One of the biggest questions when going plant-based is how to get enough protein. Plant-based cuts all meats, eggs, and dairy out of a diet, which contain a substantial amount of protein in much of the population. However, when done correctly, people can get the same amount of protein, if not more, with a plant-based diet.
Why is protein so important?
Protein is an extremely important macronutrient. One of the largest reasons it’s so important is it’s the enzyme bodies need in many of our regulatory systems. Protein allows digestion, energy production, blood clotting, and muscle contractions to take place, which are essential bodily functions. Protein is also needed to maintain hunger, which can be a very important role in weight loss. It also maintains blood sugar, and helps with hormonal regulation. Moreover, protein is a staple in any type of diet and has immense health benefits.
The History of the Plant-Based Protein Movement
Although vegan diets have been around for a long time, the lifestyle really started to garner mainstream awareness rather recently. The past ten years the movement for plant-based protein has really kicked off. The plant-based movement started to become popular in the 1960s, and started to solidify in the 70s. Around the 2010s the plant-based movement became even more popular. Celebrities were talking about veganism, and the Plant-Based Foods Association was founded. Now, more information than ever about veganism is available with large brands like Impossible and Beyond showing up everywhere from the grocery store to the biggest fast food chains.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Lentils
One of the best sources of plant-based protein are lentils and other legumes. In a one-cup serving of lentils, there is about 18g of protein. Lentils also are packed with fiber, potassium, folate, and manganese, which are essential nutrients and electrolytes the body needs. One of the most common ways to eat lentils is by soup or stew. Additionally, other tasty ways are by salads, as a meat substitute, or as a dip. It can be used as a meat substitute in tasteful dishes like tacos, sloppy joes, veggie burgers, and pasta dishes.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Chickpeas
Another great way to get protein in a vegan diet is through chickpeas. Chickpeas have around 14g of protein per cup. Much like lentils, chickpeas are also full of fiber and folate, with healthy fatty-acids. Chickpeas can be eaten in many different ways. Some of the most popular ways to eat chickpeas are hummus, roasted chickpeas, salads, soups, and mediterranean dishes like falafel.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Nuts
Depending on the type, nuts can be great sources of plant-based protein. Peanuts contain around 7g of protein per ounce. Likewise, almonds contain around 6g of protein per ounce, and cashews contain around 4g of protein per ounce. They are also a great source of unsaturated fats, which is one of the most heart-healthy fats. A common way to eat nuts is through nut-butters, like peanut butter and almond butter. Many people also choose to eat them raw as a snack. They can be added to deserts, used in salads, or used with vegetables as a side dish.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Soybean Products
Although soybeans may not have the best reputation, they are actually really good for you. They contribute to the health of the circulation system, help the digestive system, and have lots of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, they are a great source of vegan protein.
Tofu is a soybean product tailored as a protein replacement for vegetarian and vegan diets. It has around 10g of protein per half a cup. One of the best things about tofu is that it can be used as any meat substitute. From the hearty flavors of red-meat, to the notes of citrus in seafood, when seasoned correctly it can be a great substitute for any meat.
Tempeh contains around 15g of protein per half a cup. Although it is less popular than tofu, it also has great health benefits. Tempeh can be eaten in many different ways, including in sandwiches,or on salads. It can also be used as a meat replacement in tacos, stir fry, and soups and stews.
Edamame is another soybean product packed with protein. Coming in at around 9g of protein, edamame is not processed and easy to take on the go without cooking. Many people choose to eat edamame raw, however there are other ways of eating it. One of the most popular ways is steamed and salted, with spices added. They can also be used in salads, soups, and in pastas. Edamame can be used as a substitute for other types of beans as well.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Quinoa
Quinoa is considered a superfood in the health world. It’s full of many vitamins and minerals, and is an anti-inflammatory food. Quinoa sits at about 8g of protein per cup. There is a lot you can do with quinoa. One of the most common ways to eat it is with rice as a side dish. Furthermore, it’s common to add it to salad, veggie burgers, and as a substitute for meat.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Beans
Beans are great sources of plant-based protein and there are many different types to pick from. Black beans contain about 10g of protein per cup. Similarly, lima beans contain around 12g of protein per cup, and cannellini beans contain around 12.4g of protein per cup. They also are packed with folate, antioxidants, and are great for heart health. Beans can be used as a side dish (commonly in latin dishes). They can also be used in soups and stews, in salads, sandwiches, and as a meat replacement.
Sources of Plant-Based Protein: Seeds
There are many different types of seeds with high amounts of protein. Pumpkin seeds come in at around 5.2g of protein per ounce. Sunflower seeds come in around 5.8g of protein per ounce. Chia seeds come in at about 4.4g of protein per ounce. Hemp seeds contain around 9.5g of protein per ounce. Seeds are also full of necessary nutrients that the body needs. With many options to choose from, seeds are very versatile. They can be eaten in seed butters like sunflower butter, or even on top of meals. One of the most common ways to eat it is in oatmeal or plant-based yogurt. They can be eaten raw, on deserts, and on salads.
Plant-Based Protein Powders
One of the first things that come to mind when people think about protein are protein shakes and bars. Traditionally, whey protein is what is used in protein powders. But there are various protein powders that are used instead of whey. Some brands of plant-based protein may include a blend of different powders to get the optimal protein amount. The most common plant-based protein powders include: pea protein, soy protein, hemp protein, pumpkin seed protein, brown rice protein, and sunflower protein.