Alice is an aspiring writer based in Prague. She has been a vegetarian for over 10 years and transitioned to veganism in November 2019.
How Do Vegans Get Protein?
One of the most common questions I get asked as a vegan is where I get my protein from. I really don't think most people understand where they get their own protein in food, regardless of whether they follow a plant-based diet or not. Protein is essential for growth, development, and healing, so deficiency could be a concern. However, there is a misconception that protein is only found in animal products which can be proven incorrect by the amount of plant-based protein sources.
A serving of tofu (100g) contains 8g of protein. It is a food that is very low in calories but contains many essential vitamins and minerals (including iron and calcium).
You may be thinking, 'That's great, but I don't like tofu'. Well, I'm here to tell you: If you don't like tofu, you probably prepared it wrong. It is really difficult to get it right yourself and I am still learning myself.
When I travelled to Asia, it was one of my main options and there are some really delicious dishes you can create using tofu. Tofu is common in Thai curry dishes and you still get to experience the aromatic spices of this amazing cuisine! Tofu can also be found in stir-fries or as a snack as fried crispy tofu.
Another way to serve tofu that is increasing in popularity is tofu scramble. It is basically a vegan version of scrambled eggs and much healthier. A recent report from JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) found that even a low consumption of eggs results in an increased risk of heart disease in over 30,000 participants and the more eggs you eat, the more likely you are to face heart problems.
Ingredients such as turmeric and black salt can be used when preparing tofu scramble to simulate a more eggy flavour and colour. Turmeric is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
Another nice and easy protein source is beans. This could be white beans, black beans, red kidney beans, cannellini beans, or even edamame (soybeans). I usually buy tinned beans, as they are extremely cheap.
Beans are incredibly high in fibre and have no cholesterol. In just 100g of red kidney beans, there are 9g of protein and black beans can contain up to 15g. This makes them a wonderful source.
They are such a versatile ingredient! You could make a chilli dish using any type of beans you feel like. You can have beans in a salad dish. My favourite way to eat beans is in a burrito with some avocado and rice (maybe even some tofu scramble!!).
Chickpeas and Lentils
A good chana masala (chickpea curry) or tadka dhal (lentil curry) are two of my favourite meals in the world, so I had to talk about chickpeas and lentils. In my experience, meat-eaters are less likely to go for these alternatives, but they have some great benefits.
Lentils have 9g of protein per 100g serving. They are also a source of iron, another nutrient that meat-eaters love to tell me I am lacking in my diet. In the winter, I like to put lentils in soup and I recently experimented with making a lentil bolognese which was really tasty.
Chickpeas contain 14g of protein per 100g and are an excellent source of fiber. Of course, one of the most popular chickpea dishes is hummus. This is high in good fats, due to its olive oil and sesame seed content. It is a great treat to have in moderation.
Buying tinned chickpeas is also a cheap way to get a good protein source into your diet by simply adding them into pasta dishes, salads, or soups. Also, you can use chickpeas to make your own falafel or burgers.
Vegetable Protein Sources
We all know that beans and legumes can be valuable protein sources, but many vegetables can add to your protein intake without you realising. Mushrooms, broccoli, and any leafy greens are also protein sources.
Mushrooms are rich in B vitamins. I often eat them in pasta dishes. This can be a great nutrient-filled meal, especially when you make a creamy pasta sauce using plant milk fortified with calcium and B12.
Adding spinach to your dishes is easy to gain some extra protein and iron. It's also incredibly high in vitamin K. You can even add it to smoothies without affecting the taste too much.
Do Your Research Before You Question Someone
Vegans don't all have a protein deficiency. We are just as capable of being athletes, bodybuilders, or just living generally active lives as anyone else. We aren't depriving ourselves of anything by consuming plant-based alternatives, especially with recent developments and improvements to the plant-based food industry. So please next time you meet a vegan, don't ask us where we get our protein from and if your only excuse for still eating meat is 'for the protein' think of your other reasons. I can think of at least 20 reasons to justify my choices in lifestyle and I am perfectly happy with my decision. Can you say the same?
For Further Information
If you want to learn more about living a plant-based lifestyle, I would recommend checking out some resources on The Vegan Society. They have many PDF documents about the nutritional benefits of veganism with multiple peer-reviewed references to support.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Alice Sullivan
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on November 07, 2020:
Nice information. Well presented.