Ahh, the great vegan protein debate. Nearly every conversation about veganism I have with a meat-eater whittles down to a single question. As I disclose my dairy-free baking secrets, my favorite nut butter brands and my romance with leafy greens, I can see the question brewing behind creased brows: “But where do you get your protein?”
In America, most people identify animal products as their sole source of protein. Feeling weak? Eat more meat. Trying to bulk up? Pile on the pork. Post-gym snack? Whip up an omelette. So, in our meat-loving society, vegans are often stereotyped as stick-thin, earth-loving hippies with more bone than skin and muscle. Naturally, non-vegans are left wondering how vegans survive without the seemingly vital animal protein.
Well, carnivorous friends, I’m here to tell you that a vegan diet offers plenty of protein sources that can be just as nutritious and delicious as any tender slab of steak. Plant-based protein keeps vegans fit and healthy to run, pump iron and build strong muscles just as any meat eating athlete.
Additionally, vegans can easily meet the USDA’s daily recommended 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, no flesh-eating necessary. In fact, by abstaining from animal proteins, vegans can avoid the saturated fat, cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics and consequent chronic disease associated with animal product consumption.
November is World Vegan Month — the perfect time to experiment with meatless meals. If you want to hop on the bandwagon, bolster your health and join the vegan revolution by replacing animal protein with plant-based protein, here are 5 power-packed sources:
With 13-17 grams of protein per cup, beans really are a magical fruit. Navy, black, pinto, and garbanzo beans are just a few varieties that will keep you full with heart-healthy soluble fiber, magnesium, and many other nutrients. Try cooking up a pot of this vegetarian chili or roasting a batch of spicy chickpeas to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet.
As a complete protein and nutrient-dense superfood, quinoa is absolutely essential to any vegan diet (and it’s gluten-free too). The versatile grain packs nine grams of protein per cup and boasts additional health benefits with plenty of fiber, iron, and magnesium. Try making these spinach and quinoa stuffed tomatoes (vegans omit the cheese and butter) for an easy plant-based dinner.
Veggies have protein? Yup, that’s right. Good ol’ greens supply a tasty and nutritious protein punch to accompany any entree. One cup of cooked spinach, for example, has seven grams of protein and kale delivers three grams per cup. Try blending greens into a green smoothie or roasting a batch of savory kale chips for some yummy green protein.
Tofu, one of many soy derivatives, has nine grams of protein per 3-ounce block. Though it can be bland on its own, tofu can be prepared in a variety of ways to make the protein and calcium filled staple a go-to for vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike. Try this zesty stir-fry or simply prepared tofu noodles to sample this plant-based protein.
Nuts and Seeds
Small but mighty, nuts and seeds can add a protein packed crunch to any meal. Chia seeds will give you four grams of protein per two tablespoons and one cup of sliced almonds have a whopping 20 grams of protein. Many nuts and seeds also come in powder, butter, or milk form, so they can easily be mixed into a smoothie, sprinkled on a salad, or used as vegan baking alternatives. Try this dorm-friendly microwave oatmeal for some nutty vegan protein.