Proteins are the main building blocks of our bodies, and we need to consume a healthy amount of protein every day to maintain our normal body processes.
We can get proteins from many sources, such as animals and plants. However, vegan protein sources have been growing in popularity in recent years because of their beneficial effects on the human body and their positive effects on the environment.
However, many people are confused by the misinformation surrounding vegan protein sources and can not find the right vegan foods to supplement their diet.
If you’re one of these people, don’t worry. We’ve rounded up the best vegan protein sources for you in this article!
Plant Vs. Animal Protein
Since proteins are such an important part of our daily diet, we need to make sure that we are receiving the right amount and the right kind.
Many people who move to veganism ask about the differences between plant and animal protein. Plant-based protein is much better for your overall health than animal-based protein.
Why is that? The answer lies in the type of nutrition that plants have. Plant-based proteins do not have much cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease in most people. In fact, research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association proves that a vegan diet decreases inflammation in our bodies, which reduces the risk for cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, a diet consisting of animal proteins has been associated with a rapid increase in weight which can lead to a variety of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancers. Sticking to vegan protein sources can reduce your risk of these diseases.
Plants are also rich in fiber, allowing our guts to have strong motility. Fiber also help us lose weight, reduce our risk of diabetes and decrease our blood pressure, as stated in this article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Animal protein sources do not have fiber, which can lead to many gastrointestinal problems and weight gain.
Are Plant Proteins Complete Proteins?
Many people wish to convert to a vegan diet but do not do so because they’ve heard that animal protein is better for the body since plant proteins are not complete proteins. That is not strictly true. So, let’s unpack that!
The proteins in our body are made up of twenty-two amino acids. Out of these twenty-two amino acids, our body can only make thirteen. The other nine amino acids need to be supplied by our diet for normal body processes to occur.
Most animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, while some plant proteins do not contain all nine amino acids. The protein sources that do not contain all nine amino acids are often referred to as incomplete proteins, while the ones that contain all nine amino acids are called complete proteins.
However, you do not need to worry on that score. Most vegans vary their diet so that they receive all nine essential amino acids, the same as people on omnivore diets. However, some vegan protein sources, such as quinoa, hemp, soy, pea protein, chia seeds, and buckwheat, pack all the essential amino acids in them and are great sources of plant-based protein.
What Are The Best Vegan Protein Sources?
Vegan foods are delicious, flavorful and often pack a punch when it comes to nutrients. Some vegan protein sources have a higher protein content than others, and if you are concerned about your protein intake on a vegan diet, you should include those in your diet!
So, what are the best vegan protein sources to include in your ingredient lists?
Seitan is a meat substitute that is very popular among people who want to replace chicken meat with something more flavorful and healthy. Not only that, but this gluten product is also high in protein and can be a staple in many delicious vegan dishes.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu is a popular protein source among vegans and has been around for a long time. Essentially, it is thickened soy milk that’s been converted to cubes to add to vegan recipes. It has a light taste and is a terrific meat substitute.
On the other hand, tempeh is similar to tofu because it is also made from soybeans but has a more solid texture.
Kidney beans, chickpeas, and yellow or green lentils are all terrific vegan protein sources from the pulses food group. They have an earthy, mild taste that can be customized according to the person’s preferences and come loaded with lots of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Buckwheat is a great whole grain to add to your diet as a vegan because it is loaded with proteins, vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium. You can add it to any food you like because it’s also gluten-free.
Whole Grain Bread
Whole-grain bread is a terrific choice as a source of plant-based protein because it is high in proteins, iron, and fiber. It is made with the entire grain kernel instead of refined white flour. You can eat whole grain bread with delicious soups in winter or make light salads or pasta to supplement the earthy taste of the whole grain bread.
In fact, a study conducted in Norway suggests that consumption of whole-grain bread may be linked to reduced mortality and a host of other benefits.
Immature soybeans still in the pod can be cooked in different ways. This food is called edamame, and it is a very popular vegan protein source these days. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are packed with beneficial proteins.
Quinoa seeds are rich in proteins, folate, fiber, and other important minerals. Quinoa is also a complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids. These seeds can be cooked in many different ways and have massive health benefits, such as improved heart health, reduced weight, and better glycemic control.
Chia seeds are a great vegan protein source because you can add them to any food for a delicious twist, and they also have plenty of other beneficial nutrients such as fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals.
In fact, a study shows that chia seeds reduce blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol in people who regularly consume them.
Hemp seeds pack a punch when it comes to their protein, fat, and mineral content. One to two tablespoons a day can help you fulfill some of your protein quotas and boost your gut health.
They also have a high vitamin content that can help you stay energized and focused while working through your day.
Flax seeds are also a great source of plant-based protein because you can fulfill some of your protein needs with just a small helping of flax seeds. They also contain good cholesterol and plenty of minerals and fiber that boost the digestive system and improve heart health.
Nutritional yeast is another plant-based protein that contains all the essential amino acids, which means it is a complete protein. It has a cheesy texture that allows you to prepare delicious salad dressings, pasta sauces, or dips for a nutritious addition to your vegan meals.
Spirulina is a blue-green alga that’s quite popular in vegan circles because you can add it to smoothies for a delicious taste and a lot of nutritional value. It has loads of protein, vitamins, and minerals, which boost immunity and improve your blood pressure and glycemic control.
Vegan Protein Powder
Most people use protein powders when they are concerned about their levels of protein intake. For vegans who do not have time to figure out which protein source to use to reach their daily protein intake, vegan protein powder is a godsend.
Some protein powders on the market are made from animal sources, but vegan protein powder is plant-based and is a quick fix for all your protein woes.
Let’s not forget that vegetables are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet and you can fulfill your daily protein requirement just by preparing meals with some tasty veggies of your choice.
Peas have the highest protein content, with spinach coming in second. Artichokes, avocado, Brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus and potatoes are some of the vegetables that can serve as some tasty vegan protein sources.
Black And Brown Rice
Black and brown rice varieties are popular for their antioxidant properties and positive effects on cardiovascular health. They’re also quite filling and can provide a lot of protein in a vegan meal.
Nut butter, such as peanut or almond butter, is tasty and quite high in protein. Many people start their day by spreading their favorite nut butter on whole-grain bread for a protein-packed breakfast.
Can You Get Enough Protein As A Vegan Athlete?
This is the question that plagues every athlete when they think of converting to a vegan diet and the answer is yes, you can reach your daily dietary protein requirements by vegan protein sources.
Athletes need proteins to maintain their muscle mass and repair any wear and tear that occurs in the body. Plant-based proteins do the job the same as animal-based proteins and vegan athletes do not need to worry about their protein intake as long as they consume enough vegan protein sources to fulfill their daily requirements.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Experts say that 10%-35% of your daily dietary intake should be made up of proteins. Numbers vary between different people depending on their lifestyle, exercise regime or lack thereof, health conditions and preferred cuisine.
You can also calculate your daily protein requirement by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36. The answer is your protein requirement in grams. You can also use an online protein calculator to get an exact answer based on your height, weight and activity levels.
Best Vegan Protein Sources For Building Muscle
Most of the vegan protein sources mentioned earlier are great for muscle gain as well as achieving your daily dietary intake of proteins. However, there are some protein sources among those that are extremely beneficial for building muscle mass.
So, which ones are they? Spirulina, for example, is a terrific addition to any smoothie or meal for a lot of protein in one go. Peanut butter, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds are also great sources of plant-based protein for building muscles.
Best Budget Vegan Protein Sources
One of the things that stop most people from consuming a healthy diet is the financial aspect of it. Healthy food can quickly get expensive, which is you need budget vegan protein sources to fulfill your daily dietary requirements.
Lentils are inexpensive, easy to cook and can make up a bulk of your meal. They’re quite tasty and can be customized any way you want.
Nutritional yeast is a cheap yet tasty ingredient for many foods and the best part is that it is packed with proteins.
Whether you buy it readymade or make your own, seitan is cheap and tastes great as a meat alternative. It’s also quite filling so you don’t have to worry about feeling hungry afterward.
Chia, Hemp and Flax Seeds
These seeds are relatively inexpensive and can be found in any grocery aisle. They’re also packed with proteins and can be added to any meal as a vegan protein source without putting too much of a dent in your finances.
Best Low-Calorie Vegan Protein Sources
Low-calorie vegan protein sources are the ones that don’t have a lot of carbohydrates or fats in them and the calories are mostly derived from the protein content of that food.
Seitan, alfalfa sprouts, white mushrooms, nutritional yeast, raw spinach and tofu are some of the lowest-calorie vegan protein sources on the market right now. There are several more as well and you can mix and match to your heart’s content!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you eat too much protein?
Plant-based proteins are healthier than animal-based proteins but you should not eat more than the recommended amounts as too much protein in your body can damage your kidneys which will have lasting effects on your health.
Do vegans struggle to meet their protein requirements?
No, vegans do not struggle with meeting their protein requirements as there are plenty of plant-based protein sources that allow them to fulfill their recommended daily amount of protein.
What deficiencies can occur in a vegan diet?
Long-term veganism can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency as it is only found in animal products. However, this deficiency can be combatted by eating vegan foods fortified with B12 or taking B12 supplements.
Vegan Protein Sources – They’re Everywhere!
Gone are the days when it was hard to get ingredients for a vegan diet because veganism is quite common in developed nations now and there are many cheap, healthy, and tasty vegan protein sources in every grocery aisle and online store. So, if you want to cut animal proteins out of your life, now is the chance!
With that being said, make sure to try out vegan protein sources you haven’t had before so you can add some delicious new ingredients to your meal-planning diary. Don’t forget to experiment with all the tasty and innovative vegan protein recipes online because you might just find your next comfort food among them!
- Binita Shah, Jonathan D. Newman, Kathleen Woolf, Lisa Ganguzza, Yu Guo, Nicole Allen, Judy Zhong, Edward A. Fisher and James Slater “Anti‐Inflammatory Effects of a Vegan Diet Versus the American Heart Association–Recommended Diet in Coronary Artery Disease Trial”
- J W Anderson, B M Smith, N J Gustafson “Health benefits and practical aspects of high-fiber diets”
- DR Jacobs Jr, HE Meyer & K Solvoll “Reduced mortality among whole grain bread eaters in men and women in the Norwegian County Study”
- Mariana Grancieri, Hercia Stampini Duarte Martino, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia “Chia Seed (Salvia hispanica L.) as a Source of Proteins and Bioactive Peptides with Health Benefits: A Review”
- Online Protein Calculator