There are a plethora of vegan protein sources available for those following a plant-based diet. Eating a combination of these foods daily can help provide complete protein and keep meals interesting. The amino acids in proteins are the building blocks for muscles, tissues and assist with immune function, so consuming several protein-rich ingredients is critical.
It can be a challenge to obtain all of the nine essential amino acids from single type of plants alone. That’s why it’s necessary for those on a vegan diet to incorporate a variety of food sources that are high in protein and healthy fats to receive all the required nutrients for normal body function.
Types of Vegan Protein Sources:
These inexpensive and versatile legumes are packed with protein and fiber. It takes a while to cook them, but canned beans are an excellent convenience product when short on time. With so many options, the most popular being black, pinto, kidney beans.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/2 cup (130g) – 150 calories, 10g protein, 1.50g total fat, 23g carbohydrates, 10g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 341 mg sodium, 40 mg calcium, 3.6 mg iron.
Tofu is made from soy milk by pressing the curds into solid slabs. This soy-based high protein source has a lightly sweet and nutty flavor and is versatile in many culinary applications. Cut into cubes and baked, fried, marinated, grilled, sauteed or stir-fried, the options are endless.
Nutritional Profile: Per 4 ounces (112g) – 96 calories, 12g protein, 4.70g total fat, 1g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 0.4g sugars, 36 mg sodium, 166 mg calcium, 1.9 mg iron.
Lentils are available dried and vary in color and size. There are many types of lentils ranging from brown, green, red, yellow and black and they all have different textures and tastes. Learning how to cook lentils is easy, and each type lends well to be used in soups, stews, sides or salads.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/4 cup (50g) – 180 calories, 13g protein, 0.50g total fat, 30g carbohydrates, 15g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 2.5 mg iron.
This rectangular shaped pressed cake is made from fermented cooked soybeans. It often contains a mixture of grains with flavoring agents. However, soy free versions are also available. It can be marinated and used in stir-fries, sandwiched or cut in slabs to make seared or grilled steaks.
Nutritional Profile: Per 8 ounces (227g) – 460 calories, 42g protein, 16g total fat, 32g carbohydrates, 24g dietary fiber, 2g sugars, 20 mg sodium, 159 mg calcium, 8.6 mg iron.
Also known as “wheat meat”, seitan is made from wheat gluten. The texture is very chewy, mimicking chicken or beef. Often sold in slabs, pre-cut slices, cubes, or pre-seasoned. Lends well to marinating, coating and fried, or stir-fried.
Nutritional Profile: Per 8 ounces (227g) – 280 calories, 56g protein, 4g total fat, 10g carbohydrates, 0g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 800 mg sodium, 0 mg calcium, 0 mg iron.
This olive green grain with nutty and smoky flavors is made from immature durum wheat. It has three times more fiber and two times more protein than white rice, rivaling quinoa in macro nutrient profile. It can be purchased whole or cracked and boiled until tender. It’s often eaten in eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisines like salads and pilafs.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/4 cup (46g) – 170 calories, 7g protein, 1g total fat, 33g carbohydrates, 8g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 74 mg calcium, 6 mg iron.
Depending on the variety you choose, there will be a different taste, textures and nutritional value. White rice is more tender because it has been husked, while brown rice still has not and takes longer to cook, but it has more nutrients retained. Long, medium and short grain rice are available that yield different textures when cooked. Red and black rice are also available that have additional antioxidants.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1 cup (195g) – 218 calories, 4.5g protein, 1.6g total fat, 46g carbohydrates, 3.5g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 1 mg sodium, 10 mg calcium, 0.5 mg iron.
Amaranth is a gluten-free and protein-rich grain native to Peru. The fibers aid in digestion and the calcium helps with bone health. It is boiled and simmered uncovered, about 1/2 cup amaranth to 1 1/2 cups water. Use flour in baked goods, and grains in breakfast porridge, puddings, and as replacements for rice or other grains.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1 cup (246g) – 251 calories, 9.4g protein, 4g total fat, 46g carbohydrates, 5.2g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 15 mg sodium, 116 mg calcium, 5.17 mg iron.
Quinoa is a super food seed that is one of the few plant-based proteins that provide all nine essential amino acids. The seeds have a nutty taste but should be rinsed before cooking to remove the slightly bitter flavor from their protective coating called saponins. They come in yellow, black and red and often mixed. Quinoa is cooked like rice and can take on other flavors for a tasty side dish or used in burgers or fritters.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/4 cup (43g) – 156 calories, 6g protein, 2.50g total fat, 27g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 5 mg sodium, 47 mg calcium, 4.6 mg iron.
These tiny golden or brown seeds are loaded with fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid. They come whole or ground. Sprinkling the seeds or milled flax seeds can nutritionally boost any snack, beverage or sweets.
Nutritional Profile: Per 2 teaspoons (13g) – 60 calories, 3g protein, 3.50g total fat, 5g carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 5 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 2.5 mg iron.
Chia can come in black or white tiny round seeds that pack a nutritional punch. When combined with liquids, the chia seeds outer coating swells to create a thickening effect. They are neutral in flavor, have a jelly texture with a crunch. It’s often added to drinks, smoothies, puddings, and jams for fiber and protein.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/4 cup (36g) – 180 calories, 6g protein, 11g total fat, 16g carbohydrates, 14g dietary fiber, 0g sugars, 5 mg sodium, 250 mg calcium, 3.4 mg iron.
These green roasted seeds are often used in Mexican cuisine, also known as pepitas. It’s most well known for its high levels of magnesium, about 74 milligrams per 2 tablespoons. Pepitas has a nice crunch to salads and soups.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/4 cup (30g) – 160 calories, 10g protein, 13g total fat, 4g carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 20 mg calcium, 7.5 mg iron.
11) Nuts and Nut Butters
Any nut you can dream of, almonds, peanuts, cashews, Brazil, pecans or walnuts are a nutrient-dense vegan protein source. They make a great snack or can be used as toppings, incorporated into sauces, soups, and stews to add richness and thickness, ground for baking like almond flour, or can be soaked to make dairy-free milk and cheeses. Nut butter like almond and peanut butter are easy to make and add as spreads or in sauces. Although high in protein, nuts also are higher in fat and calories, so moderation is key.
Nutritional Profile: Per 1/4 cup (28g) – 180 calories, 10g protein, 16g total fat, 5g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 1g sugars, 0 mg sodium, 80 mg calcium, 1.9 mg iron.
12) Soy Milk
Milk that’s made from soybeans and fortified with vitamins and minerals is a great alternative to cow’s milk. Not only does it contain 7 grams of protein per cup (240 ml), but it’s also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. However, keep in mind that soy milk and soybeans do not naturally contain vitamin B12, so picking a fortified variety is recommended. It is a good idea to opt for unsweetened varieties to keep the amount of added sugars to a minimum. Soy milk is a high-protein plant alternative to cow’s milk. It’s a versatile product that can be used in a variety of ways.
13) Groundnut oil cakes
Groundnut cake is a by product obtained after extraction of oil. The cake contains 45–60% protein, 22–30% carbohydrate, 3.8 –7.5% crude fibre and 4–6% minerals. Utilization of meal or defatted meal into food products could be an excellent vehicle for enhancing the utilization of groundnut protein in the diets of malnourished people. It has potential to be used as low fat groundnut concentrate, composite flour, in bakery products, breakfast cereal flakes, snack foods, multipurpose supplement, infant and weaning foods, extruded foods or fabricated food.
For those who follow Vegan diet, hope you enjoyed the read and will benefit from it !! For others, hope you find this useful for your knowledge.
Dr. Mansi Pujara’s Clinic