By BLAIR WEISINGER
The famous question…Where do vegans get their protein? The answer is that there are tons of protein sources in a vegan diet and it’s not difficult to get the amount you need. And no, you don’t have to eat copious amounts of beans to achieve that. The truth is, most Americans get too much protein in their diet, and vegetarians and vegans can easily get more than enough protein in their diet as well. Many people still believe that protein is only available from meat and animal sources, but unless you’re pregnant or an Olympic bodybuilder, you will likely get more than enough protein without even trying.
- Beans, Lentils and Legumes- All beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent vegetarian and vegan source of protein, so eat whichever one you like! Black beans, kidney beans, Indian dhal, vegetarian chili, split pea soup and chickpea hummus- pick one and watch the protein grams add up.
- Tofu and Other Soy Products- Soy is such a flavor chameleon that you’ll never get bored! You may have tried tofu and soy milk before, but what about edamame, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy nuts or soy cheese? Also, TVP and tempeh are popular protein-rich soy foods. As an added bonus, many brands of tofu and soy milk are fortified with other nutrients that vegetarians and vegans need, such as calcium, iron, and vitamin B12.
- Quinoa and Other Whole Grains- Whole grains are a great source of protein, but the queen of whole grains when it comes to protein content is quinoa or, if you can find it, kaniwa. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber. Other whole grains, including whole grain bread, brown rice, barley are all healthy protein-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans as well.
- Protein Powder Supplements- So what if you are an Olympic bodybuilder or are trying to gain some serious muscle? In this case, your protein needs will be higher than an average vegetarian and you may be considering supplementing with protein powders or protein shakes. If you go the protein shake route, be sure to read labels and watch out for cheap fillers in whey and soy protein powders. It’s best to shell out and invest in a good quality powder.
While there’s nothing particularly wrong with eating protein at a meal, it’s also not mandatory for getting what you need. You can incorporate protein all throughout the day on a plant-based diet, especially in snacks, where it’s most often overlooked, without really needing a massive source at every meal. You can also eat foods that contain smaller amounts of protein at each meal that the body can use efficiently to form proteins on its own, even if these foods aren’t as high as the proteins in meat.