Telling people you’ve decided to switch to a vegan diet, the one question you will almost certainly get asked is “where will you get your protein?” While meat and other animal products may indeed be high in protein (especially lean chicken, fish and eggs), there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein out there. Here are five of them and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
Seeds are a fantastic way to get protein in your diet, especially pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds, both with 37% protein. Hemp seeds are particularly good because they are so versatile and can be found in the form of protein powder to add to smoothies, as milk to cook or bake with, and as juice to drink.
To snack on as they are, to make into milk or butter, to bake with or to add as a condiment to a meal, nuts are a fantastic source of protein. Peanuts are among the most protein-rich, containing 25% protein, with almonds close behind with 21%. Other nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts and brazil nuts are a bit lower in protein (around 15%) but are still worth incorporating into your diet if you like the taste.
While many people think of beans as a good source of protein, the most common varieties are actually not that protein-rich. Chickpeas, for example, contain only 8% protein, and kidney beans have only 7%. Other, less common kinds of beans, on the other hand, are much higher in protein, such as haricot beans (22%), broad beans or fava beans (26%) and flageolet beans (30%). Beans are great for adding to stews and making vegan burgers.
Excellent for making soups or serving as a base for a Bolognese-type sauce, lentils are also a great source of protein. Red or green lentils contain 24% protein and split pea lentils are made up of 25% protein. Red lentils are especially easy to use as they do not require soaking before cooking unlike other kinds, and cook very quickly.
As alternatives to wheat, rice or couscous, which are very low in protein, consider grains like spelt (13% protein), oats (14%) and quinoa (12%). It’s possible to find bread and pasta made of spelt, and quinoa is a great accompaniment to curries, stews and salads. Oats, of course, can be easily used in baking and to make a filling and nutritious breakfast of oatmeal.
No doubt the most protein-rich meat substitute is seitan, which is simply cooked and congealed wheat gluten. It can contain up to 75% protein, which is much more than any animal product, and has a satisfying and meaty texture. Another good option is tempeh, which is made of fermented soy, is 19% protein, and is good for making burgers. Tofu is not as high in protein as you might think, with just 8%.
Don’t worry about not being able to get enough protein in a vegan diet. There are plenty of easy ways to make sure you get enough to keep you as full and healthy as any omnivore.