Just like carbohydrates and fat, protein is a part of the macronutrient triumvirate necessary for our bodies to function and develop properly. The difference between these macronutrients is that we don’t make deposits of proteins like we do with carbs and fat. Therefore, we have to use them regularly to compensate the lack of reservoirs.
The body uses proteins to make chemicals needed for its healthy functioning, such are enzymes and hormones. It also uses it to repair itself and create more tissue. Muscle, cartilage, blood and skin depend on the protein to develop and replenish. So, you see, we highly depend on the intake of protein to keep us in good shape.
Since vegan diet doesn’t include meat and products made from it, it’s a general belief that they don’t eat proteins. But this is far from the truth since many plants can provide sufficient proteins just like the meat. There are also plant pairings which create perfect protein foods when eaten together, like rice and beans, for example.
In order to help you with your diet, we prepared a list of 10 protein intake sources for vegans. These will give you enough of this macronutrient that you truly don’t need meat. Also, they are healthier and nutritional solutions than the meat-based products.
1. Tofu, tempeh and edamame
When it comes to soybeans, you can’t go wrong. They are the complete intake source of protein you will need, and the foods made from it taste great.
Tofu is famous as the “soybean cheese” since its texture and production remind of this milk-based food. It doesn’t taste like anything until used as an ingredient in dishes.
Tempeh is made from pressing cooked and fermented soybeans so it creates a patty. Just like tofu, tempeh is also used for a variety of dishes, like burgers, chilly and soups.
Edamame is actually immature soybeans used steamed or boiled as side dishes or on their own. They have a sweet and little bit grassy taste but are an amazing ingredient for soups and salads.
These three are an excellent source of iron, calcium and protein, while edamame is also good for folate, vitamin K and fibre. The famous meal with tofu is Japanese traditional miso soup which is quite the nutritional bomb.
Lentils are part of the legume family and are the most present in Asian cuisine. They are rich in protein and used for the preparation of soups. However, they are great in salads and as the side dish too, but you can use them for tacos instead of beans.
They contain a fibre which maintains the health of the digestive system. However, its health benefits don’t end here. Lentils reduce the risks of diabetes, some cancers, overweight and cardiovascular disease. With folate, manganese and iron, they are considered a nutritional powerhouse.
Chickpeas are one of those proteins infused beans you probably never paid too much attention to. You can eat them raw as a snack or make dishes with them. The most famous chickpea dish is hummus. It’s made from cooked chickpeas which are then mixed with olive oil, tahini, salt and lemon juice in the food processor. This is a very popular dip or spread in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
4. Spelt and teff
Spelt and teff are ancient grains, the same category that includes einkorn and barley. Unlike teff, spelt contains gluten. From all ancient grains, these two have the highest amount of protein. In addition, they contain magnesium, phosphorus, iron, fibre and complex carbs. They can replace rice and wheat, for example, so that makes them perfect for dishes like risotto or polenta.
5. Green peas
Peas are excellent for side dishes and as ingredients since one cup of cooked peas contains the same amount of protein as a glass of milk. They are even used for making of organic protein powder which is a great post-workout drink since it helps rebuild and repair the muscles. Peas are also considered as an important source of magnesium, zinc, copper and some of the vitamins Bs. Pea pottage is a very popular dish, as is the chowder with added carrots and chickpeas.
6. Amaranth and quinoa
Amaranth and quinoa are gluten-free grains which became very popular in the last decade for their healthy properties. There are many ways to use them. You can turn them into flours and prepare pancakes and muffins from them. However, you can use them as ingredients of soups, salads and stuff vegetables with them like bell peppers and tomatoes.
7. Oats and oatmeal
A healthy and nutritional breakfast is an excellent way to start the day. Oats and oatmeal are an easy way to add protein to your morning meal, as well as fibre. They are rich in magnesium, phosphorus and folate and are used for other meals than breakfast as well. Oats are perfect to make veggie burgers and are ground into flour for bread and pastries.
8. Wild rice
There’s no wonder wild rice is often advised over brown one and basmati. It contains almost twice as much protein than these types of rice and is quite tasty. Its bran contains vitamins, minerals and fibre in the amount not present in other bare rice. Since the main concern about it is arsenic which can be present in the bran, it’s advised to wash and cook them in plenty of water. Also, limit their intake to periodical instead of regular.
9. Chia seeds
Chia seeds come from Mexico and Guatemala and besides the protein, they’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They have a blend taste and absorb water, therefore are great as ingredients of smoothies. Chia pudding is also a great breakfast, dessert or snack, depending on what you add to it. Just add one spoon of chia seed into the almond milk, with some vanilla extract and maple syrup to stay overnight.
10. Fruits and vegetables
Some fruits and vegetables have more protein than others do. This includes broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, guava, blackberries, bananas and nectarines, to name a few. They are a nice way to create a versatile diet as well as to add vitamins and minerals found in abundance in fruits and vegetables.
Being vegan is not unhealthy and you can gain the necessary nutrients if you plan your meals accordingly and research the ingredients. It’s possible to survive without meat and products derived from it, only if you have a will and strong belief to do so. The tastes and textures of foods from this list may surprise you and even refine you menu.