When considering different diets to help improve health and weight loss efforts, you will have likely come across the vegan diet. This means no animal products at all, and there is always one main question that people have on this diet: how do you get protein?
There’s a common misconception that you can only get protein from eating meat, fish, and eggs. This isn’t the case. There are plenty of vegan-friendly foods that are full of protein. Let’s look at how you can get the protein when you’re following the vegan diet for your health or weight loss efforts.
Wait, Do I Need Protein?
Before getting into how to get it, you’ll want to know if it is that important. It’s one food group out of four. Surely your body can do without.
Well, protein is essential. All four food groups are necessary, just in different amounts. Protein is one of the most important, next to carbohydrates.
Protein helps with the building of your whole body. It strengthens the tissues and ligaments while helping to bulk out, grow, and tone muscles. Without it, your body can end up taking calories from the muscles, making you weaker and skinnier in a bad way.
This is the food group that helps you feel full, too. You’re more likely to need less throughout the day—or at least feel satisfied throughout the day—so you eat fewer calories. This will help you with your weight loss efforts.
But just because you need to get protein into your diet, doesn’t mean you need to get it from meat. As said, there are lots of vegan-friendly options out there. You just must be willing to take steps to add them in. And do add them in! You may feel fine without the protein now, but your body isn’t going to get everything that it needs.
Just how much should you get a day? This will depend on your weight. The recommended daily amount is 0.8g of protein for each kilo that you weigh. If you’re working in pounds, then it’s about 0.8g for each 2.2lbs that you weigh.
Because plant proteins are digested in a different way to animal proteins, there is a recommendation that vegans get 10% of their calories in the form of protein daily. So, in a 2,000-calorie diet, that would mean 200 calories are protein sources. You will often get less protein than a regular meat eater and lower than the standard recommended daily amount, but remember that the plant protein tends to digest a lot slower than the meat protein.
And yes, it is possible to get too much protein. When you get too much, you’re at a higher risk of kidney disease and osteoporosis because there are high chances that you’re deficient in other food groups and nutrients.
So, let’s look at your best options for protein in your vegan diet.
Top Vegan-Friendly Protein Sources
You’re going to cut out all the animal protein sources with your vegan diet. This will include milk, eggs, and even whey protein. Yes, those whey protein powders are made from milk sources, so you’ll need to cut them out. There are other protein powders that will help you, but we’ll get to them soon.
First, let’s look at the food sources.
Beans, beans, are good for the heart…
There’s a reason for the little rhyme, which ends with telling you that the more you eat, the more you fight. There’s some truth to both parts of the rhyme. Beans are great for the heart, but they do tend to contain a lot of fibre. It’s the fibre that makes them fart worthy.
But that shouldn’t stop you from getting them into your diet. As said, they’re extremely good for the heart. They’re also excellent for all your other muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fibres within the body. This is all due to the amount of protein you’ll get.
You can eat any type of beans to get the health benefits. Kidney, black, white, and lima beans tend to be the most favoured, but don’t rule out hummus, winged, mungo, and garbanzo beans for your diet.
Beans are extremely easy to add into your diet. You can throw together a healthy bean salad with some tomato salsa, or you could add them to a stew or chili mix.
Don’t be shy about legumes..
When you want to get more protein, and are fed up of the beans, it’s time to look at legumes. These include peas, lentils, and even peanuts. Yes, peanuts are legumes and not nuts!
This is great news, right? It means you have an excuse to have more peanut butter in your diet. Do be careful with the amount of peanut butter you have, though, as there is some saturated fat to it. You don’t need a lot to get your protein allowance. A couple of tablespoons on your toast on a morning will set you right, or you can have a couple of tablespoons at the side to enjoy with your bananas and apples.
Peas tend to be the most popular legumes added to the diet. After all, chances are you add them to your Sunday dinner with your carrots.
Lentils tend to get forgotten about, but there are so many options! You’ve got red, green, yellow, and even split-pea lentils! It’s time to get creative with them.
Try out a nutty mix..
While peanuts aren’t nuts, you still can add some nuts to your diet. For vegans, nuts are excellent sources of plant proteins, while also being excellent sources of fibre and healthy fats.
You can opt for any types of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashew, and pistachio nuts. And there are so many ways that you can get nuts into your diet.
The most common way is to grab handfuls of nuts as a snack. Other options include adding them to curries and stir fry dishes or to serving them with your fruit salads.
If you are allergic to nuts, you will need to avoid them from your diet. There are many other ways to get protein instead.
Add some seeds to your meals..
Seeds don’t tend to be chosen that often but they can help you get your protein intake. If you can’t have nuts for any reason, consider replacing them with seeds in any recipes that you find. You can also replace peanut butter for seed butter—Sun butter is a very popular alternative.
Flax seeds are great alternatives because they also help to keep the digestive system working. However, you could also opt for sesame, hemp, and even pumpkin seeds.
While seeds can be added on top of desserts or throw into meals, you can also add them to green smoothies for a healthy and quick way of getting your protein intake.
Don’t forget the vegan alternatives to animal products..
While you can’t have animal milk or meat products, you can have the vegan alternatives. One of the greatest things about these vegan alternatives is that they give you the protein without all the saturated fats and natural sugars.
Let’s start with milk alternatives. There is coconut, almond, and soy milk available. They may be a little more expensive than the traditional stuff, but they are just as tasty and good for you. You can use them in all the same ways that you would do traditional cow’s milk, including in coffee and on your cereal.
Meat substitutes are just the same. You could opt for deli-style soy meats, tofu, and Quorn. You can use them all in the exact same way with animal meats. Quorn is an excellent substitute for chicken, while tofu tends to be better for replacing red meat.
Throw in the green veggies..
Dark green vegetables tend to get a bad reputation for taste, but they are one of the best options in your vegan diet. They’re full of fibre, nutrients, and protein. Yes, really. The green vegetables are full of protein.
This means you need to start getting more broccoli, kale, spinach, collard greens, and asparagus in your diet. Try getting some of them raw—broccoli is great for that—so you get most of the nutrients in their natural form. Cooking them can destroy some of those nutrients.
When you do cook, opt for steaming or boiling, rather than frying. You’ll not only destroy fewer nutrients, but you’ll also reduce the number of calories you have in your diet. You’re more likely to lose weight on your vegan diet. Don’t forget that you can also use them as the base for your green smoothies.
Even the whole grains can help..
By following a vegan lifestyle, there are high chances that you’re getting more whole grains. You’ll eat brown bread, brown rice, brown pasta, and even oats. Don’t forget the granola and quinoa, because they are also excellent sources of protein.
You’ll already get these, so don’t worry about looking for other ways to get them into your diet. Quinoa is a great alternative to pasta and excellent mixed in with salads. Granola is a popular option at breakfast with your soy or almond milk.
Oats can be used in alternative and interesting ways. Overnight oats have become a popular option, and there are so many different flavourings that you can use. They do tend to use milk, so opt for the vegan alternatives.
Will Protein Powders Work for Getting More Nutrients?
When it comes to getting more protein in your diet, many people instantly think about protein powders. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about them, but you do need to think about the vegan-friendly options.
Whey protein is the most popular, but this is made with animal products. You’ll want to think about the likes of soy or hemp protein. They don’t taste that much difference. The main problem is that they’re not always as effective as the whey options.
You can use vegan-friendly protein powders in the exact same way as the whey protein options. They are extremely beneficial if you are working out. Drink a protein shake after your workout to help with the repairing of the muscles after your workout. The protein powders will also help with the toning once the muscles are repaired.
Just How Can You Get the Proteins into Your Diet?
Now that you have a range of your foods that are full of proteins, it’s time to figure out ways to get them into your diet without too much hassle. The best way is to add them to your main meals. Try adding in lentils to your stews and soups, or throwing in your beans when you make vegan-friendly Bolognese sauces and pasta dishes.
Don’t forget that you can throw in the nuts and seeds to your smoothies with your green vegetables. Smoothies are excellent ways to get your protein quickly because you can also add in some of the protein powders in with them. You’re able to drink on the go and replace your coffee with your smoothies.
Using the vegetables, nuts, and seeds for snacks is a great option to sneak more protein into your diet. Try creating a trail mix with your ingredients and add in some dried fruit for a little extra fibre and flavour. You can pop it in a sealable bag and carry that around with you in your purse. It’s there as soon as you need it as a stock.
When you get stuck, look for the meat dishes that you used to have or that you would like to try. Opt for substituting the meat with your tofu or Quorn. These dishes are very quick and easy, and you can try out so many different dishes.
So, now it’s time to get more protein in your vegan diet. It’s not that difficult, and there are high chances that you’re already doing it. Focus on the veggies, legumes, beans, and nuts, and you’re well on your way to a balanced and healthy vegan lifestyle.