When people hear that you’re vegan, the first question you probably face is “But where do you get your protein?” Much to their distress, it is actually quite easy to get just enough protein for the body without slaughtering animals, easier than you might think! Protein rich foods are all around you in the vegan world if you look carefully. Also, on the upside of it all, these food sources are both calorie and cost effective.
Proteins are made up of nearly 20 different types of amino acids, out of which, 9 need to be produced by sources other than the human body. These Essential Amino Acids are the ones we need to consume as proteins. Dieticians believe that we need a sufficient amount of each of these amino acids every day, and plant-based diets contain a wide variety of amino acid profiles. Hence, fear not my fellow vegans friends, it means that you’re virtually guaranteed to get all the necessary proteins out of non-meat sources!
Here is a list of the top ten protein rich foods specialized for a vegetarian diet.
1. Green Peas
Foods that belong in the legume family, such as black-eyed peas, chickpeas, etc., are great sources of vegetarian protein, green peas being no exception. A cup of green peas contains about 7.9 grams of protein, which is the same amount as a cup of milk. Peas are a great accompaniment for Indian style curries and gravies. You could also blend it to make a pesto along with pine nuts, mint, and olive oil to serve over your favorite dish.
Chickpeas are another star source of protein from the legume family, containing about 7.3 grams of protein in just half a cup. Chickpeas are also very high in fiber and are low calorie legumes. These peas are great in salads, purees, and curries of different types; or you could go Middle Eastern with some flatbread and homemade Hummus!
As all nuts contain healthy fats and protein, they are a valuable part of a plant based, protein rich diet. But beware! Nuts, like almonds, cashews, and pistachios contain 160 calories and 5 to 6 grams of protein in each ounce. Therefore, it might be a good idea to dry roast your nuts or eat them raw. Peanut butter is a great hit among children, but you might want to skip the brands that have artificial flavoring or added sugar. Throw in some peanuts, a few drops of oil, and some salt into a mixer, and voila! You have your own peanut butter for your daily morning fix!
Like their legume cousins, different varieties of beans have very high protein content. We can get about 26 grams of proteins from just two cups of kidney beans. Green beans, black beans, etc., are also very nutritious. Toss some beans in your salad or cook it in a gravy to reap the benefits of their protein content.
Soybeans created a revolution in our little vegan world by becoming a leading dairy substitute in our diet. Foods, such as tofu, are some of the highest sources of vegetarian protein. In every half cup, there are about 20 grams of protein. The very versatile tofu can be crafted into any taste and texture you want in your food. It can be used instead of dairy cheese in your pizza.
6. Non-dairy milk
It’s okay if you’re both vegan and lactose intolerant, we have something for you too! Choose your favorite milk alternative from the wide variety available in the market, such as soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, and even hemp milk. Soy milk contains about 100 calories per cup, which is comparable to skim milk. It also contains the most protein, which is about 4 to 8 grams.
A food so healthy that NASA might be growing it in interplanetary flights, quinoa is a unique food which contains more than 8 grams of protein per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for its growth and repair. Quinoa has been dubbed the ‘perfect protein’ for precisely this reason. Quinoa, like oatmeal and other such foods, is amazingly versatile. It can be added to your soup, served with sugar and fruit as a cereal or put in with vegetables to make a refreshing salad.
8. Chia Seeds
Remember Chia Pet Products? Those clay animals got their fur from Chia seeds in the distant past, but Chia is now recognized as a vital source of vegetarian protein, as they are the highest source of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain more fiber than flax seeds or nuts. It is also a powerhouse of iron, zinc, calcium, and antioxidants. Chia seeds contain 4.7 grams of protein per ounce, which is about two tablespoons. They plump up in contact with moisture, and hence, can make a great jelly like pudding for dessert. They can also be sprinkled over cereal, blended into smoothies or stirred into oatmeal.
Do not fear the mighty hemp, for adding hemp to your diet does not mean that you’re eating marijuana. This hemp won’t get you dizzy, because this relative of the popular drug is abundant in all 9 amino acids that we require. It also contains significant amounts of magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. You can get 10 grams of protein from about three tablespoons of hemp seeds. Hemp milk is a great milk substitute, and adding it to smoothies can kick start your journey to a protein rich diet!
Last, but not the least, is an actual meat substitute that can be used in recipes which demand an animal protein. Seitan is made out of wheat gluten, which is seasoned with salt and savory flavors. It contains about 36 grams of protein in half a cup; hence, it is more protein rich than tofu. As for taste, it can easily substitute duck or chicken. So go ahead, surprise your guests with seitan and enjoy the compliments that pour in!
If you know any other sources of protein that is suitable for Vegans which are not covered above, feel free to share in the comment section below 🙂