Integrative Nutrition Blog

7 Vegan Sources of Protein We Can All Enjoy

July 11, 2016

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Protein is an essential component to any healthy diet. It helps build and repair muscle, bone, cartilage, skin, and blood, gives us energy, supports brain function, and even makes enzymes and hormones. We couldn’t survive long without it!

But while meats tend to be the most known sources of protein, there are many other plant-based foods that also provide an abundant amount of this life-giving macronutrient.

So how much protein do you really need?

The average adult needs about 45-75 grams of protein per day depending on factors including age, weight and activity level. But many Americans are eating close to double that by including processed meat in most of their daily meals rather than diversifying healthy ingredients. The result is too much acidity in the body, which creates optimal conditions for disease.

While we don’t promote any particular diet at Integrative Nutrition, and in fact have a concept known as bio-individuality which states that we should all acknowledge our unique nutritional needs, we are always advocates of eating a variety of wholesome foods.

So whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore, the plant-based and protein-rich foods below are an excellent way to ensure you’re eating a well-rounded diet. 

1. Lentils
Cooked lentils contain about 18 grams of protein per cup, along with many other nutrients including potassium, zinc, folate, and fiber. Lentils are easy to cook in hot water with some simple spices, and you can serve them over rice, as a side dish, or even as a salad topping.

2. Beans
Black, kidney, mung, and pinto beans contain about 12-15 grams of protein per cup as well as a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Make sure to soak your beans first if you buy them dry, or look for the BPA-free lining if you purchase them canned and cooked. They go great in tacos, stews, with rice or quinoa, as a cold salad, or cooked into veggie burgers.

3. Tofu and Tempeh
Vegan meat alternatives like tofu and tempeh can be both nutritious and delicious! Organic tofu is non-GMO and contains about 10 grams of protein per ½ cup. It’s also a very diverse food, able to absorb the flavors with which is combined, working especially well with spices and sauces, or mixed with other foods. Tempeh consists of fermented cooked soybeans and also boasts an about 15 grams of protein per ½ cup, as well as fiber and healthy fats. There is lingering uncertainty in the medical community about whether or not soy products are an endocrine disruptor, so limit consumption of these vegan meat alternatives if you already have an endocrine-related condition or suspect this may affect you. 

4. Quinoa
Quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein per cup and includes all of the essential amino acids to be considered a complete protein, as well as a variety of other nutrients including calcium, Vitamin A, and folate. Quinoa is very diverse and can be easily cooked as a meal base with your favorite veggies, added to soups and stews, or even baked into desserts.

5. Peanut Butter
Containing about 8 grams of protein per serving, peanut butter is an excellent snack that will quickly boost energy and keep your mind sharp between meals. Peanut butter is a good addition to your morning smoothie, makes a hearty dip for apple slices or carrot sticks as an afternoon pick-me-up, and can be added to various recipes as a sauce.

6. Chickpeas
Chickpeas contain about 8 grams of protein per cup and a significant amount of digestion-friendly insoluble fiber, as well as a rich variety of antioxidants and phytonutrients. Chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans – can be prepared similarly to beans or lentils or ground into a delicious hummus for spreading or dipping. Pan sear them in a little garlic, oil, turmeric, smoked paprika, sea salt, and pepper and enjoy as a new favorite side dish!  

7. Hemp seeds
One tablespoon of hemp seeds contains about 5 grams of protein, which may not sound like much, but it’s a great addition to daily meals as a standard topping. Hemp seeds also contain a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and can be cooked into things like rice or quinoa, or blended in a smoothie.

Keep in mind that many other plant-based foods also contain protein, which quickly adds up in a balanced diet. These foods include artichokes, spinach, asparagus, spirulina, green beans, chia seeds, nuts and seeds, nutritional yeast and more. If you’re conscious about your protein and overall nutritional needs then you’re sure to get the most benefit and live a long and healthy life.

How do you balance your protein intake? Let us know in the comments below!

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