Fear not, vegans, there are plenty of choices out there for you. You just need to know what they are.
Here are both powders and foods you can use to ensure you get enough protein in your diet.
An important note about plant proteins: not all proteins in plants are “complete.” Some plant proteins have only a partial amino acid profile and you need to eat a complementary plant protein to ensure that you body can utilize the protein. To learn more about combining plant proteins, read this article.
Vegan Protein Powders
For vegans that actively go to the gym or play sports, protein powders are a great way to supplement your daily nutrition. Not only is it convenient and easy to drink during or after workouts, but it’s also in a condensed form meaning more protein in less time.
Rice, believe it or not, has lots of protein in it. The advantage to using a powder is that you don’t need to eat bowls of rice to get enough protein.
Rice is not a complete protein, but you can eat beans and lentils to complement it.
Most pea protein powders come from yellow peas. In my opinion, 100% natural pea protein is not great – it’s usually very chalky and hard to dissolve.
Peas are not a complete protein, but you can eat grains like bread to complement it.
Hemp is very high in fiber. Drinking a 100% natural protein powder form tastes like you’re drinking a plant. One downside of hemp protein powder is that it has a lower % of protein content.
Hemp has a complete amino acid profile.
Soy should be the top candidate for protein for vegans and vegetarians. Unfortunately, there are 2 issues with it. One, a lot of soy on the market is genetically modified (so be sure to look for non-GMO labels!). Second, there have been a lot of studies lately that state that soy has a hormonal effect that increases estrogen production, making it unpopular among vegan men.
Soy has a complete amino acid profile.
Protein Foods for Vegans
Outside of powders, there are plenty of foods that have a decent amount protein in them.
Textured Vegetable Protein
Also called TVP, this is dried soy that people can put in spaghetti or soup that has a texture similar to small bits of ground beef. It has a decent amount of protein with 12 grams of protein in a 1/4 cup serving.
Tofu is another decent source of protein. Because of it’s soft consistency, it’s hard to cook with sometimes, but it’s great in stir fry or in soups. A tricky thing about tofu is that a block usually has a lot of water, so you don’t actually get much calories or protein out of it.
Beans, Lentils, Split Peas
If you ever read the nutrition label for canned beans or a bag of lentils, you’ll be surprised at how much protein is in them. I love eating beans in a can at night. They’re filling and they’re also a great way to get dietary fiber. As for split peas and lentils, I recommend slow boiling them in a soup (about 1-1.5 hours) along with vegetables and spices. Take a look at this vegan split pea soup recipe.
I love peanut butter. When I need a quick meal, I’ll often grab a bunch of cereal and then a spoonful of peanut butter. Peanut butter is satisfying and it’s also very fatty. A lot of vegans do not get enough fat in their diets, and so peanut butter is a great way to help with that. It goes great with toast, by itself, or a fairly common practice is to stuff it into celery. I like Skippy’s natural peanut butter because it just has 4 ingredients: peanuts, oil, sugar, salt.
Veggie Burgers is a burger that’s made without animal meat, usually with soy as a base. Veggie Burgers are okay for vegetarians, but not always for vegans, as most veggie burgers have milk, cheese, or egg in them. For vegans, burgers means getting really creative, such as making burgers out of black-eyed peas (see recipe).
A lot of other plants
Watercress, asparagus, arichoke, brussel sprouts, and chia seeds all have decent amounts of protein in them, along with other wonderful vitamins and minerals. The task will always be eating enough of these plants to ensure that you’re getting enough protein, as they are not dense in macronutrients, compared to meat.