With the increasing emphasis and popularity of healthy eating, it’s not a surprise that the benefits of the plant-based diet are now well known. For the past two years, in particular, there has been a surge of people from all over the world making the switch to the vegan lifestyle.
One of the myths of incorporating a plant-based diet is that you won’t be getting enough protein. As vegan myself, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked whether I get enough protein in my diet (fun fact: I do!) or what exactly I eat to meet my protein needs. With that in mind, let’s look at some vegan protein sources and some delicious recipes that feature them as ingredients:
Quinoa is a complete protein that offers many health benefits. Uncooked quinoa boasts 14% protein which makes it an amazing choice for vegans. It is also gluten-free, is high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and has small amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
You can use quinoa in both savory and sweet dishes. I love to use it as a substitute for rice, in salads, or in vegan burgers. Check out these easy-to-make black bean quinoa burgers. If you prefer to use it in sweet dishes, this apple pie quinoa breakfast bowl is super easy to make, too.
Soy is probably the most well-known vegan and vegetarian-friendly protein source. There are still many myths going around about soy and those who eat it (myself included) get questioned often whether soy is actually healthy. Out of all those myths, it’s important to note that soy may affect those who already have thyroid issues.
It is processed into a variety of foods, the most common being tofu, tempeh, soy meat substitute, soy milk, and soy yogurt. Half a cup of tofu offers 10 grams of protein.
There are many ways to use soy products. Personally, I use soy milk to “veganize” my favorite recipes, including pancakes, muffins, and smoothies. I also use tofu in stir-fries or salads (to substitute cheese). You can try this Asian garlic tofu. And if you want to make something sweet, this vegan vanilla cake is delicious and easy to make.
Oatmeal is celebrated as one of the most popular healthy breakfast foods as it has three times more protein than brown rice. It is also a very good source of magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D. Oatmeal and oats can lower cholesterol levels, keep blood sugar under control and may even help you lose weight.
The easiest way to include it in your diet is to prepare overnight oats but you can also make oat flour, for example. Try this peanut butter banana chia oatmeal recipe for breakfast. Or use it in this interesting chickpea nuggets recipe.
Despite its name, buckwheat is related to rhubarb and not wheat. It contains 20% protein, is gluten-free, and is rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins B. The consumption of buckwheat has been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Buckwheat can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. There is also buckwheat flour, which is a great substitute for wheat flour. Use it to make buckwheat and chia bread. Or, put together an interesting buckwheat, apple, cranberry avocado salad.
Beans are not only cheap but also very healthy. There are a lot of beans to choose from, but you may want to opt for the healthiest: navy beans, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, and black beans.
Chickpeas contain 9% protein and are also high in fiber. They stabilize the blood sugar, lowering the risk of diabetes. Lentils protect against breast cancer and boast 25% protein.
Master the classic hummus recipe and then use it as spread in wraps or “spike” it with roasted peppers or beets. You can also make very tasty black bean hummus or beets hummus. Lentils are great for vegan burgers and soups. Try this super simple vegan lentils soup.
Peas offer 10% protein and a lot of health benefits: they protect against stomach cancer, boost the immune system, contain vitamin C and E, as well as some Omega-3 fatty acids. Since they contain a high level of vitamin K, they also help keep your bones healthy.
The easiest way to use peas is to add them to rice dishes or soups. Try this vegan mushrooms risotto that is tasty and easy to make. If you don’t like the texture of the peas, you can turn them into pesto and make this pea pesto pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and arugula recipe.
While vegetables don’t come anywhere near the protein content of nuts and beans, eating a variety of them will add quite a bit to the amino acids you get in your diet. Raw spinach offers 2.1 grams of protein per serving, while a cup of broccoli gives you 8.1 grams.
Artichokes are a common occurrence in Italian cuisine. A cup offers 8 grams of protein and they also contain vitamin C and magnesium. Artichokes have antioxidants which may prevent cancer and they help detoxify the liver and the digestive system.
If you haven’t had any before, try this simple roasted fennel and artichoke hearts recipe. Or, if you like stuffed pasta, try this spinach artichoke dip stuffed shells recipe.
Chia seeds offer 17g of protein per 100 g and also come with a lot of health benefits: they help fight cancer, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, and lower the risk of diabetes.
Cris is a contributing writer at BookCulinaryVacations.com. Passionate about Mediterranean food as well as its countries, she loves to discover delicious and healthy vegan recipes to try.