One of the most commonly raised questions with regard to a vegan diet seems to be: “If you’re not eating meat, how on earth do you get any protein into your diet?” The answer is that you can do so and quite easily!
Many people still assume that the only way to get protein into our diets is to either consume meat or cheese. This wrongly leads to the notion that somehow vegans and vegetarians are weaker and lacking in stamina compared to their animal protein consuming friends and relatives.
Why we need protein
The word protein comes from the Greek ‘Protos’ meaning ‘first’, Our bodies take the protein from the food we eat and use it to maintain healthy cell and tissue functioning and give us the energy we need to keep going on a daily basis. Without it we’d feel decidedly weak and lethargic. However, many people and especially meat eaters consume far too much protein in their diets – without really realising they’re doing so. It’s easy to get more than enough protein from a vegan diet, here are some great ways to incorporate it into your eating plan.
The best sources of protein for a vegan diet
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds offer a great deal in terms of overall nutrients and not just protein. However, one thing to bear in mind is that they are higher in fat that some other foods in the vegan diet and therefore shouldn’t be relied on as the only source of protein. Things like cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pine nuts are all excellent sources to add into vegetable and salad dishes as well as a snack in their own right.
Seeds are also another great way of getting a good protein hit. Two of the best are Hemp and Chia. Both of these seeds can be added to breakfast cereals or ground up and added to smoothies. They contain around eleven grams of protein per ounce serving, which will give a great energy boost. Don’t forget things like pumpkin seeds either, a super addition to give crunch and texture to salads and even in vegan flapjack recipes or other baking.
You really only need to know one word here and that’s Quinoa. This super food can offer as much as nine grams of protein per serving and also is a wonderful alternative for any vegan (or non vegan) who suffers from gluten intolerance and can’t eat traditional wholegrains. A hearty bowl of Quinoa porridge made with nut or soy milk is a wonderful start to the day and a real protein boost.
Of course, the more well known staples of brown rice, whole-wheat bread and barley also offer good amounts of protein and have the added bonus of filling you up for fewer calories. Adding barley or rice into wholesome homemade soups will bulk them out and make them taste richer, creamier and heartier.
Probably a foodstuff you didn’t think about, but it’s true – green veggies are an excellent source of protein. For instance, a hearty serving of steamed or stir fried Kale will offer you around five grams, a portion of wilted spinach around seven grams and fresh or frozen peas in the same amount will give you around nine grams. These are also great sources of iron and fiber too, so a great all round addition to your plate.
One of the great things about things like Tofu, Soy and Tempeh is that alongside being a great way to take in more protein, they are also ‘flavor acceptors’ and therefore don’t tend to become boring or uninteresting. You can add lots of herbs and spices or stocks to them to add color and taste. Typically, a serving of Tofu will provide ten grams of protein, whilst a helping of Tempeh will give a whopping forty one grams. Similarly, something like Seitan in the same sized serving will give around thirty grams of protein. Remember that eating things like Soy yoghurt and even soy ice cream will all give you protein as well. These meat substitutes can be used in place of traditional meat in chillies, stir fries, pasta sauces and on salads.
Beans and legumes
The next time you make soup, or a hearty vegan stew be sure to add in plenty of beans, lentils and legumes. Foods such as kidney beans, chick peas and split peas that benefit from long, slow cooking are rich in easily digestible protein and fiber, making them an excellent choice to give you energy and keep your blood sugar stable. A portion of kidney beans, cooked, will give you around fourteen grams of protein. Dried beans that require soaking are perfect for soups and stews, whilst the canned versions are ideal for stir fries and for adding into salads.
Perhaps you are still concerned about not getting enough protein or that you just feel you could do with a boost in some way. It can be helpful to have some sort of health supplement to add into your diet like Hemp, Pea or Soy Protein Isolate Powder or indeed a vegan capsule, that offers a complex of amino acids and omega 3 oils that can help boost how your body responds and assimilates the protein it takes in on a daily basis. Very often, a supplement can offer peace of mind if you are concerned, but can also provide an extra source of easily digestible protein that is easy to take on board if you exercise a lot or are generally on the go and need healthy, filling fuel quickly. They are also worth looking into if some of the foods mentioned above are not to your taste.
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