As one of the Co Founders of Root Kitchen, the first thing that I thought about when Rishma told me that she was looking to adopt a plant based diet was "Where will her protein come from?"
I like to train, a lot. Being naturally slim and having to do more cardio and less strength based training at the moment due to the gyms being closed (thanks COVID) my transition to eating a plant based diet started last year (2020) and I admit that how I was going to get the protein I required was the first thing that crossed my mind.
The thing is though, I needn't have been worried as Vegans in a developed country like the UK get more than enough protein in our diets and are lucky that there are such a vast amount of delicious protein sources available to us in 2021.
The common misconception is that, protein is predominantly only available from animals however they are often just 'the middleman' and almost all of the protein comes from the plants they consume, they have to get their protein from somewhere right?
We are going to use this article to look at the best protein sources for those looking to adopt a vegan or plant based diet.
Beans, Lentils, and Legumes
Beans, lentils, and legumes are an excellent vegan source of protein and should be a pantry cupboard staple. They are affordable, easy to prepare and have so many varieties that you will never get bored of trying out all the interesting recipes.
The protein content varies slightly by variety one cup of canned kidney beans for example contains about 13 grams of protein (per 100g) whilst the same amount of Edamame has 11 grams and, lentils and chickpeas both having 9g each.
Tofu and Other Soy Products
Tofu is an awesome source of protein in a vegan diet. Made from soybean curds, it's naturally gluten-free and low in calories, containing no cholesterol whilst also being an awesome source of iron and calcium.
We love cooking with Tofu as, especially when first adopting a plant based diet, it offers a mouth feel you may be more used to and can therefore is versatile enough to become a centre of many plant based meals. Nowadays many brands of tofu and soy milk include additional nutrients that are needed in a vegan diet such as calcium, iron, and vitamin B12.
Oh and there's more! Tofu contains 12g of protein per 100 grams, making it an excellent source of lean protein and whilst there is much debate about which plant mylk to go for (we'll save that for another blog post) Soy mylk contains on average of 3g of protein.
Quinoa and Whole Grains
We love whole grains and certainly recommend them as a great source of protein. Quinoa (8 grams of protein) has become more popular in the UK since it started appearing on Supermarket shelves and is an excellent ingredient that is not just a great protein source but also high in Fibre. However the less mainstream Kaniwa, is the protein king of whole grains with 13 grams per 100 grams and also contains every essential amino acid you will need.
Brown rice, barley and whole grain bread are other pantry staples that are an inexpensive ways to add protein and fibre to your plate.
Nuts, Seeds, and Nut Butters
Although a common allergen so not suitable for everybody nuts, including peanuts, cashews, almonds, and walnuts, all contain protein, as do seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
One drawback is that nuts and seeds are often high in fat, so you don't really want to be making them a main source of protein, see them more as a healthy post-workout or mid afternoon snack when you need an energy boost.
I'm a big fan of peanut butter which contains roughly 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons however, if you are looking to mix things up a bit I can definitely recommend cashew or almond butter on your morning toast.
Seitan, Veggie Burgers, and Meat Substitutes
With the boom in popularity in alternative proteins and meat substitute products soy and wheat proteins, (which these products are often made from) are seeing a surge in popularity and are an excellent way for those who are used to the mouth feel of meat to adopt a more plant based diet and offer an often ultra-realistic alternative to products such as bacon, fried chicken, steaks or burgers.
The other good news about these products is that they are often high in protein. Like many of you, I like to cook from scratch and enjoy experimenting cooking with whole foods however, like our meals, if you are looking for a quick alternative on a busy midweek dinner occasion then these types of products can offer you a good source of protein.
Oh and just a quick shout out to Seitan which provides 21 grams of protein per 100 grams 💪.
Like tofu, tempeh is a soy-based product and is made by fermenting cooked soybeans and forming the mixture into a firm, dense pieces.
Tempeh has around 21g of protein per 100g and has an earthy, almost nutty flavour however, like tofu, it is versatile enough to take on other flavours making it a perfect protein source for those on a plant based diet.
We were really excited to be sent some Tofu samples to experiment with from a leading UK Tempeh brand so keep your eyes peeled as our range expands for a Tempeh dish.
If, like me, you take additional protein to supplement training then you will no doubt be used to taking protein powders post workout to help repair and build muscle tissue. The good news is that now there are so many amazing vegan protein powders around that your post workout shake can be a real treat! I've tried loads of different brands but my favourite at the moment is the chocolate and peanut shake from Form Performance Protein. At 30g of protein per portion it is comparable with leading whey based alternative and tastes delicious.
I hope that you have found this article useful and would love to hear recommendations of your favourite high protein vegan meals or vegan protein shakes that have helped support your training whilst eating a plant based diet.