The most common concern for people adopting a plant-based diet is that they might lack sufficient protein. However, many people don’t know that there are many plant-based sources to consume the daily recommended protein intake. But there’s a catch here. Not all plant-based proteins are complete proteins. The term complete protein refers to amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. Where animal products like fish, beef, dairy, and eggs contain enough of all the essential amino acids, plant protein sources are too low or miss some of the essential amino acids. However, you can still manage to get each amino acid by eating a varied plant-based diet.
Here are nine such plant-based sources of protein for vegans and vegetarians :
Tempeh, Tofu, And Edamame
Tempeh, tofu, and edamame come from soybeans. Soybeans are a great source of whole protein which means they provide all the essential amino acids to the body.
Edamame has a slight grassy taste; hence you need to boil or steam it before consuming it. You can eat edamame on their own, or you can add them to salads and soups. On the other hand, tofu doesn’t have much of its taste, and it acquires flavors of whatever you season/marinate with it. You can eat scrambled tofu, or you can add it to your salad. In contrast, tempeh has a nutty flavor, and you can use it in burgers, chilis, or soups.
A cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein. You can use lentils in a variety of dishes like soups or fresh salads. Apart from this, lentils also contain a great amount of slowly digested carbs. A single cup of cooked lentils provides you with 50% of your recommended daily intake of fibers. Also, lentils contain a good amount of iron, magnesium, folate, antioxidants, and other health-promoting compounds.
Chickpeas And Other Varieties Of Beans
Black, pinto, kidney beans, and most other beans have a high amount of protein per serving. Chickpeas are another legume with high protein content. One cooked cup of beans and chickpeas contains around 15 grams of protein. In addition to this, they are a powerhouse of complex carbs, phosphorus, folate, iron, potassium, fiber, manganese, and several beneficial plant compounds. You can enjoy beans in a cooked bowl of delicious chili or enjoy extra immunity benefits by sprinkling a dash of turmeric on roasted chickpeas.
You might know chia seeds for their weight loss properties. But do you know chia seeds are also a good source of protein? Two tablespoons of chia seeds can give you 4 grams of protein. They are also a good source of iron, calcium, omega 3, selenium, and magnesium.
Chia seeds are unique in their consistency as they can soak liquid to form a gel-like substance. Vegans use chia seeds in their smoothies and pectin-free jams. They are also a good substitute for eggs in vegan cakes or cookies.
Don’t get confused with the name; buckwheat isn’t a type of wheat at all. While the Japanese have turned the plant into noodles, many cultures eat the seeds after grinding them into flour or cooking the hulled kernels like oatmeal. A single cup of cooked buckwheat can give you 6 grams of protein. Buckwheat is also healthy in many other ways as it may reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol.
Usually served as a side dish, one cooked cup of green peas contains 9 grams of protein which is more than a cup of milk. In addition, green peas also give you around 25% of your daily fiber, folate, magnesium, and Vitamin A, C, K intake. Apart from this, green peas are a great source of magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus, and other B Vitamins. You can enjoy peas in dishes like pea soup, basil and pea stuffed ravioli, or avocado and pea guacamole.
Soy milk comes from soybeans and contains minerals and vitamins that are a great alternative to cow’s milk. Soy milk provides 7 grams of protein per cup and vitamin D, calcium, and Vitamin B-12 with that. However, to ensure that you’re getting Vitamin B12, always pick a fortified variety as the natural variety doesn’t have Vitamin B-12.
Nut Butter, Nuts, And Other Seeds
Seeds, nuts, and their derived products are all great sources of protein. Depending on the nut and seed variety, one ounce contains around 7 grams of protein.
Seeds and nuts are also great sources of healthy fats, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and Vitamin E. While choosing which seeds and nuts to buy, remember that roasting and blanching those nuts can change the nutrient content in them. So, whenever possible, reach for raw and unblanched versions. You can also try nut butter as a substitute for regular butter.
Protein deficiency is the biggest concern for people turning vegan and adopting a plant-based diet. But you can consume recommended protein by including a variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other plant-based protein sources. Moreover, many of these food items provide whole protein, which means all the nine essential amino acids. To ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients and enough protein, incorporate a variety of whole protein and nearly complete protein sources in your usual diet.