While you might get annoyed when people ask you if you get enough protein on your vegan diet, you should consider if you do.
Protein is a macronutrient that’s essential for various functions in the body, such as oxygenating your organs and keeping your cells healthy.
Do vegans not get enough protein? Although you might assume vegans don’t get enough protein in their diet, research has found that vegans and vegetarians get 70 percent more protein than they need.
That’s certainly reassuring news! But if you need to boost your protein intake, you might not be sure how you go about it.
Read on to find out what vegan-friendly foods you should eat that will give you a good amount of protein in your diet.
What Is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that your body requires for energy. It contains 20 building blocks known as amino acids that perform a variety of tasks in the body, such as building cells, repairing cells, and producing both antibodies and enzymes.
Our bodies produce most amino acids without any help, but there are some that can only be synthesized with the use of food. So, you have to ensure that you get enough protein for these amino acids to be produced and for them to function.
Best Protein-Rich Food For Vegans
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you need to get your hands on seitan. This is a wheat-based food that is sometimes called wheat meat because it’s such a valuable source of protein.
Seitan is the base ingredient for a variety of commercial vegetarian products on the market, and it tastes savory, a bit like chicken or mushrooms. You can add it to a variety of meals to punch their protein content.
A 100-gram serving of seitan contains 25 grams of protein, so seitan is considered to be one of the best plant-based sources of protein. It practically gives you the daily amount of protein you need to stay healthy!
Seitan is low in carbs, fat, and calories, so it’s a healthy alternative to beef. Since it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids you need it’s not a complete protein, so you should eat it with other plant-based proteins, like nuts and beans.
It might surprise you to know that edamame, tempeh, and tofu are all plant-based sources of protein that come from soybeans. The great thing about soybeans is that they are complete proteins with all the essential acids your body requires.
You get many health benefits from these soybean products. They all contain between 12-20 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, which contributes to your recommended daily values. They also contain calcium and iron.
Chickpeas are high in protein, with a cup of cooked chickpeas providing you with around 14 grams of protein.
The great thing about chickpeas is that they can be used in a variety of foods, such as by mixing them with lentils for a protein boost or crushing them and adding them to other ingredients to make hummus, which is a spread that’s a good alternative to butter because of its protein content.
Chickpeas also have a variety of other nutrients which makes them a healthy staple for your vegetarian or vegan diet. These include potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure.
One cup of chickpeas provides you with 474 mg of potassium. Chickpeas also contain fiber, iron, selenium, and B vitamins to maintain your heart health.
One of the best protein-rich foods you can eat on a vegan diet is lentils. These are also convenient because they’re so versatile. You can add them to a variety of meals.
A good tip is to enjoy them with other plant-based proteins, such as rice. One cup of cooked lentils gives you 18 grams of protein.
Lentils provide a good amount of fiber. In fact, just one cup gives you more than half of your daily recommended fiber intake.
Other nutrients lentils contain include iron, folate, and manganese, so they’re a must to include in your vegan eating plan to ensure you get a variety of health benefits.
Think you need animal-based dairy to ensure you get enough protein? That’s a myth! Green peas are an excellent example of plant-based food that gives you just as much protein as some animal-based sources.
For example, one cup of cooked green peas gives you nine grams of protein, which is more than a cup of dairy milk.
A tablespoon of chia seeds gives you two grams of protein! This makes these seeds a valuable food to add to a variety of meals, such as soups and salads.
Chia seeds have another benefit for the vegan lifestyle – they can be used to replace eggs in healthy desserts or other recipes because they expand when soaked in water.
Chia seeds form part of a healthy diet because they contain other important nutrients, such as quercetin.
This is an antioxidant that protects your body against health problems such as heart disease. Chia seeds also contain fiber, which is great for gut health.
There are many grains that you can add to your vegan diet that contain protein. Here are some of the most protein-rich grains to eat regularly.
- Teff: This gives you 20 percent of your daily protein values, as it offers 9.8 grams per cup. Teff is a fine grain that contains a lot of calcium – about 123mg is present in a cup of cooked teff, which is almost the equivalent of the calcium you’ll get in half a cup of cooked spinach. Teff is also filled with resistant starch that maintains a healthy weight and blood sugar.
- Quinoa: This grain gives you 8.1 grams of protein per cup, so it will help you achieve 16 percent of your daily values. Quinoa is a whole-grain carb that’s free of gluten and it’s a whole protein. This is important because it means that quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids your body requires.
- Millet: This ancient seed gives you 6.1 grams of protein per cup, which is 12 percent towards your daily requirements. Millet is valuable to add to your eating plan because it’s packed with calcium, B-vitamins, and iron.
- Steel-cut oats: This cereal grain is a great breakfast option – enjoy it with some nut butter to start your day on a healthy footing. Steel-cut oats contain seven grams of protein in just one cup of cooked oats. You can further increase their protein content by enjoying them with nuts and seeds. These oats are ideal for you if you’re diabetic as they’re a low-glycemic index food. They contain soluble fiber that reduces your cholesterol levels and they also contain polyphenols. These chemicals behave in the same way as antioxidants do, so they protect your body against cell damage from environmental harm, such as pollution and UV damage.
- Nuts: Don’t reserve nuts for snack times. These precious protein-filled foods can be enjoyed in a variety of meals. You can sprinkle them over oats, enjoy them in crunchy salads, and crush them up to use them as a garnish on potato bakes. Best of all, you don’t need to eat them in large quantities to make the most of their protein benefits. Nuts that contain a large amount of protein include cashews that offer eight grams of protein per 1.5 ounces, and almonds that have nine grams of protein per 1.5 ounces. Peanut butter, which provides eight grams of protein per two tablespoons, is also a great way to add variety to your eating plan and it’s also keto-friendly.
What About Fruits?
Although you might not think about fruits and vegetables when you’re trying to increase your protein intake, some of them do contain decent amounts of protein that you should add to your diet.
They can also be added to other protein-based foods to bulk up your consumption of this macronutrient.
Here are some examples of fruits that contain protein.
- Guava: With four grams of protein per cup, this tropical fruit is also rich in fiber and Vitamin C. Just make sure you get the most health benefits by eating the flesh, skin, and seeds.
- Avocado: Avocado features a lot in vegan diets because it’s filled with healthy fats and it also has a texture that adds substance to meals. Avos are a decent source of protein, providing three grams per cup. Protein and healthy fats aside, avocados contain vitamins C, E, and K, as well as niacin and fiber.
- Apricot: A cup of fresh apricots provides you with two grams of protein, but it also contains potassium to lower your blood pressure and A, C, and E vitamins. By eating the flesh and skin of apricots, you’ll get lots of fiber that promotes healthy digestion.
Tips For Getting Enough Protein On A Vegan Diet
Now that you know the best plant-based sources of protein to reach for, there are some other tips to follow to ensure you avoid potential diet pitfalls.
Plant proteins are less easily digested than animal proteins
This means that you require more protein to make up for it! Aim for around 10 percent more protein than you would get from animal sources.
But, when adding protein foods to your diet, make sure you get enough by remembering that you should achieve 1.0 to 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight in order to meet your daily protein requirements.
If you’re an athlete, a senior, or a bodybuilder, you should try to get more protein.
Use a protein powder if you’re battling to get enough protein
A protein powder can make it more convenient to get enough protein as a vegan, but check that it’s vegan-friendly, such as that it’s made from soy, almond, or hemp seeds.
Don’t rely on protein powders, though, because getting protein from plant-based sources is still the best and it provides you with the extra nutrients you need.
Choose complete proteins
Since you’re not eating meat and eggs, you could be lacking complete proteins. These types of proteins contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs.
But, you can get complete proteins by adding different plant-based proteins together at meal times. You should also focus on two important complete proteins – soy and quinoa!
What are the symptoms of a protein deficiency?
Lacking protein in your diet can lead to conditions such as edema, which is a build-up of fluids, anemia, and a loss of muscle tissue.
What are the dangers of eating too much protein?
If you eat a lot of protein, such as by eating more than five times the recommended amount, you could put a strain on your liver and kidneys.
If you’re vegan, you might be bored with the foods you’re currently eating to add more protein to your diet, or perhaps you’re not sure how to go about choosing protein-rich foods.
In this article, we’ve provided you with some of the healthiest and tastiest protein foods that vegans can enjoy. The great thing about them is that they contain a variety of other nutrients so you’re adding lots of health benefits to your regular diet.