The Best Protein Sources and Recipes For Vegans and Vegetarians
Many people worry that they can’t get all of their protein needs from a plant-based diet,” says Beth Hamilton, nutritionist at Vega. “However, grains, nuts, seeds and beans are the main foods to include.”
The answer lies in the amount of protein in plants vs meat. 100g of kidney beans contain around 8.5g of protein, compared to 29g of protein in 100g of fillet steak. You’ve either got to consume much, much more food in total, or rely on supplements. Some vegan proteins are just as effective as dairy proteins like whey and casein, but not all.
“Whey and casein are complete proteins. This means they contain all the essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein – that our bodies must get through food,” says Hamilton. “If you are using a vegan protein powder, it is important to check that it contains multiple sources of plant-based proteins in its blend, to provide you with all these essential amino acids.”
The good news is that regardless of where you get your protein from, it behaves in the same way. Whatever your source; protein is protein.
The Best Vegan Protein Foods
Consider this curdled soy milk an edible sponge (stay with us), soaking up the flavour of whatever juices and spices you cook it in. Not only does tofu have a 3:1 protein-to-carb ratio, but it’s also linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer, say US scientists. Can sausages do that?
This fermented bean ‘cake’ is usually made with soy but, unlike tofu, uses the whole bean, rather than just the milk. It’s denser and mineral-rich, and packs extra fibre too. The fermentation process also makes its plant proteins more digestible.
Its devilish name may seem apt to paleo types: seitan is gluten. But with as much protein per calorie as chicken breast, it’s also a top source of muscle fuel. Textured and robust, it’s the ‘meatiest’ of the meatless, says award-winning vegan chef and author Tony Bishop-Weston.
High in energising vitamin C and blood sugar-levelling manganese, this huge green fruit looks like a mango-lychee hybrid. But, cooked, it bears an uncanny likeness to pulled pork. You can find it fresh or tinned in Asian supermarkets for now – until the mainstream catches on.
With 21 grams of protein in one cup of cooked beans, they’ll help fill you up and build muscle. What’s more, beans will boost your digestion since they’re packed with fibre. Pair it with rice, hummus, or whole-grain bread for a complete meatless meal.
At 25 grams of protein per cup, pistachios make for an excellent high-protein snack on the go. You can also make use them for a number of sweet and savoury recipes. Sweet potato curry, anyone?
Chickpeas contain 9 grams of protein per ¾-cup serving and are one of the most versatile plant-based protein sources out there. Add them to a kale salad, upping not only your protein but also your vitamin intake; leafy greens contain vitamins A, C, E and K.
Ok, not the most exciting food on the menu, but one cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein. It’s also a versatile protein source, and can be served as the grain and protein in most dishes