Natural Sources of Vegan Protein
One of the most common questions that non-vegans ask is where vegans get their protein. This could be because many people think that the sole source of this macronutrient is animal-based meat.
In reality, there are so many excellent plant-based sources of protein. They are even healthier than animal-based meat in a lot of ways.
Common non-vegan sources of protein
Before we discuss plant-based protein sources, let’s see where non-vegans get their protein. The most common sources include the following:
- Animal-based dairy products, such as cheese, butter, and milk
- Chicken’s eggs
- Animal-based meats
- Fish and other sea animals
- Soy-based foods like tofu
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Something to think about is where animals get their protein in the first place. Herbivorous animals like cows eat primarily grass and other food crops, and if you’ve seen the size of a cow up close, you can clearly tell they get enough protein to grow properly! So if we can get our protein from plants instead, why not just skip eating the animals?
Animal protein vs. Plant protein — are they the same?
In a way, animal and plant proteins are the same since they both provide the body with amino acids, which are the building blocks of these macronutrients. They are necessary to create various substances that the body needs to function properly.
Some may argue that plant sources of protein are inadequate because they differ in the kinds and amounts of amino acids they have. Animal meat usually has all nine essential amino acids, because the animals have already pre-formed the protein. While plants may not have all the amino acids in each type of food, if you eat a variety of plant foods and the right amount of calories, you won’t have a problem getting enough of every amino acid!
As you go through the list in the next section, you’ll see that plant-based protein sources have plenty of amino acids!
Most of all, more studies suggest that a plant-based diet may be healthier for the body and mind in the long-term since it contains less saturated fat, cholesterol, and more nutrients. A plant-based diet can:
- Decrease levels of cholesterol and blood pressure
- Stabilize glucose levels
- Reduce the risk of obesity
- Prevent chronic inflammation, which may raise the odds of heart disease
- Show potential in reducing the chances of developing certain types of cancer
They can be cost-effective as well since they may decrease healthcare costs. They are also more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Top vegan sources of protein
Many of the excellent vegan protein sources may already be in your pantry. Otherwise, they are abundant in regular grocery stores:
A cup of tofu, which is about 124 grams, already contains 10 grams of protein. It is also one of the plant-based foods that is a complete protein.
Tofu, which is made from soymilk, is a versatile vegan ingredient. Its firmness ranges from extra-soft to extra-hard. You can add the softest ones in smoothies or in soups, while you can grill, bake, or fry the hardest types.
A cup of cooked quinoa has the same amount of protein in grams as a cup of tofu. Plus, it is a complete protein and an excellent source of complex carbohydrates.
Quinoa can also provide the body with necessary healthy carbohydrates. The biggest difference is how they are broken down. The body absorbs sugar from complex carbs more slowly. In turn, it helps stabilize glucose levels and prevents the blood sugar from spiking.
Compared to quinoa and tofu, a cup of raw spinach has less than a gram of protein. However, it accounts for 30% of its calories and still has all the essential amino acids. No wonder it’s Popeye’s favorite food!
Spinach is also a superfood since it’s nutrient-dense. In a 2015 study, it says that spinach might help regulate blood pressure levels and, thus, reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.
4. Beans and Legumes
From lentils to peas and varieties of beans, these types of foods pack a huge amount of protein. In fact, a cup of cooked lentils may already provide 21 grams of the macronutrient. For a better perspective, a sedentary man may need 56 grams of protein every day, while women need 10 grams less.
Beans, like tofu, are versatile. You can make Italian minestrone soup or Mexican chili with beans. You can even turn them into bean patties for your burger or add them to your salad for more flavor.
Dried beans are also hardy, and they can last indefinitely with proper storage. This means that you can buy them by bulk, and save money!
5. Pea Protein Powder
For those who are building muscles, you can swap whey protein powder with pea protein. A standard serving of it may be equivalent to over 2 ounces of meat.
You can use it the same way as you do with whey protein. You may add it to your shake or smoothie, for example.
Switching to veganism may not happen overnight, but it doesn’t mean it’s not doable. These vegan sources of protein will help you to swap meats and dairy easier and simpler.