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Tell someone that you’re vegan, and there’s a pretty high likelihood that they’re going to come back at you with “What about protein?”The question reflects a general impression that eating vegan is going to seriously compromise your ability to get the protein that your body relies on for maintenance and growth.
But does it really?
The answer is an emphatic no! You can meet all of your protein requirements on a vegan diet, even if you’re a bodybuilder or other athlete, without relying on animal-based protein foods. In this article, we identify the 12 best vegan protein sources.
Tofu is produced from the curd of soybeans. It comes as a gelatinous white block. It is high in protein, low in calories, and cholesterol-free. It also delivers a plentiful supply of the key minerals iron and calcium.
In addition, tofu provides you with key phytochemicals that you don’t get from a piece of steak. The key ones are called isoflavones and have been shown to reduce the levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the body while also improving good HDL levels.
Research indicates that tofu may also improve the following conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Breast cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Liver damage
A 122-gram block of tofu contains 177 calories, 16 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of carbohydrate and 12 grams of fat.
Coming from the legume family, lentils provide a healthy dose of protein along with the fibre and phytochemicals that only come from plant-based sources. Brown, red and green lentils all provide similar nutrition profiles, with around 27 grams of protein in every 100-gram serving. You’ll also get around 8 grams of fibre, with just 115 calories per serving.
Lentils are an incomplete protein source, with the limiting amino acid being methionine. You can easily transform your meal into a complete protein source by adding such methionine rich extras as Brazil nuts or soybeans.
Lentils provide a rich source of zinc, iron and phosphorus.
Oats are another excellent vegan protein source that is also high in fibre. Every 100-gram serving will provide you with a very respectable 14 grams of protein. Oats are a good breakfast choice because they do a great job of making you feel full. That means that you are less likely to snack mid-morning.
Oats are, along with the majority of vegan proteins, an incomplete source of protein. However, you can overcome the limiting factor, which in this case is lysine, by sprinkling a few pumpkin or cashew seeds on your oatmeal.
When it comes to nutrient density, it doesn’t get much better than pumpkin seeds. These tiny packages contain a whopping 37 grams of protein in a 100-gram serving. They are also high in antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, iron and saturated fats. The 500 calories count on every 100-gram serving is largely due to its high-fat content.
Pumpkin seeds have been found to help improve prostate and bladder health, improving cardiovascular health and lowering blood glucose levels. They may also be helpful in getting to sleep at night.
Beans are a variety of legumes. There is a range of types of beans, each of which is relatively high in protein content. Of all of the varieties of beans, however, just soybeans contain all nine of the essential amino acids. However, as we’ve previously mentioned, simple protein combining can easily overcome the deficiency. If you eat beans with rice, for example, you will usually be able to get complete amino acids from the meal.
A 40-gram cup of canned black beans provides you with 14.5 grams of protein, 16.6 grams of fibre, and nearly 5 grams of iron.
Edamame beans provide even more protein, at 10.8 grams per 40-gram serving.
Beans are also high in folate and antioxidants. Among their many health benefits, all beans have the ability to reduce appetite, improve gut health, preventing fatty liver and controlling glucose metabolism.
Tempeh is a popular vegetarian replacement for meat products. It is made from fermented soy. As well as being high in protein, it also contains a lot of prebiotics, which are excellent for gut health.
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food and eaten in cake form. It has a dry, chewy texture and a nutty taste. A 3-ounce serving of tempeh will provide you with 160 calories,15 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat. It is also a rich source of such minerals as manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.
Because tempeh is a soy-based product, its protein content contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.
With 29 grams of protein for a 100-gram serving, almonds are another excellent vegan protein source. This is another extremely nutrient-dense food product. They are also high in fibre, having 9 grams of monounsaturated fats, as well as Vitamin E, manganese and magnesium.
Almonds are high in antioxidants, which protect the body from free radical damage. This helps to offset some of the effects of aging. This nut represents one of the best sources of Vitamin E that you can get your hands on. Meeting your daily Vitamin E content will help to combat heart disease, Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancer.
Almonds also help to reduce blood sugar levels, and they have a satiating effect on the appetite. That makes them a great snack choice.
Quinoa is an extremely popular grain crop. It originates in South America, where the ancient Inca people considered them to be the mother of all grains. A cup of cooked quinoa provides you with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fibre, 39 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat and 222 calories.
Two key plant compounds that are found in quinoa are quercetin and kaempferol. They both have powerful anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-depressant qualities. They also have among the highest fibre count of any grains.
Quinoa is also one of the few plant-based proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids.
Chickpeas are a pulse that is extremely healthy, providing you with 19 grams of protein for a serving of 100 grams. They are also very high in fibre and are relatively low in calories. Chickpeas have the ability to control the appetite. This can help to reduce the appetite and stay in a caloric deficit.
Chickpeas are very low on the Glycemic Index. They also help to lower blood glucose levels.
PLANT PROTEIN POWDERS
Plant-based protein powders have become very popular recently. Part of their appeal is that many people have lactose issues when they take whey protein-based powders. Others are allergic to casein protein.
Research has found that brown rice protein has the same beneficial results as whey-based proteins when it comes to recovery, increasing strength and muscle gain.
The most popular form of plant-based protein powder on the market right now is pea protein. It is very palatable and easy to digest. Plant-based proteins also have a lower risk of cancer than animal-based proteins, especially if you are an athlete who is taking more protein than most people.
Plant-based protein is a medium digesting protein source. That means that it takes 3-4 hours to get into the muscle cells, which is much slower than whey protein and about the same as casein protein. That makes plant-based a great choice to take before bed and prior to your workout, as it will kick in a couple of hours after your training, just as your body needs amino acids for protein synthesis.
International Protein’s Plant Protein Complete is a pea and rice blend protein combination to provide a complete amino acid profile. That blend is then added to the complete protein in sacha inchi, a powerful peanut that is native to Peru. This protein blend is also unique in that it contains hydrolysed protein peptides, which speeds up portions of the amino acid content. That also makes Plant Protein Complete an excellent post-workout protein.
Plant Protein Complete is also an excellent source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTSs). This is an energy-rich fat burning source that helps to spare muscle as it fuels your workouts. There are also no artificial sweeteners used in this plant-based protein. The sweet taste comes from stevia, which is a completely natural product.
Going vegan does not mean that you have to compromise your protein intake. While it’s true that most vegan proteins do have an incomplete amino acid profile, simple protein combining alleviates this problem. Vegan protein options are generally much less expensive than their animal-based counterparts. They are also more nutrient-dense, including phytochemicals and other plant-based compounds that you just can’t get in animal-based proteins.