People often worry that vegetarian and vegan diets do not have enough protein.

Although some people believe that a diet without meat cannot provide enough protein, many experts agree that a well-planned meatless diet can give a person all the nutrients they need.

Even though some plant foods have more protein than others, eating a diet with a lot of protein can help you lose weight and feel fuller.

Here are some plants that are high in protein.

Why Do We Need Protein?

Protein is a vital nutrient that makes up around 17% of our body weight. It’s the key ingredient in our muscles, skin, internal organs, and more. Additionally, protein is necessary for our immune system to create antibodies that help us fight infection. Furthermore, protein aids in regulating blood sugar levels, fat metabolism, and energy production.

Protein foods comprise of 22 naturally occurring amino acids, which are referred to as the building blocks of protein. Of these, nine are classified as essential amino acids, meaning that we must obtain them from food sources, as the body is unable to produce them. Protein is also a good dietary source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc and B vitamins. As a vegan, it is essential to include all these amino acids in the diet to achieve optimal nutrition.

To get the right amount of protein, you need to combine different grains with different vegetables and pulses. For example, you could have beans and rice, or tofu with broccoli. It’s important to have variety when you’re vegan, and not to rely on processed foods like vegan cheese to make up for any deficiencies.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

The RDI for protein for an adult is 0.75 grams per kilogram of body weight. So, for someone who weighs 60 kilograms, they need 60 x 0.75, which is 45 grams of protein. Someone 74 kilograms would need 74 x 0.75, or 55 grams of protein.  This is too low for active women who want to thrive as they get older and also wish to control their weight.  It is recommended to aim for 1.8g protein per kg body weight per day.

Can You Eat Too Much Protein?

A high protein diet may not be the best for your health, especially if the protein is coming from animal sources. Prolonged intake of high amounts of protein was thought to lead to bone loss and kidney damage, but recent studies suggest that this may not be the case for healthy individuals. However, if you have an existing condition or kidney dysfunction, a high protein diet could be a problem. Higher protein intake may actually be beneficial for otherwise healthy people, including the elderly, by helping to prevent muscle loss.

There is very little research on the risks of high-protein vegan diets, but it is important to make sure that you eat a variety of foods and get enough vitamins and minerals, especially when you are pregnant.

Can You Get Enough Protein as a Vegan Athlete?

Although veganism doesn’t present as many challenges for athletes and those who exercise as it used to, it’s important to be mindful of energy and protein intake, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, key nutrients like vitamin B12, zinc, and iron, and overall calorie intake.

A study recently published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that while vegan diets can be more difficult to maintain, they can be adequately managed with careful attention and some supplementation. The study did identify some potential issues with nutrient absorption and digestion, but concluded that a vegan diet is a viable option for athletes.

Benefits and Risks of a Vegan Diet

Plant-based diets have been linked to several health benefits.

Vegan Diets May Support Weight Goals & Heart Health

Vegans tend to have lower body mass indexes (BMI) which may be associated with a lower chronic disease risk in some populations.

Studies suggest that vegan diets are more effective at helping people lose weight than many other diets. This includes the Mediterranean diet.

A vegan diet has been of a lower risk of cancer and reducing pain from arthritis. Also, it may reduce your likelihood of experiencing age-related cognitive decline.

A plant-based diet has several health benefits, including lower blood pressure, better-regulated blood sugar levels, and a healthier heart.

Health organizations recommend increasing the amount of plant-based protein in our diets.

Vegan Diets May Lead to Nutritional Deficiencies

Despite what some people may claim, there’s no one-size-fits-all vegan diet. It is important to note that not all vegan diets will have the same benefits. There is no single vegan diet that is right for everyone.

A vegan diet that is mostly made up of minimally processed foods is beneficial for all stages of life. However, a vegan diet that consists mostly of ultra-processed plant foods is not beneficial.

If you don’t plan your vegan diet well, or if you eat a lot of processed vegan foods, you might not get enough of certain nutrients. This is especially true for vitamin B12, iodine, iron, calcium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Soaking, fermenting, and cooking plant-based foods in a cast-iron skillet can help improve your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in those foods.

You can help reduce the risk of nutrient deficiencies by eating more whole or minimally-processed plant foods and less processed plant foods.

Eating supplements and fortified foods can help you get the nutrients you might miss from not eating animal products, and help you avoid any negative effects from a vegan diet.

Plant Versus Animal Protein

Proteins are created from chains of molecules called amino acids.

The other 11 are nonessential, meaning that your body can produce them from other amino acids or from the breakdown of other molecules. There are 20 amino acids found in nature that your body can use to build protein. Out of these 20 amino acids, 9 are considered essential and the other 11 are nonessential. Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot produce itself, so you need to get them from your diet. Nonessential amino acids are those that your body can produce from other amino acids or from the breakdown of other molecules.

There are 11 amino acids that are not considered essential because your body can produce them from the 9 essential amino acids.

Animal protein contains all nine essential amino acids, while most plants contain a limited amount of at least one of these amino acids.

For example, beans, lentils, peas, and many vegetables generally contain low amounts of cysteine and methionine. In contrast, grains, nuts, and seeds are typically low in lysine.

Plant foods are often referred to as “incomplete” sources of protein because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids.

You can still get all of the amino acids your body needs as long as you eat a variety of plant-based proteins.

Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

Whether you are an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, you can get a lot of protein from plant foods, and reducing your reliance on animal protein can be beneficial.

Seitan

Many vegetarians and vegans consider seitan to be a key protein source.

The text is saying that the product is made from gluten, which is the main protein in wheat. It goes on to say that this product is different from many soy-based mock meats because it more closely resembles the look and texture of real meat when it is cooked.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat. It is one of the richest sources of plant protein, with 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

Although seitan is a good source of some nutrients, it is low in others. It contains small amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

This meat alternative can be found in the refrigerated section of many grocery stores, including health food stores. You can also make your own version with vital wheat gluten.

You can cook seitan in many different ways, including pan-frying, sautéing, and grilling. This makes it a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different recipes.

Seitan shouldn’t be eaten by people with gluten-related disorders because it contains wheat.

Tofu, tempeh, and edamame

Three foods that come from soybeans are tofu, tempeh, and edamame. They are commonly eaten in East Asian countries.

Soybeans providing your body with all the essential amino acids it needs makes them a whole source of protein.

Edamame are immature soybeans which have to be boiled or steamed before eating. They have a sweet and slightly grassy taste which makes them perfect to be enjoyed on their own, or as an addition to soups, salads, sushi, wraps, stir-fries, or rice rolls.

Tofu is made from bean curds that have been pressed together in a way that is similar to how cheese is made. Meanwhile, tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans, and then pressing them into a block.

Tofu has a neutral taste, so it takes on the flavors of the other ingredients it is cooked with. Tempeh has a more distinct taste, with a nutty flavor.

Both tofu and tempeh can be used in different types of recipes, for example, burgers, soups, stews, curries and chilis.

Soy-based proteins are a good source of iron, calcium, and 12-20 grams of protein.

Edamame is also rich in folate, vitamin K, and fiber, which can help support digestion and keep you regular.

Probiotics are beneficial for gut health, and B vitamins are essential for energy production and metabolism. On the other hand, tempeh is rich in probiotics, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus. Probiotics are great for gut health, and B vitamins are key for energy production and metabolism.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a seed. You can find white, red, black, or mixed varieties. 100g of quinoa (cooked weight) will provide almost 4g of protein. But it’s also known as a complete protein. That means it contains all 22 amino acids. So it’s a great alternative to carbohydrates such as rice and couscous.

Pulses

This includes all beans, peas, and lentils that grow in a pod and have an edible seed. Different pulses include:

  • Lentils including puy, green, and red: around 8-9g of protein per 100g
  • Chickpeas, including hummus: 7g of protein per 100g
  • Garden peas – around 7g per 100g
  • Beans, including black-eyed, pinto, butter, cannellini, soya, edamame, and kidney: between 7-10g protein per 100g
  • Baked beans do count as a good source of protein but keep an eye on the salt content: 5g per 100g.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are again very versatile and can be used with meals or as a snack to ensure adequate protein, and energy is maintained throughout the day. Some of the best nut and seed proteins include:

  • Hemp seeds – 5g per heaped tablespoon
  • Ground linseed – 3g per heaped tablespoon
  • Almonds – 3g of protein for every six almonds
  • Walnuts – around 3g of protein for every three whole walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds – 4g per tablespoon
  • Pistachios – just over 1g of protein over 10 pistachios
  • Cashew nuts – 3g per 10 cashew nuts
  • Brazil nuts – 4g per six Brazil nuts

Be careful with peanut butter and other types of nut butter as they can be a good source of protein, but make sure to check the label. It should say that the product is 100% nuts, with no added oils, salt, or sugar. A heaped tablespoon of smooth peanut butter provides just over 3g of protein.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds can be added to many different dishes for a protein boost. They contain almost 2g of protein per tablespoon, and can be used as a replacement for eggs in vegan cooking. To use them as a replacement for eggs, soak the seeds in water for about 20 minutes.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a seed that is high in both protein and fiber, and it’s also gluten-free. Buckwheat is becoming increasingly popular and can be found as flakes, groats, pasta, and flours, making it an excellent addition to a vegan diet.

Oats

While oats are a complex carbohydrate, they provide slow energy release. They are also an excellent source of protein, packing 10g per 100g.

Brown and wild rice

Brown and wild rice are a source of both carbohydrates and protein, with around 4g of protein per 100g of rice. They are also a good source of dietary fiber.

Other Grains

Some slightly lesser-known grains can also be used to bump up your protein:

  • Spelt – over 5g of protein per 100g
  • Teff – over 4g of protein per 100g
  • Amaranth – over 4g of protein per 100g
  • Sorghum – over 8g of protein per 100g

Vegetables

Vegetables also offer a surprising amount of protein including:

  • Asparagus – almost 2g of protein per six spears
  • Avocado – over 1g per ½ an avocado
  • Broccoli – almost 3g per 80g of broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts – around 2g per 80g Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower – 1.5g per 80g serving
  • Jerusalem artichokes – over 1g of protein per 80g
  • Kale – almost 2g per 80g serving
  • Spinach – 2g per 80g serving
  • Sweetcorn – over 2g for every three heaped tablespoons

The Bottom Line

A well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet should not cause protein deficiencies.

Some people may want to eat less animal protein for ethical or environmental reasons, or they may have trouble digesting animal protein Still, some people may be interested in increasing their intake of plant-based proteins for a variety of reasons. Some people may want to eat less animal protein for ethical or environmental reasons, or they may have trouble digesting animal protein.

This is a guide for people who want to eat more plant-based proteins.

 

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About Rhoda ...

Rhoda is an award-winning dietitian, mature age model, and CEO of Sayvana Women.  

She is the creator of the Elegant Eating Solution, an affordable program that helps women avoid weight regain and feel great about themselves, without restrictive eating.

Elegant Eating is based on the science of protein leverage and follows the unique R.E.M.A.P approach to successful aging.

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