hoosing a vegan lifestyle implies drastic changes to your diet, especially if you have been a meat-eater all your life. The main concern of people that prefer walking down this road is protein deficiency, which may lead to muscular atrophy among other medical conditions. Some consider that not even the best vegan protein sources can match the nutritional value of meat and dairy products.
The good news is that you can enjoy a completely vegan diet, and still get all the protein you need from plant sources. To understand how, we will need to delve into the science behind the importance of having complete protein in our nutrition. So, let’s answer some critical questions!
What is a complete protein?
A complete protein is a chain of 20 amino acids. The human body can produce 11 out of them but needs to take the other nine from food. Meat and dairy products contain complete proteins, so consuming them solves most of our protein-related worries. This fact leaves vegans with the crucial task of finding the other amino acids in vegetal sources.
Can you get complete protein only from vegan food?
Medical studies show that if you combine vegan foods properly every day, you can obtain all the necessary amino acids to create a complete protein only from vegetal sources. The way you incorporate these foods into your diet depends on your preferences.
We have compiled a list of the best vegan protein sources that will ease your endeavor and help you the next time you go grocery shopping. Here they are:
This ancient grain should not miss from any vegan diet out there. Quinoa has more protein (16 grams per cup) than most of the grains you can find on the market. It is also rich in iron, magnesium and the muscle-building amino acid called L-Arginine.
Buckwheat seeds are rich in protein (8 grams per cup), magnesium and manganese. Regular consumption of this grain-like food may lower your cholesterol and keep blood sugar levels in check. Also, this superfood also provides a significant amount of fiber that gives you a lasting feeling of satiety and prevents you from giving in to usual cravings.
Regardless of the soy byproduct that you choose to consume, you get a solid supply of protein, with almost 21 grams per cup. The benefit of including this plant into your vegan diet is that you can choose from a wide variety of foods that include soybeans, tempeh, soy milk or tofu.
4. Chia Seeds
Every tablespoon of chia seeds contains 2.5 grams of protein, making it one of the best vegan protein sources. Add this food to your meals, and you receive a healthy boost of fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. Also, it lowers the risk of heart disease due to its rich dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Another ancient grain that packs a powerful punch of protein is Amaranth with almost 10 grams per cup. Also known as a “pseudocereal,” this healthy vegan food also provides a decent supply of calcium, iron, carbs, and fiber.
If you are not a celiac, then Seitan should be a regular source of vegan protein in your diet. This substitute for meat is made from gluten and provides over 60 grams of protein per cup. It has a chewy texture and a tangy flavor, but you can easily cook it by grilling it or sautéing it with other vegetables.
Lentils constitute a base food for most vegans and vegetarians. These pulses provide over 18 grams of protein per cooked cup, a generous amount of fiber and essential minerals like manganese and iron. Just a few tablespoons of cooked lentils make for a hearty addition to any meal.
The THC-free part of Cannabis sativa is a great source of amino acids with over 3 grams of complete protein in every tablespoon. Hempseed also provides you with important omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Spirulina is a healthy extract from marine algae. It contains seven out of the nine necessary amino acids that you need to build complete protein in a vegan diet. It provides four grams of protein per tablespoon along with consistent amounts of riboflavin, potassium, and antioxidants.
10. Wild Rice
A staple food for many people in the world, rice packs over 7 grams of protein per cooked cup. The most nourishing kind is wild rice, which is also a rich source of B vitamins, fiber, and essential minerals. Nutritionists recommend that you boil wild rice in a significant amount of water to reduce any trace of its natural content of arsenic.
If you are looking for an affordable source of vegan protein, you cannot go wrong with beans. It does not matter which is your favorite kind. You can have your pick between kidney beans, fava beans or chickpeas. Most of them provide around 15 grams of protein per cooked cup.
12. Ezekiel Bread
Prepared after a hint of a recipe from the Bible, Ezekiel bread provides 18 essential amino acids, and it is one of the best vegan protein sources you can find on the market. It combines lentils, wheat, spelt, barley and millet to create a superfood for anyone who wants to replace animal products in their diet without missing out on crucial nutrients.
13. Oats and oatmeal
With almost 12 grams of protein per cooked cup, oats provide a viable alternative to meat protein. Prepare this grain into oatmeal to get a hearty breakfast full of fiber, zinc, and folate.
14. Nuts and nut butter
For a tasty treat rich in vegan protein choose raw, unsalted nuts and seeds. Peanuts, almonds, pistachios as well as sunflower seeds and sesame provide around 7 grams of protein per ounce. You can also opt for natural nut butter if you don’t like chewing the uncooked kernels.
15. Sun-dried tomatoes
These tasty, chewy tomatoes go great with almost any meal. They offer almost 6 grams of protein per cup along with a decent amount of fiber, potassium and essential antioxidants like lycopene.
The Bottom Line
Contrary to general misconception, people that choose to take their protein from vegan sources only have a minimal risk of suffering from protein deficiency. This list offers a wide selection of foods that you can incorporate in your meat-free meals without worrying about the health risks of nutritional frailty.