I’m borrowing the Top Ten Tuesdays meme from my sister at Many Little Blessings today!
A top question that is asked of vegetarians and vegans is “how do you get your protein?” Protein is a combination of amino acids that the body uses for things like metabolism and muscle development. While we do need protein in our diets, it is not as much as is often assumed and plant sources provide perfectly adequate protein.
So, let’s look at the top ten reasons why vegans don’t need to fret about how they can get enough protein.
1. On average, an adult needs between 45-55 grams of protein per day. That’s really not that much! If an individual consumed a cup of beans, 1/3 cup of almonds, ¼ cup of oatmeal, 1 piece of whole wheat bread, and a half cup of tofu in one day, he/she would have 48.5 grams of protein, even without any incidental protein that comes from other veggies etc.
2. BEANS! Legumes are a primary ingredient for most vegetarians and they are full of protein. Most beans have 7-10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup cooked.
- 3. Nuts. Nuts are also delicious, nutritious, and easy to work into any diet. Check out the protein in some of them:
- Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons – 8 grams protein
- Almonds, ¼ cup – 8 grams
- Peanuts, ¼ cup – 9 grams
- Cashews, ¼ cup – 5 grams
- Pecans, ¼ cup – 2.5 grams
4. Seeds. Most seeds are little bundles of protein. Sunflower, pumpkin, and flax seeds have between 6 and 8 grams of protein in just 1/4 cup and are easy to sprinkle onto salads or sandwiches, or blend into smoothies.
5. Grains. There is more protein in whole grains than most people realize.
- Quinoa, ½ cup – 4 grams
- Bulgar, oats, kasha, ¼ cup cooked – 3 grams
- Whole wheat bread, 1 slice – 2.5 grams
- Broccoli, 1 cup cooked – 4 grams
- Spinach, 1 cup cooked – 5 grams
6. Tofu. Vegan protein does not mean that you have to cook with tofu every day, though it can. Tofu is very versatile and can be added to many food items with very little impact on flavor. New tofu eaters may find it more palatable if it is more “dry.” This can be accomplished by using a tofu press or by freezing a block of extra firm tofu and then thawing in a colander before use.
7. Tempeh. Tempeh is another easy way to fit protein in. Tempeh comes in prepared blocks. They can be chopped and added to other items, sliced and fried (we love it with bbq sauce), or eaten right out of the package.
8. Dark greens. Even items that you might not think of as protein sources, like dark greens, have protein. So, most healthy-eating vegans get a lot of that “incidental” protein in their diets without much effort.
9. Protein “combining” is not necessary in individual meals. No worries! Your body is actually so clever that it will “hold” the amino acids and do its own combining. And, some of the natural companion foods for vegan proteins are items that would “complete” them anyway. So, things like tortilla chips, rice, corn, couscous, or oatmeal are pretty good fits with the items listed above. It’s likely that you’ll end up with a protein combination in your meal anyway, and it’s almost inevitable over the course of a day.
10. There are plenty of vegan running long distance, boxing, doing competitive weight lifting, swimming, and playing football. When you take a look at some of them (Robert Cheeke, Brendan Brazier, Tony Fiammetta, Molly Cameron, Matt Frazier), it’s pretty hard to doubt that it is possible to get enough protein in a vegan diet.
If, having read this, you still feel worried, it’s fine to add a protein shake to your day, but there really isn’t a need to obsess about it or have two or three shakes a day. Eat a varied, plant-based diet, and your protein should be fine!