goes for the popular chia, which is excellent in… well, chia pudding! It also works well as an egg substitute. Vegan bakers know this very well. Like chia and flax seeds, hemp seeds are also the perfect addition to cereals, vegan yogurts, and smoothies.
- Whole grains
Grains in their complete form, with all parts of the seed, including the bran, germ, and endosperm, are called whole grains. They may also be ground into flour such as buckwheat or whole-wheat flour. Other types of whole grains are wild/brown rice, oats, millet, and quinoa.
Whole grains ground into flour can be used for pancakes and baked goods. Brown/wild rice and quinoa is a great side to complement a veggie main course. Quinoa is very versatile and can also be added to salads, porridge, stews, and soups.
Most veggies have protein, but if you want those loaded with it, here are some great choices: broccoli, asparagus, spinach, green beans/snap peas, brussels sprouts, and artichokes.
Corn also offers a decent amount of protein and can also make a terrific starchy side dish. Broccoli is a nutrient-packed veggie that can be prepared blanched, roasted, or sauteed. The same goes for asparagus and brussels sprouts. And have you tried vegan artichoke pasta? No? You should. You will thank us later.
Most people think about fruit as a source of natural sugar and a healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth. A lot of people don’t know that some fruit also contains reasonable amounts of protein. Some of the most protein-rich fruits are guavas, avocadoes, kiwi, blackberries, and even apricots. Jackfruit is also a good source of protein, which, interestingly enough, is often used as a plant-based mock meat.
- Tofu, tempeh, and soy
Tofu is essentially soybean curds that are compacted into solid blocks. It’s an excellent alternative to meat because it is versatile and can be grilled or stir-fried. Tempeh, tofu’s cousin, is also made of soy but is fermented, giving it a distinct nutty flavour and a unique texture. Silken tofu is not as firm as other types of tofu and can be made into a custard-like dessert.
And there you have it — there is no shortage of plant-based proteins, and many of the foods we mentioned are available at your local farmer’s market or grocery store or from our online marketplace! We hope this post has cleared the air for those skeptical of the protein possibilities that plants offer.
Still want MORE protein? Then check out Vegano’s 100% vegan protein powder that is packed with vitamins, nutrients, amino acids, and of course, 22g of high-quality, plant-based protein.