Most, if not all, people who follow a plant-based diet have heard (and are probably sick of) the question, “where do you get your protein?” For those of us who have followed a predominantly traditional western diet for most of our lives, protein is pretty much always associated with animal meat. Subtract chicken and beef from that style of eating, and it can be challenging to fill in the blanks. If you're wondering how to get protein as a vegan, allow me to count the ways for you.
Contrary to the ridiculous misconception, animal protein is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to protein sources for the human body. In fact, most of what you eat contains some form of protein -- it just depends whether or not these food items are rich in the macronutrient. For example, one cup of broccoli contains roughly three grams of protein, while one cup of black beans boasts 16 grams.
Plant-based diets can absolutely offer the same vitamins and nutrients as a carnivorous lifestyle. The key is to simply do your food-focused research and implement your findings into everyday meals. Here are just a few foolproof sources of protein that vegans can confidently rely on.
1. Pumpkin Seeds
You're in luck if you've decided to switch to a plant-based diet this season.
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent, quick source of protein you can toss into a baggie and snack on all day long. Half a cup will give you six grams of the macronutrient, so be sure to add at least a handful to homemade trail mix or on top of a salad.
2. Nutritional Yeast
Certain plant-based diets also negate dairy products, which makes nutritional yeast a saving grace for those craving that irresistible cheesy flavor.
Two tablespoons of the yellow flakes contain an impressive nine grams of protein and four grams of fiber. If that isn't reason enough to buy a bag, you can easily add it to almost any meal or snack.
Personally, I love adding a sprinkle to my pasta, but you can also sneak it into mashed potatoes, tofu scrambles, popcorn, soup, and much more.
One night, my husband set a bowl of lentils and rice in front of me, and I looked at him as though he had sprouted nine heads. These miniature green pellets could not make a sufficient meal, I thought.
Boy was I wrong. One cup of lentils adds up to 10 grams of protein, and the best part about this legume is that it's low-cal, high-fiber, and can be molded into burgers, hummus, or even a solo side dish.
One of the best parts about a plant-based diet is eating food that actually feels good for your body and leaves you feeling satiated. And when it comes to edamame, one cooked cup equals an entire serving.
This midday snack, appetizer, or side dish weighs in at a whopping 18 grams of protein, so eat up if you're struggling to find consistent sources of protein.
Black, white, red, chickpea -- whichever flavor you prefer, beans pack a huge punch of protein, averaging at least seven grams per serving.
If you have digestive issues, you may want to do your research, as they can trigger inflammation in weak stomachs. Otherwise, bean burritos, tacos, dips, and mashes are all delicious, simple ways to up your protein count throughout the day.
6. Nut Butter
Unless you're eating eggs or protein shakes every morning, I personally think that breakfast is the trickiest time of day to get a decent amount of protein in if you favor carb-heavy options like cereal and toast. Luckily, there's an incredibly appetizing way around this.
Peanut butter, almond butter, and cashew butters are full of protein and healthy fats. Spread your favorite over toast, in between pancakes, or add a dollop to oatmeal or yogurt for a nutritious boost before the day even starts.
Friends, get on that spirulina smoothie trend ASAP.
Plant-based or not, this blue-green algae is one to add to your smoothies, oats, and whatever else you can include it in because two tablespoons of spirulina adds up to eight grams of protein alone.
8. Hemp Seed
I love hemp seeds because of a) their nutty taste and b) the 10 grams of protein found in just two tablespoons.
You can sprinkle a handful into smoothies, oats, yogurt, on a peanut butter and banana sandwich (my personal favorite), or even DIY your own hemp milk for delectable lattes.