Wanna go vegan and follow a plant-based diet but the lack of proteins in your meals scares you? Check out these plant-based protein sources!
One of the biggest misconceptions about a plant-based diet is that it doesn’t provide enough protein.
Concerns over protein deficiencies could lead some people to overlook veganism and plant-based eating.
In truth, however, it’s totally possible to meet protein and other macro and micronutrient needs without ever needing to consume meat or fish again.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at why vegans need protein, as well as the best sources of plant-based protein to incorporate into a vegan lifestyle.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that consists of 20 different chemical “building blocks” called amino acids.
Amino acids are absolutely vital to the human body, contributing to building and repairing cells, creating antibodies and enzymes, and other essential functions.
While we can synthesize several amino acids alone, there are nine essential amino acids that our bodies aren’t able to produce, so we have to get them from food sources.
Protein, as well as being an essential nutrient for our bodies’ maintenance and repair, is also an important energy source. Along with carbohydrates and fats, our bodies use protein as fuel for energy.
As we age, our protein requirements change too, meaning that we could need to eat more to sustain and grow muscle mass and healthy tissues.
Can A Plant-Based Diet Contain Enough Protein?
Yes! A plant-based diet can contain all the protein and other essential macro and micronutrients that we need.
Unless we grow up in plant-based households, we’re more than likely taught that we need to eat meat in order to get these essential aminos into our bodies.
While it’s undoubtedly true that the human body needs the key nutrients found in meat and fish, these nutrients can be found in a wide range of plant-based foods.
With its focus on whole foods, a vegan diet is one of the most healthful for our bodies, alongside being environmentally sustainable.
Even high-performance athletes and elite sportspeople can easily get the amount of protein they need on a plant-based diet without supplementing protein powders or bars.
What Are The Best Ways To Add Protein To A Plant-Based Diet?
As Dr. Pulde and Dr. Lederman state in their bestseller The Forks Over Knives Plan, as a Vegan, you don’t need to “worry about how much protein you’re getting any more than you should worry” about breathing.
Pretty much everything that makes up a whole-food diet, except fruit, has a substantial protein content, which includes your veggies, grains, nut butters, and dairy alternatives.
Unlike meat, plant-based sources offer up all the goodness of protein with no cholesterol, making it a much more healthful option.
Adding more protein into a plant-based diet is effortless. Here are three simple ways to ensure your diet contains the protein that you need:
1. Pick A Meat Substitute
Healthy and well-balanced meals should contain a mix of vegetables, plant-based fats like coconut or extra virgin oil, and starchy veg or whole grains like quinoa, sweet potato, or brown rice.
Then, it’s simply a matter of factoring in a meat substitute.
Tofu is one of the most healthful and versatile alternatives to meat. Made from soybean curd, it contains a pretty impressive 8g of protein per 100g.
It’s super easy to cook with too; you can chop up block tofu and add it to veggie stir-fries, slice it into steaks and bake it, bread it… the list is endless.
As a quick reminder, extra firm tofu is the easiest to prepare hot and main meals with. You can also use firm tofu that’s been through a tofu press like this one here from Tofubud.
Medium and soft tofu, meanwhile, are more suited to soups and noodle dishes.
2. Think Outside The Box
Tofu isn’t the only protein superhero you can find in a plant-based diet; chickpeas and edamame also pack quite the protein punch.
If you find yourself reaching for plant-based versions of typical dairy products a lot, think outside the box and factor these two gems in instead.
Hummus, for example, is an excellent alternative to cheese in snacks like quesadillas or as a pizza topping, as well as being a great substitute for mayo.
Meanwhile, shelled edamame can take the place of peas in pasta dishes and casseroles. With just under 19g in a 155g serving, these soybean pods feature a superior nutritional profile.
3. Supercharge Your Smoothies
The humble smoothie is a staple of the plant-based diet. As well as being delicious, you can supercharge it with some animal-friendly protein sources.
Spirulina is a complete protein source, offering 4g per tablespoon, and a great source of B vitamins, iron, and copper. It may have a distinctive taste alone, but when added to smoothies, you’ll barely notice it’s there.
Even good old tofu can be added to smoothies; just make sure you get the silken variety first!
A Balanced Diet Needn’t Be Stressful
Hopefully, this article has shown you that eating a balanced diet as a plant-eater doesn’t have to be stressful and that there are many different ways in which you can incorporate protein sources into your day-to-day meals.
Remember that food is fun, play around with new recipe ideas, and don’t overlook the basics like tofu, legumes, and beans.
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