Getting an adequate amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals can be a bit difficult for people who do not eat meat or consume any other animal products. This article is for all those people who’ve recently turned or are vegan or vegetarian and are finding it difficult to get their daily dose of protein. Here are some of the most easily available vegan protein sources that you can eat and stock up your kitchen with!
1. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an incredible source of complete protein. A complete food source of protein is one that contains all 9 essential amino acids that are required by the human body. They are tiny, black or white tiny round seeds that have achieved superfood status over the years. They pack a nutritional punch since they contain 2 g of protein per tablespoon along with carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, and dietary fibre. In addition to being protein-rich, it also contains potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and iron. It is a solid vegan protein food and aids in weight loss.
Add them to your smoothie or sprinkle some on top of your oatmeal, salads, yoghurt, or jams. You can even soak them in nut milk and make a healthy and quick pudding out of it. They have a neutral flavour and are crunchy with a jelly-like consistency. To save money, you can purchase them in bulk as they will last for months.
Seitan is a staple in plant-based diets and is created with vital wheat gluten, the main protein found in wheat. For just 100 grams of seitan, you get 19 grams of protein. Seitan is often mixed with various spices and its texture is very chewy that mimics chicken. For this reason, it is also known as ‘wheat meat.’ Seitan is a source of complete protein that works well as a healthful meat substitute but should be avoided by people who have a gluten intolerance as this mock meat has high-wheat content.
Soybeans are a type of legume that is associated with the pea family which is globally the highest consumed food. Soybeans are a rich vegan protein source and provide all nine essential amino acids. They also contain a good amount of phytic acid, dietary fibre, carbs, calcium, and B vitamins. These oilseeds are often used to make soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and textured vegetable protein, and many other soy derivatives that are heavily consumed by people who follow a vegan lifestyle.
Chickpeas are high in protein, containing about 7.25 g per 100 g. They can be eaten hot or cold, and are highly versatile with plenty of recipes where they can be used. Also referred to as garbanzo beans in some places, they are a source of carbohydrates, protein, and fibre. Even the liquid from canned garbanzo beans can be used as an alternative to eggs, known as ‘aquafaba’.
Chickpeas can be added to stews, curries, or spiced with paprika and roasted in the oven. Hummus is a famous chickpea dish that you can use as a dip with chips or nachos, instead of unhealthy mayonnaise or creamy alternatives. It can also be used on a sandwich as a healthful, protein-rich alternative to butter or cheese. In Indian cuisine, chickpeas are used in curry dishes or every dry snack preparation with assorted spices and flavours. As a snack option, you could just throw a handful of boiled chickpeas in salads, burritos, or make veggie burger patties.
Lentils are a great source of protein to include in your lunch or dinner recipes. One-half cup of cooked lentils contains 160 calories and about 8.84 g of protein. Lentils are available dried and they differ in colour, shape, and size. From brown, green, orange, red, yellow and black, there are plenty of varieties to choose from and each of them has a different texture and taste.
They make great meatless protein recipes and can be used in soups, curries, stews, gravy dishes, or mixed with salads. You can also use them as fillings while making tacos, burritos, and even make veg burger patties. In addition to protein, they are a good source of carbohydrates, dietary fibre, and calcium. It also includes key nutrients like iron and potassium.
6. Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts are a crunchy plant-based protein source sans which a vegan pantry would be incomplete! They comprise 10g protein, 16g total fat, 5g carbohydrates per 1/4 cup. Any nut you can possibly think of – pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans or walnuts are densely packed with vegan protein.
Nuts are a good source of healthy fats which makes them a great snack to munch on whenever one is hungry. They can be used as crunchy toppings (in salads) or incorporated into sauces, soups, to add richness and to thicken the gravies making them creamier with infused nutty flavours. Nut butter like almond and peanut butter can be used as spreads or sauces. Nut flours like almond flour, are used for creating dairy-free milk and cheeses.
Tofu, popularly known as bean curd is made by coagulating Soy Milk and pressing the curds into solid slabs. The press time or amount of coagulant on the blocks gives rise to soft, firm, or extra-firm tofu textures. One-half cup of tofu contains 12g protein, 94 calories, 6 grams of fat. Other nutrients include calcium, vitamin B-6, vitamin A, and magnesium.
Tofu is a versatile vegan protein and you can have it in many forms like baked, fried, stuffed, grilled, or just stir-fried. Give a boost to your protein shakes by adding a few chunks of silken tofu. Tofu is bland and can absorb any flavor you desire bringing about easy adaptability in many culinary applications.
8. Quinoa and Oatmeal
This crunchy grain is boasts of good nutrition, a complete protein, making it a must-have for vegetarians. Quinoa as a grain is extremely rich in protein, containing about 8 g of protein per cup. It is also rich in other nutrients, including iron, dietary fibre, and manganese. It is also highly versatile and can fill in for the carbs in soups and stews. Have it with salads, or eat as the main course (replacing rice) along with curries or a side of veggies.
Try these interesting quinoa recipes for dinner!
Another noteworthy grain is oatmeal, which is a very versatile vegan protein. It is a whole grain that contains 7g protein per 1/2 cup. You can have oats as an overnight porridge, make a quick ready to go breakfast, oat milk, or add it to your energy bars, granola, muesli bowl or have it as a savoury option with veggies in place of white rice.
Green peas come in pods, which contain several peas at a time. Pea pods are botanically considered fruits since they contain seeds and are developed from the ovary of the plant. A cup of green peas contains 118 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein. This vegetable protein contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, iron, and magnesium. Additionally, they include calcium, fibre, and potassium.
Green peas are easily accessible, affordable and are a great source of plant protein. Of late, pea protein powder has gained popularity among fitness freaks and gym-goers who are vegan or just want to shift from whey or any other animal source of protein powders. Whether consumed fresh, frozen, canned, or cooked as a puree, peas are very easy to add to soups, curries, stews, veg burgers, or toss onto a summer salad! It makes any dish delicious by imparting a sweet flavour and increasing the protein content of the dish.
Flaxseeds are tiny plant-based protein foods that help reduce cholesterol and promote weight loss. These small golden-brown seeds are loaded with fibre, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid. Additionally, they are also comprised of carbohydrates, potassium, dietary fibre calcium, and iron. Also known as linseed, they are usually cultivated in cooler regions of the world. You can sprinkle the seeds on your oatmeal, muesli bowl, granola bars or use as a replacement for eggs while making baked goods or eggless pancakes.
You can include all these foods in your diet even if you are not vegan yet, still thinking, or just want to reduce your overall meat consumption. Eating a combination of these foods daily will fulfil your protein requirements and keep your mealtime interesting.
Note: It is advisable to consult your dietician or physician before taking up any new form of lifestyle change.