Need more lean protein in your vegetarian diet? Be good to the planet with these 8 versatile vegan sources of healthy protein recommended by our health and wellbeing expert Renée Leonard-Stainton.
Proteins are known as the building blocks of life. In the body, they break down into amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. With protein therefore being absolutely essential to a healthy diet, one of the most common questions vegans get asked is “How do you get enough protein without eating meat, eggs and dairy?!”
While eating a vegan diet does obviously limit your protein options, it doesn't mean that you can’t get enough via vegan food choices.
Below are some healthy vegan sources of protein and ideas on how they can be incorporated into your daily diet.
Most grains contain a small amount of protein, but quinoa (technically a seed although most-often referred to as a grain) is unique in that it contains more than 8 grams of protein per cup, including all of the nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair. Quinoa is a versatile food and can be used in a similar way that you would use rice or can be cooked into a porridge or sweet pudding.
All nuts contain both healthy fats and protein, making them a valuable part of a plant-based diet. Nut butters, like peanut and almond butter, are also a good way to get protein. Make your own with a high speed blender, or look for brands with no added hydrogenated oils or sugar. Nut butters can be blended into smoothies, or spread on toast. Raw nuts can also be mixed with dried fruits and coconut for a healthy, on-the-go trail mix.
There are many different varieties of beans: black, white, pinto, edamame etc, meaning they are a great option for mixing up the flavours of your vegan dishes. One thing they all have in common is that they are also a healthy source of protein. Two cups of kidney beans, for example, contain about 26 grams of protein.
Chickpeas contain 7.3 grams of protein in just half a cup, and are also high in fibre and low in calories. They also have the added bonus of being budget-friendly. They can be tossed into salads, fried and salted as a crispy snack, or pureed into a hummus.
You can (legally) buy hemp seeds from most health food stores. They contain about 10 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons. You can easily add them to smoothies, pestos, or baked goods. Hemp milk can also be a dairy-free way to add protein to your diet via smoothies.
6. Chia Seeds
These seeds are an easy way to add protein and fibre into your diet. Chia seeds can be sprinkled over salads, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, blended into smoothies and much more.
Lentils are a favorite for many vegans looking to pump up the protein on a budget. Lentils add 9 grams of protein to your meal per half cup, along with nearly 15 grams of fibre.
8. Tofu and tempeh
Foods made from soybeans are some of the highest vegetarian sources of protein. Tempeh and tofu, for example, contain about 15 and 20 grams per half cup, respectively. Despite their health qualities, one of their most attractive characteristics is that they can be flavoured however you want, as they take on a variety of sweet or savoury flavours.
Want to help others to live more fulfilling lives by getting their nutrition and energy needs under control? Research career options in the Nutrition sector here.