Struggling to figure out vegan sources of protein? It’s no secret that finding protein sources becomes more challenging when your diet excludes meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. Most vegans are accustomed to having to combine foods, as with the ubiquitous beans and rice, in order to make a “complete protein.” Complete proteins are foods or pairs of foods which have all the amino acids found in animal products. But there is a surprising number of plant-based protein foods that are either complete proteins on their own, or only need minor additions.
Vegan Sources Of Protein To Include In Your Diet
While not the substitute of choice for those with gluten sensitivity, this “wheat meat” is available in forms that resemble small steaks or in strip form. It delivers at least 18 grams of protein per serving but should be combined with soy sauce for a complete protein. Chances are you’ve had this Chinese restaurant staple without even knowing it but for home use, it works in a range of dishes, from stir-fries to chili.
Textured vegetable protein is ideal if you need a hamburger-like meat substitute although it is also available as larger chunks for “beef stew” types of dishes. You’ll need to reconstitute this dehydrated soy flour. Because it’s fairly flavorless on its own, soaking it in tomato juice or vegetable broth can get your recipe off to the right start. Also high in fiber, TVP offers about 12 grams of protein per serving.
The meat substitution with which most people are familiar — probably why it’s become quite the cliche–tofu is made from processed soybeans. Soy is the legume of choice for meat substitutes because it is a complete protein so you don’t have to pair it with another food for it to be a “real” protein. Choose the firmer types for the highest protein which will yield about 10 grams a serving. Use tofu cubed in stir-fries, scrambled for breakfast, or a myriad of other ways.
Grains and Seeds
Technically a grain-like plant rather than an actual grain, buckwheat is endlessly useful and delivers about 6 grams of protein per serving depending on what form you’re using. Buy it as flour for pancakes, in “groat” form for an oatmeal alternative, or as soba noodles. Not only will you be giving yourself extra vegan-based protein by eating buckwheat but adding to your diet a food source that’s celebrated for stabilizing blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol.
Roasted, baked, or sprinkled straight from the package, chia seeds pack a lot of versatility into their tiny shapes. Use them to thicken up desserts and smoothies when soaked in liquid or to sprinkle over side dishes. They’re also a great substitute for poppy seeds in muffins because of their superior nutritional boost. A couple of spoonfuls of chia seeds yields 4 grams of fiber along with omega-3 fatty acids. The good thing is you don’t have to grind them for your Omega-3s as you do for flax seed.
Just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean quinoa’s not the workhorse of the vegan pantry. Quinoa is rightfully referred to as a “powerhouse” food due to its range of nutritional benefits, starting with an impressive 8 grams of protein per average serving. The nutty-flavored grain can be served as a side dish, a base for vegetables, or even included in baked goods. Aside from its protein content, quinoa provides fiber, iron, and other crucial minerals.
Foods That May “Grow” on You
They may seem a bit weird in concept but high-protein foods like spirulina, algae, and Quorn, a fungus, are helpful vegan sources of protein for vegans and mostly-vegans. Quorn is a mycoprotein food related to mushrooms and has 13 grams of protein. This lab-processed food sometimes contains egg white compounds so if you’re strictly vegan make sure to look for the totally-vegan options. Use it as you would a steak or cutlet. Spirulina comes in flake or powder form and offers 4 grams of protein in a generous spoonful. If that spoonful is sprinkled over or into popcorn, oatmeal bars, or other nuts and grains, you have yourself a complete protein.
Here are more vegetarian sources of protein by Wonderful Life:
Whether you’re into food combinations of plant proteins and grains or searching for individual plant-based foods with adequate protein, your options are broader than you may have thought. And that’s certainly good news for committed vegans who have been confining themselves to the same cashew butter-on-whole grain toast breakfast every day!
Do you have other vegan sources of protein you want to share? Let us know in the comments section below.