If you’re interested in going vegan or vegetarian, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll cover some of the best sources of protein that are compatible with a plant-based diet. These are foods that you’ll definitely want in your pantry while adhering to a plant-based lifestyle – they’re nutritious, satisfying, and easy to use in a multitude of recipes. Let’s get started!
First Off: What Is a Plant-Based Diet?
Plant-based eating is an approach to food that either minimizes or eliminates the consumption of animal products. People adopt a plant-based lifestyle for a number of reasons. Some of the most common motivators are a concern for the environment, aiming to eat healthier meals, and ethical concerns about the animal food industry. These are all valid reasons to eat plant-based, and there are plenty more justifications for adopting the lifestyle.
When eating a plant-based diet, you’ll be avoiding all of the following foods:
- Meats, including fish, chicken, beef, and pork
- Dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter
- Animal byproducts, including whey, gelatin, and honey
You might be wondering what you can eat while adhering to a plant-based lifestyle. The answer is plenty! All of the following foods are welcome on a plant-based plate:
- Whole grains, including rice, quinoa, wheat, couscous, and more
- Legumes like peas, beans, and lentils
- Fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including starchy ones like potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Nuts and seeds
In addition to these foods, some plant-based eaters feel comfortable with including substitute foods in their diets. These include meat and dairy alternatives like tofu, non-dairy milk, and soy-based cheese. However, in its purest form, a plant-based diet focuses on natural foods in their most unprocessed forms.
Why Does Your Body Need Protein?
Protein is one of the three key macronutrients your body needs to stay healthy and strong. It serves as the foundation for your bones, muscles, and skin, and these parts of your body can deteriorate if you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet.
Is It Harder for Vegans To Get Enough Protein?
When you think of protein-rich foods, you probably picture steak, chicken, fish, and other animal products. While these foods are definitely high in protein, they’re incompatible with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. However, animal foods are far from the only sources of protein out there!
While some meat lovers will try to convince you otherwise, you can definitely stay healthy and happy and get all of the nutrients your body needs without eating meat. To eat a nutrient-dense vegan or vegetarian diet, you’ll be relying on the plant-based foods that are richest in protein. These foods will take the place of meat on your plate, serve as satisfying snacks, and keep you energized throughout the day.
Let’s take a look at a few of the best sources of plant proteins.
Getting Enough Protein While Vegan Is Easier Than You Think
There are plenty of naysayers out there who will tell you that it’s hard to get enough protein while eating vegan, but the truth is that your body doesn’t need animal products to be healthy. Protein is found in abundance in various plant-based foods, including the ones listed above. The struggle that many plant-based eaters may run into isn’t a protein deficiency – it’s lacking in certain vitamins.
In its natural form, a plant-based diet contains little to no vitamin B12 or vitamin D3. These vitamins are primarily found in animal products, which makes it difficult for vegans to get enough of them. To reduce the risk of developing a deficiency, you can take B12 and D3 supplements that are made with plant-based ingredients.
Quinoa is a whole grain that boasts high protein, as well as plenty of important vitamins and minerals. It’s also rich in fiber, which your body needs for healthy digestion.
This grain is gluten-free, making it a popular choice among sufferers of celiac disease and those with wheat allergies. To add to the perks of putting quinoa on your plate, a serving will provide you with a significant portion of your daily recommended amounts for magnesium, zinc, potassium, copper, iron, and more. That’s all on top of eight grams of plant-based protein.
Quinoa is incredibly versatile – you can pair it with almost anything. We recommend adding it to grain bowls, salads, and soups for a plant-based protein boost.
Almonds sometimes get a bad rap for their high-fat content, but the fat they contain is good for you! These nuts are full of healthy unsaturated fats, which don’t have a negative impact on your LDL counts or heart health. In addition to those beneficial fats, almonds also contain plenty of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals.
Sprinkle almonds on top of a salad to add extra flavor and protein, or eat a handful of them as a snack. You can even throw a few into your morning oatmeal.
Peas are often classified as vegetables, but they’re really legumes – the same classification given to beans and lentils. Like other legumes, peas are packed with fiber and protein, and there are plenty of creative ways to add them to your meals.
One of our favorite uses for peas is in this spicy soup recipe. Pureed peas are the main ingredient in the soup, which gets its kick from green curry paste. The soup is completely plant-based, and it makes a perfect main course or side dish for the colder months of the year. Plus, we’ll make it even easier on you by optimizing the perfect grocery list and arranging for grocery delivery or pick-up.
Another delicious recipe to make with peas is our zucchini and pea curry. Served over a bed of thin rice noodles, this vegan dish is easy to make and has the perfect mix of sweetness and spice.
A certain classic cartoon character swore by eating a can of spinach to maintain his ripped physique. There’s a reason why he was so committed to this leafy green – it’s packed with protein!
Spinach is tasty, versatile, and incredibly nutritious. Eat it raw as the base for a salad, cook it into your favorite noodle dishes, or even toss a bit into a breakfast smoothie. One hundred grams of spinach contain a meager 23 calories – the veggie is nearly 100% water – and a significant portion of those calories come from protein. The rest of spinach’s caloric makeup comes from fiber and carbohydrates, both of which are building blocks for a healthy diet.
In addition to its high protein content, spinach is also a fantastic source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and several minerals, including iron and calcium. No wonder Popeye loved it so much.
These tasty little legumes, often referred to as garbanzo beans, are another phenomenal source of plant-based protein. You can include chickpeas in your diet in a variety of ways, including:
- Enjoying hummus with carrot sticks – hummus is made primarily from chickpeas, along with oil, tahini, and spices
- Adding a handful of chickpeas to a salad
- Putting garbanzo beans in soup or chili
- Roasting chickpeas in the oven with salt and a drizzle of oil
The possibilities are endless with chickpeas, which are some of the most nutritious beans you’ll ever eat. They contain numerous vitamins and minerals, including manganese, folate, copper, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6, and more, and their high fiber content makes them extra filling.
Lentils are legumes frequently used in Indian, African, and Asian cuisine, and they can be found in multiple colors. The most common variety you’ll encounter is brown lentils, which tend to taste earthier than their more colorful counterparts. Lentils are affordable, highly nutritious, and easy to cook, and they’re an excellent source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
A cup of lentils contains almost 18 grams of protein, as well as impressive amounts of fiber and B vitamins. As an added perk, you can prepare lentils quickly and add them to a simple meal when you’re in a hurry – these legumes are usually ready in around 20 minutes.
7. Peanuts and Peanut Butter
Ah, the humble peanut. It’s a delicious snack, an all-star ingredient, and the source of one of the tastiest condiments in the world – peanut butter. Peanuts (and peanut butter) are full of protein, as well as hefty amounts of fiber and healthy fats. In addition, like nearly all nuts, peanuts are low in carbohydrates, making them suitable for vegetarian and vegan eaters looking for ways to minimize their carb intake.
There are plenty of ways to add peanuts or peanut butter to your diet. They include:
- Enjoying a simple, tasty PB&J on whole grain bread
- Snacking on peanuts in between meals to keep yourself energized and full
- Crushing peanuts and using them as a topping for Asian cooking
- Adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to your breakfast smoothies for added protein and healthy fats
8. Plant-Based Protein Powder
If you’re having trouble getting enough protein in your plant-based diet, protein powder can make a huge difference. While this dietary supplement is often made from whey, a byproduct of milk, there are plenty of vegan-friendly alternatives. One of the most popular types of plant-based protein powder is made with peas, which, as you already know, are an excellent source of this macronutrient.
Pea protein, as well as other powders made with brown rice, lentils, and other foods, is usually relatively affordable and easy to add to your diet. Blend the powder into smoothies, use it in recipes, or simply mix it with water or a milk alternative. From each scoop of powder, you’re likely to get around 20 grams of plant-based protein.
Using plant-based protein powder can be especially helpful if you are trying to build muscle on a vegan diet. If heavy weightlifting is part of your lifestyle, adding a few scoops to your daily menu can help to ensure that you’re getting enough calories and protein to account for the amount of lifting you’re doing.
Edamame, also known as soybeans, can be eaten in a variety of forms. They’re often enjoyed dry-roasted with a sprinkling of salt or eaten right out of their pods. These little beans taste delicious, and they’re packed with protein and fiber. If you’re looking for a low-calorie snack that is right at home in a plant-based eating plan, edamame is an excellent choice.
In addition to edamame, other soy foods can provide you with plenty of plant-based protein. These include tofu and tempeh, which you can easily add to plant-based recipes.
10. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are full of protein and fiber, and they’re a staple for vegan baking. The seeds also serve as the base for a delicious pudding. Add a boost of protein to your diet by throwing a few scoops of chia seeds into your morning smoothie or mixing the seeds into your oatmeal.
In addition to protein and fiber, chia seeds are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. They’re also full of healthy fats. Who knew seeds could be so nutritious?
Ready To Make the Switch To Plant-Based Eating?
Now that you know how easy it is to get enough protein from a plant-based diet, it’s time to start cooking your own plant-based meals! You’ll find a wide array of vegan-friendly recipes on our cooking page, including dishes that you can enjoy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With help from us at JOW, going vegan is easier than ever!
If you’re looking for additional advice on stepping up your home-cooking game, make sure to visit our blog. There, you’ll find helpful tips for cooking as creatively and efficiently as possible, plus plenty of inspiration and recipe ideas. Plus, with the JOW app, getting your groceries is as simple as logging on and choosing whatever else you’d like to add to your cart.