As a vegan, you may wonder how to get all the necessary nutrients, including protein, to support your healthy lifestyle. Protein is an important nutrient that plays a critical role in building and repairing tissues in the body, making hormones and enzymes, and supporting the immune system. While it’s commonly believed that animal products are the best source of protein, plenty of vegan protein sources can provide all the amino acids needed for a healthy diet.
How much do you need?
So, how much protein do you actually need? The recommended daily protein intake varies depending on your weight, activity level, and overall health status. As a general guidance (official health RDA – recommended dietary allowance- guidelines), the average adult should aim to consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Vegan specific sources suggest that getting closer to 1 – 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight is beneficial due to lower protein bioavailability in plants. For those who aim to increase muscle mass, many sources suggest a higher range: 1.2-1.6g of protein/kg body weight/day. However, if you’re an athlete, pregnant or nursing, or recovering from illness or injury, you may need more protein to support your increased energy needs.
Where To Get Your Protein as a Vegan?
Now, where can you get vegan protein? Lucky for us, many delicious vegan protein sources are available, ranging from grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to plant-based meat alternatives. Here are some examples of vegan protein sources and how much protein they contain per serving:
- Lentils: 1 cup cooked = 18 grams of protein
- Chickpeas: 1 cup cooked = 15 grams of protein
- Red Lentil Spaghetti: 2 oz/56g uncooked = 13 grams of protein
- Quinoa: 1 cup cooked = 8 grams of protein
- Whole-Wheat Spaghetti: 1 cup cooked = 8 grams of protein
- Tofu: 1/2 cup = 10 grams of protein
- Tempeh: 1/2 cup = 15 grams of protein
- Seitan: 1/2 cup = 17 grams of protein
- Hemp Seeds: 3 tablespoons = 10 grams of protein
- Almonds: 1/4 cup = 8 grams of protein
- Peanut Butter: 2 tablespoons = 8 grams of protein
- Plant-Based Protein Powder: varies but typically contains 15-25 grams of protein per serving
Yum! Incorporating vegan protein into your meals and snacks is easy and delicious. We only need to be mindful of it and the overall balance on our plates. Note: it’s absolutely possible to get enough protein from a balanced diet alone, without protein powder or highly-processed plant meats.
Plan & Balance Your Protein Intake
Plan your meals and snacks accordingly to ensure you get enough protein as a vegan. Aim to include at least one protein source in each meal, and incorporate a variety of protein sources throughout the day to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids.
Essential amino acids are those that we absolute need to get from our food. And contrary to the common belief, they are all available in plants. The difference vs animal-based protein sources is that plants don’t usually come with full amino acid profile: some amino acids are more prevailing in grains, others in legumes. One exception is soy, which is very balanced in amino acids on it’s own.
In practice, balancing protein means combining legumes, whole grains, and nuts/seeds because each group and product carries various amino acids.
Protein on Your Balanced Plate
Here are some examples of how to incorporate vegan protein into your meals:
- Breakfast: Top your oatmeal with chopped nuts or seeds, add soy milk or soy yogurt, or make a tofu scramble with veggies and whole-grain toast. Boost your smoothie with natural-flavored tofu or white beans and soaked raw buckwheat.
- Lunch: Try a salad with chickpeas, tempeh, tofu, or a veggie burger made with a plant-based patty.
- Dinner: Make a stir-fry with veggies and tempeh or a lentil soup with whole-grain bread on the side.
- Snacks: Enjoy a handful of nuts or seeds, hummus, and veggies, or a protein bar made with plant-based ingredients.
Remember, protein is just one of many important nutrients your body needs to function well. Consider getting a nutrition consultation or a balanced vegan menu to ensure you get all the necessary nutrients.
In conclusion, getting enough protein on a vegan diet is definitely achievable and can be very delicious. With a bit of planning, you can incorporate a variety of vegan protein sources into your meals and snacks to support your healthy, balanced lifestyle.