The 10 Best Vegan Protein Sources
Eating plant-based doesn’t have to mean being protein-deficient. This list of 10 tasty protein sources will make your plate look well-rounded and leave your body feeling nourished.
Eating vegan or vegetarian is becoming a more common dietary choice, and that means more and more people have questions about getting enough nutrients, like protein, in their plant-based diet. Here’s the good news: it’s very, very easy to meet your daily protein requirements as a vegan. The secret? It’s all about balance.
If you end up becoming a “junk food vegan,” then you may end up feeling low-energy and having a protein deficiency. A diet consisting purely of frozen vegan waffles and chips won’t supply enough protein for your body’s energy needs. But if you take full advantage of a plant-based diet and fill your plates with colorful produce, hearty grains and satisfying spuds, then you should have no problem meeting your daily protein goal.
Pictured Recipe: Celeriac & Walnut Tacos
Plant Protein: The Land Of Plenty
Whether chia seeds or oat flakes, chickpeas or almonds, soy beans or hemp seeds once youve embarked on the search for plant protein, youll find theres a whole world of treasure out there. So as long as you eat a full and diverse range of plant proteins, you wont have to worry about not covering your protein requirements. Much more pertinently: which of the many, many options shall I go for today? The gorgeously fluffy Protein Breakfast Muffin or maybe the protein-rich Lentil Salad to Go? Hey, why not even both! -)
How To Use Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast should be stored in a cool, dark place to preserve its vitamins. It should also be kept tightly sealed to keep moisture out.
When properly stored, it can last up to two years.
Nutritional yeast is used in the following ways:
- Sprinkled over popcorn or pasta
- Stirred into soups for an umami flavor
- As a cheese flavoring in vegan sauces
- As a thickener for soups and sauces
- Added to pet food for extra nutrients
Serving sizes are determined by each manufacturer but typically 1 or 2 tablespoons.
It is safe to use nutritional yeast in moderation, typically up to several tablespoons per day.
It would require relatively large amounts of nutritional yeast to exceed the tolerable upper intake levels for the various vitamins and minerals it contains. Specifics vary between brands, so always read labels to be sure.
While nutritional yeast is safe to consume for most people, anyone who is allergic to yeast should not consume it .
Those who have trouble metabolizing folic acid should read labels carefully and may want to choose unfortified nutritional yeast whenever possible.
Summary Nutritional yeast is shelf-stable for up to two years and can be added to many foods for a nutty, cheesy or savory flavor and extra vitamins and minerals.
Aloha Organic Protein Powder
USDA Organic seal approved, this plant-based protein comes in three different flavorschocolate, vanilla, and banana. Its gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free, and has no GMOs. When mixed with just water, the protein does leave a bit of a chalky taste in your mouth, but when blended into a smoothie or a pancake or waffle recipe, you cant notice it. The brand also partners with two non-profits that help protect Hawaiian lands and resources.
Hemp Seeds Are Incredibly Nutritious
Technically a nut, hemp seeds are very nutritious. They have a mild, nutty flavor and are often referred to as hemp hearts.
Hemp seeds contain over 30% fat. They are exceptionally rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid .
They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which has been linked to several health benefits .
Hemp seeds are a great protein source, as more than 25% of their total calories are from high-quality protein.
Hemp seeds are also a great source of vitamin E and minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc .
Hemp seeds can be consumed raw, cooked or roasted. Hemp seed oil is also very healthy and has been used as a food and medicine in China for at least 3,000 years .
Summary Hemp seeds are rich in healthy fats and essential fatty acids. They are also a great protein source and contain high amounts of vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc.
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Is There Anything To Combining Plant Proteins
All proteins, whether plant or animal, are made up of a chain of amino acids. Animal proteins are considered complete proteins because they have all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs to support protein tissues in the body. Most plant proteins are lacking in one or more of these nine building blocks.
An older theory was that in order to utilize plant protein efficiently, you must eat complimentary proteins simultaneously. For example, rice and beans are complimentary because the key amino acids missing from beans are found in rice, and vice versa, says Sass. She explains that it’s no longer necessary to worry about combining plant proteins if you eat enough total calories and a wide range of plant foods. An adequate supply of essential amino acids can be obtained within a 24-hour period. The liver helps by storing various essential amino acids over the course of a day for later use, she says.
However, she stresses the importance of a nutritious, diverse diet . To best provide your body with a broad spectrum of amino acids, as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, mix up your meals and snacks. Include veggies and fruits, along with whole grains, pulses , nuts, and seeds, she says.
Effectiveness For Muscle Growth
To build muscle, you need to engage in strength training and consume enough protein that contains all essential amino acids and BCAAs.
Whey protein isolate is considered the gold standard for muscle growth, as its a complete protein, contains a high amount of the BCAA leucine, and is absorbed the quickest .
However, plant-based protein powders can also be complete proteins and contain high amounts of leucine, provided that they contain two or more plant proteins or are fortified with BCAAs (
Both whey and plant-based protein powders are effective for building muscle. Ideally, opt for a protein powder that contains at least 20 grams of protein per serving.
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Pdcaas Ratings For Protein Foods
First of all, we will look at the quality scores of animal and plant proteins based on the existing PDCAAS system.
These scores analyze the eight proteins we profiled earlier alongside some additional proteins .
PDCAAS Protein Quality Ratings of Animal and Plant Proteins
According to the PDCAAS ratings, which is the current standard for measuring protein quality, the most bioavailable proteins are
- Dairy products like milk and whey
Generally speaking, according to PDCAAS, all animal foods have a high protein quality rating.
For plant foods, there is a gap between soy-based products and the rest.
In particular, peanuts, red lentils, and kidney beans are quite a lot lower in protein quality.
How To Cook With Plant
When using a plant-based protein, take into consideration that its cooking properties can differ from that of an animal-based protein. For instance, if using canned beans in a chili in place of raw ground beef, you wont need to sauté the beans. Flavor will differ, too. You may get less umami that savory sense of taste. So, in addition to the plant-based protein, consider punching up taste other ways, like including mushrooms, soy sauce, or other umami-rich ingredients, says Newgent.
Asche shares similar advice. Plant-based proteins, such as tofu and tempeh are incredibly easy to make, but they need to be seasoned or marinated. If you try to just cut up some tofu and grill it in a pan, chances are youre not going to enjoy it, she says.
Just how much protein you can get from plant-based sources can vary. Below is a look at the protein in common sources, along with some low-fuss recipes to help you ease your way into eating more protein from plants.
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Reduced Risk Of Allergy
Choosing vegan protein powders over animal protein-based ones can help you avoid common food allergens, including casein and whey. With that said, some plant-based protein powders are made with soy, which is also a common food allergen. If you have any food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities, read protein powder ingredient labels carefully before making a purchase.
No Growth Hormones Or Antibiotics
Livestock are often treated with growth hormones and antibiotics. This can easily translate into the whey protein you may want to use for your workouts.
Although it is easy enough to find whey protein that is made from cows that havent been treated with all of that yucky stuff, some of you may just feel more comfortable avoiding whey protein altogether.
Well, with plant-based protein powder, you wont have to worry about any of those hormones or antibiotics.
Lisa, what about all of those pesticides?
Yeah, ok. You may be right there. I have a simple solution for you, though. Just buy organic plant-based protein powder. Easy fix, am I right?
IdealRaw Protein is USDA certified organic so you are guaranteed that you wont have to worry about hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides of any form. All you get is great tasting, natural protein powder. From a plant. Whod have thought?
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Animal Proteins Vs Plant Proteins: Which Are Better
As shown in this article, if we look purely at the quality of protein, then animal proteins are the best choice
- Animal proteins mostly have a higher total amount of protein and better amino acid profiles.
- The proteins in animal foods are more bioavailable than plant sources.
For these reasons, foods like dairy, eggs, fish, and meat are the most effective ways to get protein.
Why Trust Verywell Fit
A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian, I am careful to recommend supplements, including protein powders. I spent time reviewing the most current research on various plant-based proteins and looking at multiple products and brands.
I believe the protein supplements in the round-up are made by trusted brands that I would feel comfortable recommending to my clients, friends, and family. I have tried the majority of the powders recommended and use plant-based protein powder regularly in smoothies, overnight oats, and chia pudding. Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN
Anne Cook Carroll, MS, RD, contributed to the FAQs.
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Unscramble Itask A Nutritionist: Are Eggs Good For You Or Not
If the idea of cutting back on meat and dairy sounds difficult, this beginners guide to plant protein can help you inch toward a more plant-based diet thats better for you and the world you live in.
And regardless of whether you want to jump in with both feet or just dip one toe into plant-based eating, youll benefit from the protein, fiber and other protective vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant compounds these foods offer.
Enjoyed This Read More
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council . Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
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Meat Protein Vs Plant Protein
You have to realize that over 20% of your body consists of proteins. Since your body doesnt naturally produce and keep protein, it is imperative for you to garner an adequate amount from your daily diet.
Protein is obtainable from multiple sources of food, such as animals and plants. When you consume proteins, your body will break them down naturally into amino acids. To maintain good health, you need to have the right balance and atmosphere of all the 22 amino acids.
Here, the amino acids are broken into non-essential and essential amino acids. Here, while the body can create amino acids that are non-essential, there are over 9 essential types of amino acids, which your body doesnt produce.
To acquire these 9 essential types of amino acids, the body requires plant or animal proteins in your diet. So, any foods, which possess any one of these 9 essential types of amino acids, are identified as a full source of protein.
Vitamins And Minerals Galore
Youve probably heard over and over again that plant-based diets offer a lot of extra vitamins and minerals to your diet.
A protein powder that offers more than just protein is a great buy in my book, especially when most Americans dont eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Plant-based protein powders have the protein youre looking for. But it doesnt mean you can get away from the beautiful effects of plants entirely.
Plants are filled with antioxidants and other vitamins that you just wont get in animal protein alone. There are also tons of minerals that your body can use to keep it healthy and strong.
The truth is, adding fruits, veggies, and other plants to your protein powder is a super idea. Protein powders are such quick and easy ways to get the nutrients you need.
I get it. Were all busy. Most of us dont have the time to cook a well-balanced meal. We barely have time to fit in some exercise. So we need to get those vitamins and minerals from somewhere. A plant-based protein powder is the way to get it!
As a nutritionist, I dont recommend you live off of your plant-based protein powder, but you can replace a meal here and there and still get a good helping of vitamins and minerals. IdealRaw Organic Protein packs a blend of vitamins and minerals to help support healthy living and well-being.
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You Cant Build Muscles Without Protein
Proteins are a vital part of a healthy diet, and they are responsible for building and regenerating our muscles. Whether this protein comes from an animal or plant source, however, is not especially important. Plant proteins are just as good at beefing us up, and on top of that theyre also less resource-intensive. So we dont necessarily need to go down the animal route to supply ourselves with some valuable protein. Learn more in this article.
Why Choose A Plant
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you’ve probably heard the question, “Where do you get your protein?” Well, if you’re worried about your protein intake, a plant-based protein powder will help you out.
Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian, however, you can benefit from this type of supplement. Plant-based proteins are effective at building muscle, and they’re more environmentally friendly than foods that contain animal products.
How Do You Use Plant
Consuming an adequate amount of protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet can be challenging, considering plant-based foods tend to be lower in protein than animal-based foods. Plant-based protein powder can be an effective way to boost your daily protein intake. Omnivores can also benefit from plant-based protein powders, as diversifying your protein intake from both plant and animal-based proteins supports a healthy, balanced diet.
Plant-based protein powder is best mixed in smoothieswe recommend blending it with unsweetened plant-based milk , a serving of fruit, and a serving of leafy greens like spinach. You can also try mixing it into your morning oatmeal. Depending on the product, some powders are water-soluble and can be simply mixed into water.
Meat Has More Saturated Fats
Another reason that steak isnt great for you: the fat that often accompanies it. Fat is part of why steaks and burgers are deliciousit adds mouthfeel and flavor. But it also tends to clog up your heart. you get less saturated fat and no cholesterol, Giancoli explains, so youre getting that benefit as well.
Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature and tend to contribute to cardiovascular disease because it drives up your total cholesterol levels. That may, in the long run, tip the scales towards the LDL side, which is what clogs up arteries. Foods like nuts, avocados, and fish have far less saturated fats than red and other dark meats. As such, they are dubbed healthy fats.
Second Place: Whole Grains
Whole grains are generally higher in calories and lower in protein than legumes but should absolutely be included as part of a balanced plant-based diet. Per cup, they each contain less than a gram of saturated fat, are a great source of dietary fibre and, more surprisingly, often a source of iron too.
- Raw oats
Using oats as a base for a low-sugar muesli is a great start to the day. 1 cup of raw oats provides 10.6g of protein as well as 19% of your recommended daily allowance of iron. Once cooked, though, they lose almost half their protein value.
- Teff, Kamut & Amaranth
Teff, kamut and amaranth are certainly lesser known amongst the whole grains. Teff is a grass seed commonly found in Ethiopia and now available in health stores in the UK. Cooked, a cup yields almost 10g of protein, 29% and 9.5% of your RDAs of iron and calcium respectively. Kamut and Amaranth are easier to find and grown worldwide, offering up similar amounts of protein and 17% and 29% of your iron RDA.
- Whole wheat pasta
Switching out white pasta for the whole wheat version increases your protein intake by 2 grams and doubles your iron intake as a percentage of your RDA.
- Wild & brown rice
Rice is our final grain. It is the lowest in protein but wild and brown rice are whole grains They are both a good source of carbohydrate and healthy calories that we need in order to utilise protein from elsewhere. Brown rice also provide us with magnesium while wild rice brings in the omega 3.