Over the last few years, people throughout the world have developed a greater interest in reducing animal consumption. More people than ever are switching to vegan and vegetarian diets and moving away from animal-based products.
This shift is great news for those who are looking to diversify their diets. At the same time, though, it’s also created more opportunities for misinformation to be spread about plant-based eating.
For example, it’s a common misconception that vegan and vegetarian diets are inferior from a nutritional standpoint and don’t provide enough protein to support muscle growth. It can be difficult to obtain some essential nutrients (protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, etc.) when abstaining from meat and animal products. However, you can absolutely get enough with some careful planning.
Being informed about the best plant-based protein options is a great place to start. Read on to learn which protein sources you ought to include in your plant-based diet to meet your daily protein needs.
Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame
Soy products are some of the richest protein sources you can find when following a vegan and vegetarian diet.
Tempeh, for example, contains up to 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of protein in just half a cup, and tofu contains 10 grams (0.35 ounces) for the same serving size. Edamame beans are also a good option with 8.5 grams (0.29 ounces) of protein per half cup.
Keep in mind that soy products aren’t just rich in plant-based protein. They are also complete protein sources.
Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids (or EAAs). EAAs are amino acids (building blocks of protein) that the body can’t make on its own.
If you aren’t getting enough of these amino acids from your diet (especially Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, which are also known as Branched-Chain Amino Acids or BCAAs), you’ll have a harder time building muscle and recovering from your workouts.
Lentils are a great option when you’re looking to add a little extra texture and flavor to your stews, salads, and rice. Both red and green lentils are excellent sources of protein (one cup of cooked lentils contains almost 18 grams or 0.6 ounces of protein), as well as fiber and other essential nutrients like iron and potassium.
Similar to lentils, chickpeas are another tasty, high-protein option. Chickpeas contain about 7.25 grams (0.26 ounces) per half a cup serving.
These legumes are easy to add to your meals for some extra texture and flavor. They can also be eaten hot or cold, depending on your preference, or ground down into hummus for a protein-rich spread or dip.
Peanuts provide plenty of healthy fats, but they also provide you with plenty of plant-based protein. One half cup serving of raw peanuts contains 20.5 grams (or 0.7 ounces) of protein.
Don’t want to eat regular peanuts? You can also get a little extra protein from peanut butter. This popular paste contains approximately 3.6 grams (0.12 ounces) of protein per tablespoon and can easily be spread onto a slice of bread or some crackers for a simple and nutritious snack.
Don’t like or can’t have peanuts? Almonds are a good alternative.
Almonds may have a slightly lower protein count per half a cup serving (about 14 grams or 0.49 ounces). However, they provide many other nutritional benefits. For example, they’re a good source of vitamin E, which help to improve eyesight and contribute to good skin.
A less common (but still very healthy) source of plant-based protein is spirulina. Spirulina is a type of blue or green algae that contains 4 grams (0.14 ounces) of protein per tablespoon. It’s also rich in other important nutrients, including iron, vitamin B (not including vitamin B12), and manganese.
Spirulina comes in a convenient powder form that can be easily added to water and smoothies. You can also sprinkle it over salads and snacks, too, for more flavor and extra protein.
For those who are looking to replace (or enhance the protein content of) carbohydrates like rice and pasta, quinoa is one good option. It’s a complete protein that can keep you full and help you hit your daily nutrition goals.
One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams (0.28 ounces) of protein, plus other nutrients like magnesium, iron, fiber, and manganese. It’s an excellent choice served on its own or mixed with other carbohydrates.
Mycoprotein is another unique protein source. It’s fungus-based and contains up to 13 grams (0.45 ounces) of protein per half cup serving.
Mycoprotein is often included in meat substitutes and sold as “chicken” nuggets or cutlets. Keep in mind, though, that some of these meat substitute products also contain animal-based ingredients, such as egg whites.
These would be appropriate for vegetarians, but not vegans. Make sure you check the ingredient list of the food on the label before consuming them.
Beans and Rice
While rice nor beans are complete proteins on their own. However, a good way to create a balanced and high protein meal is to combine them.
Not only does this make an enjoyable (and affordable) meal, but the combination of rice and beans is also very versatile. Top it with salsa, plant-based cheese, and your favorite vegetables. The options are endless.
Finally, if you need help filling in the gaps and hitting your daily protein goal, plant-based protein powder is an excellent supplement to keep on hand. This supplement is easy to mix with water or milk after a workout or when you’re short on time and just need something quick and tasty to tide you over.
When looking for plant-based protein powders, be sure to choose one that is made with complete protein sources like peas. Read the label, too, to see how much sugar or other ingredients are added to enhance the flavor. This will help you ensure you’re meeting all your dietary requirements and aren’t taking in anything that you don’t want or need.
Are you looking to achieve maximum gains without eating animal protein? Are you struggling to get enough plant-based protein in your diet?
Regardless of your fitness goals, be sure to keep this list of tasty and high-quality plant-based protein sources in mind. They’ll help you add variety to your vegan or vegetarian diet and make sure you’re consistently hitting your daily protein goals.
In addition to these recommendations, be sure to check out our plant-based protein powder, too. It tastes great, contains 25g (0.88 ounces) of protein per serving, and is packed with all the essential nutrients you need, all from plants. Order yours and give it a try today!