So I’ve been into plant sources of protein a lot more than I was before becoming vegan as I’m sure you can imagine. There are a lot of benefits to eating protein that doesn’t come from animals because often the protein from plants contain a lot less saturated fat and 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 out some meat-based meals with plant meals. Some people who want to make the change and go vegan or vegetarian don’t do it because of this same concern. But there are actually quite a few sources that don’t come from animals.
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!
Here is a list of the best sources:
- Beans: 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: Lentils contain a lot of the same nutrients as beans and are often used in the same things. Delicious lentil lasagnas are a great option for those wanting to lower your meat intake and vegans can use vegan cheese and a plant based milk for the sauce.
- Nuts: Yummy! These are also full of calcium, iron, magnesium, protein, and healthy fats. If you are feeling hungry, eating a handful of these can keep you going for an hour or two before you get to your next main meal. I love Asian foods, or at least the ones that they’ve introduced to the western world and they often use 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, just steer clear of those that contain sugar and salt if you eat them every day or a few times a week.
- Seeds: Tiny but powerful. These 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. One of our favourite healthy snacks is apples with peanut butter and seeds.
- Peas: These little green balls are tasty (at least to me) and full of goodness. They 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!
- Grains: Rice, wheat, millet, quinoa, oats, etc, and I am including corn here too. Some of these grains contain more than others, like quinoa is an amazing option for a bunch of nutrients and a high protein content. It’s best to go whole grain, so whole grain breads, pastas, 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!
- Soy: 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. All these can be used to make tasty dishes although personally, I think soy mince and milk taste gross. Keep the mock meats to a minimum too, food is almost always healthier in less processed forms.
The list above contains the main sources 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 making desserts out of too.
The thing about plant sources are that they contain different amino acids, so you need a variety of them 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 throughout the day anyway.
- 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. Here are some recipes that use lentils:
Plant sources of protein are also great for complimenting meat and dairy dishes which is especially great for people who want to build or maintain muscle. 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 your protein in. Have an awesome week 🙂
Shaw Academy Ultimate Weight Loss notes