When you tell people you’ve adopted a vegan lifestyle, many of them may ask, “How do you get adequate protein intake?” It’s easy to believe the myth that meat is the only source of this macronutrient, but it isn’t true. You can get a full array of amino acids entirely from plant-based sources.
What are the best vegan sources of protein? Yes, tofu is one, but that’s far from the only option. Read on to discover all the delicious ways that vegans keep their muscles healthy and bodies fueled.
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses. Multiple varieties of these tasty snacks contain different vitamin and mineral profiles, but all offer some protein. Walnuts, for example, are useful in the fight against cancer because they contain high levels of antioxidants. Almonds contain high levels of vitamin E for shiny hair and supple skin — they’re an intelligent choice for snacking when dry, indoor air leaves you feeling flaky.
Best of all, you can enhance nearly any dish by tossing in a handful of nuts. They add a pleasant saltiness to salads, even though they’re low in sodium, and they help cut the acidity of any tomatoes. You can add them to stir-frys or use them to top a casserole.
2. Nutritional Yeast
Another question people often ask vegans is, “don’t you worry about not getting enough B vitamins?” It is true that, outside of certain teas grown in Japan, few plant-based sources of vitamin B-12 exist. However, you can find both protein and B-12 in nutritional yeast.
You can use nutritional yeast as a supplement or as an ingredient in many dishes. When you need a vegan comfort classic, whip up a batch of vegan mac and cheese.
3. Hemp Seeds
Maybe you’re switching to a vegan lifestyle to lower your cancer risk. If so, you’re making a wise choice. Scientists have linked hormones readily used in the meat and dairy industry with a higher risk of certain varieties of cancer.
You can find a rich source of protein and potentially increase your cancer-fighting power with hemp seeds. One study found that hemp had a protective effect against a type of inflammation associated with ovarian cancer.
Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, contain protein as well as high levels of iron, another nutrient vegans need. You can roast pepitas in the shell and enjoy cracking them as a midday snack. You can also find the shelled seeds both roasted and in the raw at many grocers. Toss a handful into a salad, or add some to butternut squash soup for a satisfying crunch.
5. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds, like pepitas, make the perfect diet snack. They also contain a ton of protein, as well as omega-3s. Omega-3s, along with omega-6s, help moderate inflammation and vasoconstriction in the body, improving your cardiovascular health. You can use sunflower seed oil as an alternative to less healthy vegetable oil blends — it has a high smoke point perfect for frying.
6. Tofu and Tempeh
Yes, vegans do get protein from tofu. The fabulous thing about this soy product is that it absorbs the flavorings you add to it like a sponge. You can use it as a meat substitute in a wide variety of dishes. Tempeh is a fermented tofu product that is rich in probiotics. Probiotics help balance out the beneficial bacteria in your intestines, alleviating gas and bloating. Like tofu, you can use it in a wide array of recipes.
Edamame is the name for lightly cooked and salted soybeans, and they make a delightful snack. Edamame is a complete source of plant protein. To prepare the pods, you can quickly boil them with salt. You can also spice them up with any sauces you like — sriracha, anyone?
You know that Popeye was strong to the finish from eating this deep green veggie — that’s because it’s packed with protein! Any of the darker leafy vegetables will add a punch of this macronutrient to your diet. Whip up a kale and spinach salad with a vegan dressing for a simple workday lunch.
Finally, beans are protein powerhouses for vegans. You can make a variety of burritos so tasty, even your carnivorous cubicle mates will ask for a bite. Best of all, you can freeze them to grab-and-go whenever you need a healthy meal — you have no more excuses for hitting the drive-thru!
You Can Get Plenty of Protein on a Vegan Diet
You can easily consume adequate protein entirely from plant-based sources. Doing so will benefit your health and reduce your risk of disease. Even if you’re not ready to make a full switch to veganism, try supplementing some of these foods into your diet in place of meat and other animal products. With so many delicious and nutritious options available, you might find it easier than you thought to cut down on your consumption of animal products!
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