8 vegan-friendly sources of protein
One common myth surrounding a vegan diet is that you can't get enough protein to sustain a healthy lifestyle. But despite the controversy that often surrounds vegan diets, it’s actually very easy to get the amount of protein you need per day if you know where to find it. There's a stunning line up of vegan protein powder on the shelves, but prioritising your protein through whole foods such as beans, lentils and vegetables is the way forward.
Statistics from Viva show that half of the UK population are cutting down on their intake of meat, with 3% of the public (around 2 million people) already identifying as being vegan. So how do you confidently navigate getting the right amount of protein when following a vegan diet?
Author and Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert, and registered nutritionist Anna Tebbs at Green Chef, have all the advice you need on the best vegan-friendly foods packed full of protein.
How much protein should we be eating a day?
Anna said: “According to the UK Eatwell Guide, we need 0.75g of protein per kilo of body weight." This is usually around 45g per day for the average woman.
"In fact, cutting down on your meat intake can actually reduce your chances of getting heart disease or diabetes," Anna added. "Some easy ways to introduce vegan dishes into your diet more regularly is by swapping out meat in dishes like chilli and stews for a plant based alternative like beans or lentils.”
So, make sure to add the following items to your next shopping list...
The best vegan protein sources
1. Beans and lentils
(Approx. 20g protein per 100g)
"Beans and lentils taste great in curries and soups and are also useful for thickening sauces or dips. They are an excellent source of fibre and some B vitamins," says Rhiannon.
2. Nuts and seeds
(Pumpkin seeds: 24.4g protein per 100g)
"Whether sprinkling over porridge, throwing into smoothies or snacking on in the afternoon, nuts and seeds are a good source of plant-based protein," Rhiannon said. But that's not all they've got going for them: "They have the added benefit of containing fatty acids, calcium, zinc and selenium. Be creative and pack lots of different varieties into your diet."
Pumpkin seeds have more than the amount of protein found in many types of fish, such as cod (19g protein per 100g). Who would have though?!
(Approx. 7.7g protein per 100g)
Ah, a classic. You can put chickpeas in almost any meal, from curries and wraps to stir fries, and, yep, you can even use the left over chickpea water (known as aquafaba) to make delicious deserts like mousse and meringue.
"Chickpeas are incredibly versatile as a protein source – they can be made into hummus, added to curries, blended into soups, roasted in a little olive oil and paprika for a healthy afternoon snack…the list goes on!" says Rhiannon, adding: "They also double up as a source of iron and fibre."
4. Soya foods
(Approx. 8g protein per 100g)
"Soya foods such as tofu provide an alternative plant-based protein source with a good amino acid profile, as well as fatty acids and calcium," advises Rhiannon. "Tofu can be a particularly tasty addition to Asian inspired curries, noodle dishes, and also when fried in a little soy sauce, oil and cornflour to become crispy. Try it out if you haven’t already!"
Don't forget that Edamame and soy beans are packed with lots of goodness: 11g of protein per 100g.
(Approx. 19g protein per 100g)
"Tempeh is an Indonesian plant-based protein source. It has a chewy texture not too dissimilar to meat and is a good addition to salads," says Rhiannon. "It also has the added benefit of being fermented which may be beneficial for our gut microbiome." And well, anything your gut microbiome wants, it should get...
(Approx. 75g protein per 100g)
The word might sound like the devil, but the food product is far from it - it's a very effective source of protein. "Seitan contains a high amount of protein and is made mainly from wheat gluten. Its meat-like texture means its often found in curries and burgers," explains Rhiannon.
7. Nut butter
(Approx. 20-30g protein per 100g)
"Nut butter on rice cakes or on toast works really well as a delicious and satisfying snack," says Rhiannon, and I can personally vouch for this. There's no way it should be as healthy as it is, given how good it tastes. "Nut butter is also great in smoothies and with fruit dipped into it (or just straight out of the jar, let’s be honest)! It contains healthy fats, although beware that some may contain added sugar; always check the label," warns the expert.
8. Meat substitutes eg. vegan sausages
(Approx. 8-20g protein per 100g)
Never dabbled in meat substitutes? Give them a try, says Rhiannon. "These types of products typically contain mycoprotein if quorn based, which is derived from fungi," she explains. "As well as being a protein source, they also contain fibre. Other sausages such as Heck sausages contain lots of vegetables helping you towards your five a day. Some vegans cite missing the ‘chewiness’ of meat, therefore these products can be great alternatives."
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