Protein for Vegans
Think vegan protein sources are hard to find? Think again. Animal products do generally provide more essential amino acids, which help build muscle and strength. However, vegans who eat a varied, balanced diet shouldn't have any trouble getting enough protein.
There are dozens of protein-rich foods suitable for vegans. Some of those with the highest amounts of protein follow.
Beans are excellent sources of protein. Depending on the type you prepare, most one-cup servings have at least 15 grams of protein. Vegan chili, bean dips, and bean burritos all serve up healthy doses of protein in a single meal.
Many vegans also prize beans for their versatility and convenience. Beans can be used as meat substitutes, baked into casseroles, served with salads and used to thicken soups and stews. Since they come pre-cooked in cans as well as dried, it's easy to add them to almost any recipe.
Lentils, otherwise known as split peas, are a type of legume. Dried lentils cook more quickly than beans but have a similar nutritional profile, including traces of most essential amino acids. Eating cooked lentils with a whole grain, such as brown rice or bulgur, constitutes a complete protein.
Like beans, lentils can be used as a meat substitute or as a base for soups. They're easy to prepare and are low in fat and calories and high in fiber.
Soy milk is a common vegan protein source that provides five to ten grams of protein per one-cup serving. When it's combined with cereal or a whole grain such as oatmeal or cornmeal, the two foods offer all essential amino acids.
In addition to drinking soy milk straight, vegans can use it for baking or thinning sauces and batters. Other soy-based products, such as soy yogurt, tempeh, and edamame are also good sources of protein.
Quinoa is a grain-like plant with edible seeds that, when cooked, have a texture similar to soft rice. Quinoa is unique among vegan protein sources because it contains a balanced amount of all essential amino acids. In addition to its eight grams of protein per serving, quinoa has high amounts of fiber and folate as well as the minerals magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
To cook quinoa, rinse it thoroughly, add twice the amount of water as you have seeds, bring the mixture to a boil, and then let it simmer, covered, on low heat for about 15 minutes. Fluff before serving.
Tofu, the quintessential meat replacement for vegetarians and vegans, is a protein powerhouse. One four-once serving contains 11 grams of protein, and tofu is even lower in calories than many other comparable protein sources.
Tofu isn't only a good meat replacement or dinner standby. It works well in salads, soups, and as an egg replacement in a breakfast tofu scramble. Additionally, tofu can be used in baking to make a non-dairy custard or mousse smooth and creamy.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean spread that's made with garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and tahini, or ground sesame-seed paste. It's easy to make at home, but you can also buy it in a variety of flavors at almost any grocery store.
Though it doesn't pack quite as much protein as some other plant-based foods, at close to four grams per quarter-cup serving, hummus is lower in calories than creamier bean dips, and it has a mild, slightly nutty taste that pairs well with almost any food item.
Most nuts and nut butters offer close to ten grams of protein per two-tablespoon serving. They're higher in fat and calories than many other vegan protein sources, but they can help form the foundation of a very healthy diet.
To boost your daily protein intake with nuts, try sprinkling them on cereal, oatmeal, and salads or mixing them in with savory dishes such as casseroles and tagines. Spread nut butter on toast, whole-grain crackers, or fresh vegetables and fruits.
Other Vegan Protein Sources
The previous items pack some of the most protein per serving out of all vegan foods, but they're far from the only sources. Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and potatoes provide several grams of protein per serving, and whole-grain bread, seeds, and pasta are also good sources. Cereals like muesli can boost your daily protein intake, too, especially with soy milk.