Since becoming vegan, I have been paying more attention to including plant-based protein in my diet.
In many ways, plant protein is a healthier option than animal-based protein because often the protein from plants contain a lot less saturated fat and plants are full of other nutrients that you don’t always find in meat and other animal products.
A lot of people don’t know that plants contain protein and this deters them from switching a few of their meat-based meals with plant-based meals. Some people who want to make the change and go vegan or vegetarian don’t do it because of this same concern.
What About Complete Proteins?
Another issue you may have heard of is that plants don’t contain complete proteins like meat does. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and if a food doesn’t contain all 22 it’s considered to be an incomplete protein.
But only 9 of those amino acids are essential because our bodies can produce all of them aside from these 9. We need to get these from our foods and not to worry, all of them can be found in plants!
Best Plant Protein Sources
Filling, full of fibre, iron, calcium and yes, protein. They’re great in stews, curries, salads, on toast, in soups and if you are making veggie burgers they can be used to bulk them up and bind them. I’m including chickpeas here as a bean. Hummus anyone?
Lentils contain a lot of the same nutrients as beans and are often used in the same things. A delicious lentil lasagna is a great option for those wanting to lower their meat intake and vegans won’t even miss meaty, cheesy lasagne.
Yummy! These are also full of calcium, iron, magnesium, protein, and healthy fats. If you are feeling hungry, eating a handful of nuts can keep you going for an hour or two before you get to your next main meal. I love Asian dishes or at least the versions of it that have introduced to the western world. These dishes often contain nuts.
Cashews and peanuts are lovely in stir fries. I’m sure we’ve all had delicious desserts that are coated in or contain almonds or walnuts. Nuts covered in chocolate are so tasty! Nut butters are also a great source of protein, just steer clear of those that contain sugar and salt if you eat them regularly.
Tiny but powerful. Seeds are a great source of calcium, magnesium, protein, healthy fats, fibre, and zinc. My husband and I eat them in our stir-fries, pastas, smoothies, muesli, salads, and over fruit. My husband and I love eating apples with peanut butter and mixed seeds. So good!
These little green balls are tasty (at least to me) and full of goodness. Peas contain vitamins K, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, folic acid, manganese, fibre, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, choline, molybdenum as well as protein. With this list why would you ever want to hide them under your gem squash shell again!
Rice, wheat, millet, quinoa, oats, etc, and I am including corn here too. Some of these grains contain more protein and nutrients than others. For example, quinoa is an amazing option for a whole host of nutrients and a high protein content.
It’s best to go whole grain: whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, rolled oats and even popcorn are the better choices. Whole grains have the outer layers of the grain that the processed grains are missing and these layers contain B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and selenium. Corn has vitamin A, C, B3, B5, B6, and fibre too. Eat up!
Products like tofu, edamame beans, soybeans, soy milk, etc. These products are high in protein, but the healthier options are the least processed versions like the beans. The mock meats and such are often packed with excess sodium and/or sugar. All these can be used to make tasty dishes.
To be fair, soy products can be a bit of an acquired taste, well, except for tofu which until you marinade it or buy pre-marinaded tofu doesn’t taste like much of anything.
Lesser Sources of Plant Protein
The list above contains the main plant sources of protein but here are a few others you might not know about. They contain a little less protein but are really great complementary foods to the ones above:
- Vegetables: Yip, I was surprised too. The amounts differ across veggies and I wouldn’t count on them alone to be enough for what we need, but they are full of a lot of other great vitamins and minerals and make dishes look awesome and taste great!
- Fruit: Yes, fruit too. If you like sweet things but want to cut out sugary junk foods, fruit is great. They’re also full of vitamins and minerals and great for adding to savoury dishes, eating as snacks, and you can make desserts out of them too.
Mixing and Matching to get Complete Proteins
The thing about plant sources of protein is that not all of them contain the same amino acids. You need a variety of foods to get every kind that you need. Combining different sources is the best way, but it’s super simple and the combinations often make the kind of dishes you would normally eat anyway.
If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, then you’ll be eating a lot of these foods throughout the day anyway.
Plant Protein Combos
- Grains (rice, pasta, bread, etc) + legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc)
- Beans + nuts, seeds and grains
- Vegetables + nuts, seeds and grains
- Nuts and seeds + legumes
- Corn + legumes
Because of the saturated fat content of meats, it will do everyone good to lower their intake of meat, especially red meat and processed meats. You can make a lot of vegetarian or vegan dishes that are so yummy that you won’t even miss the meat on meat-free Monday or Tuesday or whatever days you pick.
If you like lentils as I do, here are some more recipes that use lentils to get you started.
Plant sources of protein are also great for complimenting meat and dairy dishes which is especially great for those who still want to eat these food groups and boost their fibre and protein intake.
If you’ve just become vegan or vegetarian, I hope this list will help out a little with your meals and ease any of the worries that you might have had about getting all the protein you need. Have an awesome week 🙂
Shaw Academy Ultimate Weight Loss notes