Vegans are wonderful people! We love their dedication to eating more plants and fewer animals. However, many people who are vegan (or thinking of becoming vegan) might worry that they are lacking in protein.
Protein is a fundamental building block that our body uses to create a strong structure. The word ‘protein’ refers to a type of molecule in food that can be broken down into amino acids. The body needs twenty amino acids and can create (or synthesize) eleven of these itself. However, there are nine, called ‘essential amino acids’, that the body cannot create and has to gain through the consumption of food.
Animal protein has something called “complete” protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs to do its work. Often, vegetable protein is not “complete” and needs to be eaten in complement with other vegetable protein sources to become a complete protein.
BUT – there is an easier way to ensure, as a vegan, that you are eating all the essential amino acids you need to live a healthy vegan lifestyle.
Here are 5 Ways to Boost your Vegan Protein Choices.
Here are 5 vegan protein choices that can boost your protein intake without doing any harm to your body or others.
1 – Tofu, Tempeh, and Edamame – 10-19 g of complete protein per 3.5 oz.
Tofu, tempeh, and edamame all originate from soybeans. Soybeans provide the body with all the essential amino acids it needs. Edamame are immature soybeans with a sweet and slightly grassy taste. Tofu is made from bean curds pressed together in a process similar to cheesemaking. Tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans prior to pressing them into a patty. Edamame is also rich in folate, vitamin K, and fiber. Tempeh contains a good amount of probiotics, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus.
2 – Lentils and most varieties of beans – up to 18g of protein per cooked cup.
Lentils and other beans contain good amounts of slowly digested carbs, and a single cup provides approximately 50% of your recommended daily fiber intake. They are excellent sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and several beneficial plant compounds. Several studies show that a diet rich in beans and other legumes can decrease cholesterol, help control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and even reduce belly fat. Team them up with whole grains to make them complete or learn the neat technique of sprouting your legumes and grains.
3 – Hempseed – 10g of complete protein per ounce
Although not as well known as other seeds, hemp seeds contain 50% more protein than chia and flaxseeds. They also contain a good amount of magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium. What’s more, it’s a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ratio considered optimal for human health. Interestingly, some studies indicate that the type of fats found in hempseed may help reduce inflammation, as well as diminish symptoms of PMS, menopause and certain skin diseases.
4 – Spirulina – 2 tbsp equals 8g of protein
This blue-green algae is definitely a nutritional powerhouse! Two tablespoons will also cover 22% of your daily requirements of iron and thiamin and 42% of your daily copper needs. Furthermore, studies link consuming spirulina to health benefits ranging from a stronger immune system and reduced blood pressure to improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Pair it up with nuts, grains or seeds to make it complete.
5 – Amaranth and Quinoa – 8-9g of complete protein per cooked cup
Although often referred to as ancient or gluten-free grains, amaranth and quinoa don’t grow from grasses like other cereal grains do.
For this reason, they’re technically considered “pseudocereals.”
Their protein value is rare among grains and pseudocereals. Also, amaranth and quinoa are good sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.
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