If you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, you probably don’t have a shuddering or roll-of-the-eyes reaction with this question. In fact, you’ve probably never even been asked this question! Lucky you.
This is probably the most laughed–about and aggravating question that vegetarians and vegans get, especially when they first make a decision to go on a primarily-plants diet. Everyone suddenly becomes very concerned about and invested in your daily amino acid intake.
Here’s the rub: it’s all a misconception, and here’s how it came about –
During the early and mid-20th century, findings from many animal studies led to the undervaluation of plant protein for human diets. The thing is, the studies were being done on baby rats, whose protein requirements differ significantly from those of humans. In addition, the diet being fed to the rats consisted of a single food, such as cheese, or one plant variety. Perspectives from that time led scientists to deem plant proteins as “incomplete.” The misconception persists until today, even though studies such as an analysis of the eating recordings of a large sample of people following plant-based diets showed that, on average, they got 70% more protein than they needed daily.
The fact of the matter is that all grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables are protein sources. Even fruits contain some protein. What’s more, the proteins present in animal products all come from plants, whether the animals ate the plants directly, like a cow eating grass, or indirectly, such as a lion eating an animal that had eaten plants. This means that there is absolutely no need to eat meat to get protein. In fact, it’s a quite inefficient way to get protein. For protein, just go straight to the best and most direct protein source: plants.
Note: The recommended daily minimum protein intake for adults on a plant-based diet is at least 0.4 grams per pound.
So, here’s a list of the best sources of clean, delicious plant-protein:
- Lentils: 9 grams of protein per half cup, plus nearly 15 grams of fiber
- Tofu: 10 grams of protein per cup
- Black beans: 8 grams of protein per half cup
- Quinoa: 8 grams per cup, and a rich source of magnesium, antioxidants, and fiber
- Amaranth: 7 grams of protein per cup, also a good source of iron, B vitamins, and magnesium
- Soymilk (non-GMO): 8 grams of protein per cup, 4 grams of heart-healthy fats, and latest research has been showing that soy actually helps prevent cancer rather than cause it
- Green peas: 8 grams of protein per cup, and rich in leucine, an amino acid crucial to metabolism and weight loss
- Artichokes: 4 grams of protein per half cup, and high in fiber
- Hemp seeds: 13 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons
- Oatmeal: has 3 times the protein of brown rice with less starch and more fiber, and a great source of magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins
- Pumpkin seeds: 8 grams of protein per quarter cup, and one of the most overlooked sources of iron out there
- Chia seeds: 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons – a complete protein source!
- Spinach: 5 grams of protein per cup (even 5 cups of spinach would wilt down into a meal-sized portion!)
- Broccoli: 4 grams of protein per cup, and contains 30% of your daily calcium needs
- Almonds: 7 grams of protein per cup of fresh nuts, or in 2 tablespoons of almond butter
Protein-packed recipes from Life & Health:
Mujaddara (Lebanese Lentils & Rice With Caramelized Onions) — Literally one of the most crowd-pleasing, ingenious recipes I’ve ever encountered.
Oatmeal Bake With Berries — A little remix to your morning oatmeal routine. Top this with coconut flakes, fresh fruit, and a splash of soymilk and you’ll be good to go!
Broccoli With Roasted Peppers & Olives — The perfect balance of tart savory, this is great as a side to a rice dish.
Protein-Packed Quinoa Salad — This one is protein-packed and flavor-packed, with cilantro, lime juice, and chipotle chili powder.
Almond Butter Sauce — For those who like those savory peanut sauces that come alongside fresh spring rolls, this almond butter one is for you.
Protein-rich recipes from around the web:
Green Pea Fritters by Wallflower Kitchen: “Add them to pitta wraps, eat them with a salad or serve them as an appetizer with some dip. I’ve shared a recipe for a lovely, quick dairy-free herby yoghurt dip but honestly, I’ve mainly been eating these with some good old fashioned ketchup. ‘cos I’m classy.”
Herb & Garlic Amaranth Crackers by Delicious Everyday: “The result is a lovely crisp, slightly nutty herb and garlic scented cracker that is difficult to resist. Even my ever so slightly hubby who is wary of anything “different” thought they were delicious.”
Vegan Artichoke Chowder by Making Thyme For Health: “Vegan Artichoke Chowder- made with jarred artichoke hearts and creamy coconut milk, this one-pot chowder is super satisfying and delicious! (grain-free, soy-free and gluten-free)”
Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese by Love & Lemons: “This one is as creamy as mac and cheese could ever get, the paprika and turmeric give it an incredible depth of flavor, and the spinach gives it the right amount of texture. I honestly can’t get enough…”
Banana & Berry Hemp Seed Pudding by Minimalist Baker: “The idea is simple: Kind of like a thicker banana berry-based smoothie with hemp seeds and chia seeds. The result is a naturally-sweet “pudding” that’s perfect for snacking or a lighter dessert.”
Enjoy a protein-filled week, everyone!