Go-To Vegan Friendly Protein Sources
With Guest Contributor: Lauren Armstrong, RDN
“How do I get enough protein in my diet?” A common question that is usually asked by people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. That’s because, often times, people associate protein with foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy – all avoided in the vegan world. But, in reality, many plant-based foods can give us the protein we need plus extra important nutrients, like vitamins and minerals!
Let’s explore 6 delicious, plant-based protein options you’re going to want to make room for in your pantry and fridge- vegan or not!
Chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, pinto beans – the options are almost endless! Oh, and they are inexpensive too, so not only are you doing your body a favor, but also your wallet.
When you’re deciding what to make with beans, you can go multiple routes. They are great in soups, can be mashed into vegan burger patties, or even blended to create a dip, like hummus. Protein isn’t the only nutrient you’re getting, as they also contain potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc. (1)
Made from condensed soymilk, tofu is essentially a big block of spongy protein. It doesn’t contain much flavor, which makes it a staple for cooking various cuisines. Feeling an Asian-inspired meal? Marinate it in soy, hoisin sauce, ginger, and garlic! What about tacos? A simple dusting of chili powder will do. Not to forget, a tofu scramble with veggies can be made in the morning in minutes for breakfast! Tofu also gets a gold star for containing all the essential amino acids our body needs.
Part of the legume family, lentils come in many different varieties which pair well with different styles of cooking. Split red lentils tend to do well in soups and sauces whereas whole lentils hold their shape when cooked and could be used in salads or as a meat substitute. (2) Along with protein, lentils are a great source of iron which is a mineral that has been shown to be lacking in vegetarian diets. (3)
Pronounced “keen-waa,” this grain has risen in popularity over the past few years. Beyond being a great form of protein, it also has high amounts of fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium, and antioxidants. When you add it to your grocery list, you’re probably wondering how to implement it. It can be as simple as swapping it out for meals you’d normally use rice in, but it can also bulk up soups or be used as a meat alternative! If you’re feeling really fancy, there are recipes where quinoa is even added to baked good to give it a little more “oomph!”
5. Peanut Butter
A classic staple for vegans and non-vegans alike, any sort of nut butter is going to give you the protein you’re looking for, at around 3 to 4 grams per 1 tablespoon. (4) Peanut butter isn’t just a great addition to desserts and PB&J sandwiches, a quick Google search for savory peanut butter recipes will give you plenty of inspiration on how to utilize it at dinner time. For example, lots of Thai-inspired recipes use peanut butter in sauces!
6. Hemp, Flax and Chia Seeds
These small seeds pack a big nutritious punch. Along with protein, you’re getting heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. They are easy to use and don’t need to be cooked! Sprinkle a few tablespoons over top of a salad for a crunch, combine it with your morning oatmeal, or even blend with a smoothie. Chia seeds also gelatinize when combined with liquid, which means you can DIY chocolate pudding without animal-derived gelatin. All you need is chia seeds, non-dairy milk, and cocoa powder. Combine together, let sit overnight in the fridge, and bada-boom-bada-bing- vegan chocolate pudding!
All of these protein options are versatile and can be used at every meal with an assortment of flavors. They also include many other nutrients beyond protein to benefit our health. Even the pickiest of eaters will approve these vegan-friendly proteins, we’re hungry just talking about it!
Tag us @livetrulyfe to share with us your favorite plant-based protein recipe to feature!
- Messina V. (2014). The American journal of clinical nutrition, 100 Suppl 1, 437S–42S. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.071472
- How to Cook Lentils. Lentils.org.
- Haider, L. M., et al (2018). Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 58(8), 1359–1374. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2016.1259210
- Peanut Butter. Food Data Central. US Department of Agriculture.