A lot of people ask me if I get enough protein when eating plant-based foods. Especially from people working out that are trying to make a big part of their daily intake consist of protein. My answer is always the same. Yes! It is really easy to get enough protein without eating products that derive from animals. In this post I will share with you, 5 complete vegan protein sources and how you can add them to your diet with different recipe examples.
Not only is it easy to get sufficient amounts of protein on a vegan diet, there are plenty of other reasons to eat more (or only) plant-based meals; they are lower in calories, it is better for the environment and they are almost always cheaper, to name a few.
The doubters then ask me if any of my vegan protein sources are complete.
Protein is combined and built by amino acids out of which there are 20. Out of these 20, there are 9 that the body cannot produce by itself. The only way for the body to get and utilize these amino acids are by food or by supplements. These 9 amino acids are called essential amino acids (EAA) and are essential because they are vital for the body to function properly. If a product or food contains all of these 9 essential amino acids, it is called a complete source of protein.
All the organs of the body, including the brain, suffer if protein intake is less than needed by an individual. If one of the essential amino acids is less than needed by an individual the utilization of other amino acids will be hampered and as a result, the protein synthesis will be lower than normal.
We humans don’t need to have all essential amino acids at every meal. The intake can be spread out during the day.
Most dieticians also believe that a plant-based, or vegan, diet contains such variety that you are pretty much guaranteed to consume all essential amino acids during the day.
If you want to be on the sure side though, there are vegan-friendly plant-based foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Here follows a list of 5 complete vegan protein sources and some examples of what you can do with them.
- Protein: 8 grams per 2,5 dl (1 cup) cooked
Quinoa is amazingly versatile and it is full of nutrition. You can use it as a substitute for rice and or use the flour to bake muffins or other cakes. Quinoa is considered so healthy and nutritious that NASA has plans on growing it on long-term space flights.
Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, making it a great food even for people suffering from gluten intolerance.
Vegan recipes with quinoa
- Protein: 6 grams per 2,5 dl (1 cup) cooked
Contrary to its name, buckwheat is not a wheat at all, since it is not a part of the grass family. Instead, it is related to sorrel, knotweed, and rhubarb. Buckwheat is super healthy, not only for the complete amino acid profile but also for its health benefits, such as lowered blood and cholesterol levels.
Vegan recipes with buckwheat
3. Chia seeds
- Protein: 4 grams per 2 Tbsp. serving
Chia seeds are the highest source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also rich in fiber and antioxidants, but the best thing about them is perhaps that they swell and form a “gelly” substance when combined with liquid. This makes them ideal for puddings, or to be used as an egg replacement.
Vegan recipes with chia seeds
- Protein: 10 grams per 2 Tbsp. serving
Hempseed is a great addition to your smoothie, adding both protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Vegan recipes with hempseed
- Protein: 8 grams per 100 grams (firm tofu)
Soy is perhaps the most well-known meat substitute among vegans, and rightfully so. Tempeh, Natto, and tofu are all made out of the bean, where tempeh and natto are made by first fermenting the beans, and tofu is a soy bean curd. It is very rich in protein, and the firmer the tofu, the higher the protein.
Vegan recipes with tofu
- Tofu broccoli walnut salad
- Curry tofu
- Spinach tofu pasta
- Scrambled tofu
- Pineapple papaya orange tofu smoothie
- Colourful tofu platter
- Breaded tofu with kale and rocket leaves
- Tofu-filled fajitas
- Banan blueberry tofu smoothie
If you are working out and want to have a high amount of protein in your food, sticking to a vegan diet is not difficult at all. There are plenty of good vegan protein sources and as you just read, some of them include a complete essential amino acid profile. Check out some of these vegan recipes for inspiration.