What is protein? For most people, when someone uses the word protein an image of a juicy steak or a morning breakfast with a side of omelet comes to mind. While they are the most common and reliable ways to get your daily protein fix, you would be surprised to find out that various other alternatives are available. Even more surprising is that most of them are not those mentioned above are animal-based foods.
Due to the availability of non-animal-based protein sources, it is no surprise that many people have adopted a plant-based lifestyle. These days, it’s relatively easy to get enough of your protein needs on a vegan diet. Whether cutting back on meat temporarily or entirely, you will be pleased to know that a vegan diet is an excellent way to keep yourself safe from chronic illnesses such as heart disease. Better yet, it allows for a much healthier and more positive lifestyle then compared to meat-only diets.
Coming back to protein, however, it comes as no surprise that protein is essential in pursuing a truly healthy and fit lifestyle. Finding plant-based protein sources can be a challenge for people new to a plant-based lifestyle; thus, this article aims to help people.
How do vegans get a complete protein?
Complete proteins are those that contain all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Since we don’t make these ourselves, we have to get them from the foods we eat. Animal products are typically considered the best source of complete proteins, but vegans can also get the nine essential amino acids they need by eating a variety of plant-based foods. For example, most grains are missing the amino acid lysine, but legumes have plenty of it. So, pairing a grain like rice with a bean dish provides a complete protein. Other good combinations include tortillas and refried beans, peanut butter on whole wheat bread, and lentils with rice. With a little creativity, it’s easy for vegans to get all the nutrients they need from plants.
What are the best plant-based protein sources for vegans?
The list below will help you get your daily protein fix and be in your best shape! You can mix your palate and experiment with these different plant-based protein foods to your heart’s content.
Lentils are the most tried and truest protein-based powerhouse out there. You will find that Lentils are mentioned almost everywhere when searching for protein-based foods, and for good reason. They are known to provide vegan protein and nearly eight grams of fiber! Fiber ensures that you don’t get hungry soon; it also promotes health like protein and is suitable for our heart.
No plant-based protein source list is complete without Tofu, one of the best overall sources of protein on the planet. Tofu provides approximately 6 grams of protein per 3 ounces (on average), thus making it an excellent meat alternative. Its composition from soybeans is also why it is such a fantastic alternative to meat. Preferably, it would help if you looked for organic varieties or non-GMO as they are proven to be the best for protein intake.
3. Peanuts and Almonds
Peanuts and Almonds are the most common and best protein sources out there. Peanuts provide a solid 41 grams of protein per cup, whereas almonds are known to give 33 grams of protein per cup. Peanuts are protein-rich, but they are also mainly composed of healthy fats, which improve heart health substantially. Alternatively, you can also use peanut butter as it is rich in protein and makes for good sandwiches!
On the other hand, almonds are known to be one of the best protein and vitamin E sources out there. Vitamin E can do wonders for the skin and helps sharpen your eyes, making it one of the more valuable options on our list next to the healthiest.
Seitan or wheat meat/gluten contains 20-30 grams of protein per 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces). Seitan is known to have an almost uncanny resemblance to meat when cooked, making it a good choice for new vegans. Seitan has a high amount of protein, which makes it one of the most protein-rich sources available globally. You can find Seitan in many grocery stores, mostly at health food stores.
Due to its position as a meat alternative, you can experiment with Seitan to your heart’s content by either grilling, pan-frying, or as a side dish in other recipes! Besides its protein content, Seitan is also known to have selenium and trace amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorous. These elements are necessary for the healthy function of the human body, making Seitan both a good protein source and amazingly healthy food!
Beans. Whether it be garbanzo beans, pinto, or kidney beans, they contain a burst of protein per gram. Most of the beans mentioned and more provide up to 15 grams of protein per 170 grams. Due to the high protein content of beans, they are probably one of the best protein sources in the world! Beans contain high protein content, but they are also a source of various other healthy nutrients. These include but are not limited to beneficial plant compounds, iron, fiber, phosphorus, trace amounts of manganese, and complex carbohydrates.
Due to the various nutrients and high protein content of beans, they are known to help in reducing cholesterol levels significantly. In addition to cholesterol reduction, they also considerably control blood sugar and lower blood pressure.
Seeds are fantastic sources of protein. Seeds such as sunflower seeds can be consumed as snacks and contain 8 grams per ounce. Other seed types, i.e., pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds, have about 7 grams to 10 grams. You can also add them to toast or use them as other verities in morning breakfast.
7. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is sold commercially as a yellow powder or even flakes. However, it is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. The yeast implies a cheesy flavor, making it a trendy ingredient in many dishes. In addition to being involved in recipes, you can also incorporate nutritional yeast as flavor in dishes like pasta or even topping for popcorn.
Nutritional yeast contains about 8 grams of protein in 16 grams of the source. In addition to the protein, it also provides about 3 grams of fiber, making it excellent for the heart. Most nutritional yeast in the market is not fortified, so be careful when picking said yeast. Fortified nutritional yeast is crucial, including protein and other essential minerals and vitamins. For example, manganese, copper, magnesium, all variants of vitamin B, and much more! Minerals such as these help keep the body in top shape alongside protein, thus making fortified nutritional yeast an optimal pick.
Tempeh is also a great source of protein for vegans. Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake that is popular in Asian cuisine. It is used as a meat alternative and can be stir-fried, deep-fried, or even stewed.
A hundred grams of Tempah can contain up to 19 grams of protein. This makes Tempah one of the highest protein content food sources on our list. However, Tempah is not only high in protein but also contains other essential nutrients. These nutrients include manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.
Spirulina is a microalgae that grows in both fresh and salt water. It is well known for its intense green coloration. Due to its high protein and nutrient content, it is often used as a dietary supplement.
Spirulina contains about 60% protein by weight and has all the essential amino acids in it. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, Spirulina is also rich in other nutrients. These nutrients include B vitamins, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Quinoa is a pseudocereal that is popular among health-conscious individuals and another great source of plant-based protein. It is gluten-free and considered a whole grain. Quinoa is also one of the few plant sources that contain all nine essential amino acids.
One cup of cooked quinoa can provide about 8 grams of protein. Quinoa is also a good source of fiber and other essential nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, iron, and zinc.
How many grams of protein (or grams of protein per unit of weight) are required daily?
Proteins are the body’s building blocks, making their daily consumption and the right amount of protein essential. Adults are required to consume about 0.4 grams per body weight in pounds. Thus the average adult must have a protein intake of 60 grams almost daily!
Athletes, pregnant women, and anyone physically exerting themselves require even more. Lack of protein can cause exhaustion, weakness, and frequent hunger prangs! If you feel any of the symptoms above are regular for you, start fueling your body with the protein sources mentioned above!
Plant-based proteins are a great option for those looking to reduce their meat consumption or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. The variety of plant-based sources means that there is something for everyone, no matter what your taste preference or dietary restriction may be. With the wealth of information available on plant-based proteins, it has never been easier to make the switch to this healthy and sustainable way of eating. Remember though to seek medical advice before making any drastic changes to your diet.