Protein for Vegans
People choose to be vegans for a number of reasons, either related to a moral objection to using animal products, or health reasons. While it is clear that eating too much meat can cause health problems, it can be equally unhealthy to just stop eating meat altogether without replacing the vital nutrients it provides. The most important nutrient that people get from eating meat is protein, which is why some vegans and vegetarians have a deficiency in this area.
It is possible to be a vegan that gets more than enough protein. You just need to learn about where it comes from, and how to incorporate it into your daily diet. It will take some effort at first, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t have any trouble at all.
Tofu (Tempeh and Edamame)
Tofu is one of the most popular source of protein for vegans. Tempeh and edamame are also good options, which come from the soybean just like tofu. Soybeans are an excellent option for getting protein, and it also contains the necessary amino acids required to take advantage of it. For this reason, tofu, tempeh and edamame are all considered to be whole sources of protein.
- Tofu – Tofu is the most popular option in this category, and is made from bean curds that are pressed together. Tofu is most popular because it has very little taste on its own, but readily absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it is used with.
- Tempeh – Tempeh is made using mature soybeans, cooking them and having them slightly fermented. The results are then pressed together into a patty or other pleasing shape. Tempeh has a nutty flavor, though it is still relatively mild.
- Edamame – Edamame is made from immature soybeans. They must be cooked (steamed or boiled) before consuming, and are typically either eaten on their own or else used in salads and soups. Edamame has a sweet taste that many people enjoy.
Lentils are another popular source of protein for vegans. They contain 18 grams of protein per cup, which is a very significant amount. Beyond just the protein, lentils also provide high-quality fiber, which helps your food to be digested more slowly for a steady source of energy. They have also been linked to fighting cancer and contain lots of antioxidants.
All beans contain protein, which makes them a staple in the diet of most vegans. When using beans as a source of protein, it is a good idea to try to use a variety of different types. Choosing kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, green beans, and others will help ensure you get a diverse set of nutrients, which is important for the body. They all have lots of protein, and with their other nutrients, it is no surprise that they are considered to be one of the healthiest types of foods by many. They have even been shown to reduce belly fat in those who consume them (vegan or not).
Oatmeal is a great breakfast for people who follow all types of diets, but for vegans, it is exceptionally healthy. Each serving of oats contains about six grams of protein, which is an excellent way to start the day. The protein is not complete so you won’t want to rely on this exclusively for your protein every day.
Nuts & Seeds
There are many types of nuts and seeds out there, and they all contain a good amount of healthy protein. It is typically going to be in the range of 5-7 grams per serving. They also contain a lot of healthy fats and iron, both of which many vegans are missing in their diets. Nuts and seeds should certainly be seen as a good snack, or added to other foods, to help get balanced nutrition when following a vegan diet.
One commonly overlooked seed that many vegans love is hempseed. It is from the same family as the marijuana plant, but only has trace amounts of THC, so it will not get you high or cause you to fail a drug test. Hempseed contains about 10 grams of protein and is considered a complete protein. This seed is one of the best sources of protein from all seeds and nuts, which is likely why it is so popular for vegans.
Seitan is one food that many vegans love, but most non-vegans haven’t even heard of. It is a very popular meat alternative because the completed product can look very similar to meat, and also offers a very similar texture. Seitan is made from the gluten of wheat and contains about 25 grams of protein per serving. This is the highest concentration of protein that a vegan can get through commonly available sources.
This meat alternative can be cooked in very similar ways to real meats including grilling, frying, sautéing, and more. Just remember, since it is made from the gluten in wheat, it is not a good option for those with a gluten sensitivity.
Diversity is Key
As mentioned above, vegans need to make it a goal to get their protein from different sources. All of the above mentioned options and many others have a lot of excellent health benefits. They are also each missing certain vital nutrients, which is why choosing a variety of sources is important. Just like meat eaters tend to consume different types of meats, vegans should also use multiple sources for their protein.