Haven’t we all learnt at school how important protein is? This has been further reaffirmed on visits to a doctor post-injury, at the gym, during pregnancy and lactation, and at every other time where we needed our bodies to function to the best of their abilities. It is a must not just for the body, but for brain function as well. Despite the common belief that meat eaters have it easy when it comes to protein, fact is that it’s not that difficult to get enough protein on a plant based diet either. Vegan sources of protein abound everywhere.
Read on for protein-packed, plant based foods you can eat and still not miss out on those essential amino acids.
1. Soya Bean /Tofu
The perfect excuse to turn vegetarian, soya comes in many different forms like tofu, silken tofu, nato and tempeh, each of which is rich in protein. At between 10-15 grams per cup, this protein-rich food is packed with goodness. Silken, firm, chewy or any other way, choose them the way you like them. Even soy milk gives you about 8 grams of protein per cup. Edamame, the immature steamed or boiled beans of soya bean are not just a very popular snack but also gives 17 grams of protein per cup.
You get a whopping 9 grams of protein per half cup of cooked lentil. The best part about lentils is that you can easily incorporate them into recipes like burgers, patties, pulao and par boiled in stir fries. Or simply have a lentil soup or stew.
3. Beans & Legumes
Just a step behind lentils; black beans, mung beans, red kidney beans and butter beans pack 8 grams, 7 grams, 7.5 grams and 5 grams of protein per half cooked cup respectively. They more than make up for that bit by being very rich in antioxidants. Mash the boiled beans and add them to burger patties or enjoy them in a burrito, these vegan protein sources are even more delicious than they look.
Yes, I know chickpeas are beans too. However, chickpeas find a special mention separately from beans in this list as I think that hummus in itself merits a place. In fact, chickpeas are one of the most versatile beans around. You can use them to make hummus, falafels or channa masala (chickpea curry cooked the Indian way). Or add them to pastas, salads, soups and curries, and get an easy 8 grams of vegetarian protein per half cup of chickpeas.
This grain is actually a seed and packs around 7 grams of protein per cooked cup. A really fine grain in size, it mixes easily with many recipes like burgers, salads, crackers and more. It is among the best vegan sources of protein.
Loaded with goodness, quinoa is hailed as a super-food. It has about 8 grams of vegetarian protein per cup. This is also a seed that is treated like a grain. Cooked by itself as you would rice and vegetables, or in a dessert, or a salad, your imagination is the limit when it comes to how you can eat it.
7. Peas (Green)
Good vegetarian protein sources of the hard to find amino acid in plant food, leucine, peas are a deliciously sweet source of protein. They give about 8 grams of protein per cup and lend themselves to salads, stews, stir fries and much more.
Roughly the same amount of protein as peas, they shine bright for they offer more satiety for fewer calories. Roasted, grilled, marinated, added to paellas, or stuffed, you can’t get bored of these delicious ways of eating this wonderful vegetable. This effortlessly makes it to the list of best vegan sources of protein.
9. Seeds (Chia, Hemp)
Hemp has about 10 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons while chia seeds have about half that. Sprinkle them on salads, in burgers, pastas and in desserts and love them while you pack on the vegetarian proteins.
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Spinach is easy to incorporate into your diet, in fritters, pastas, casseroles, soups and salads. It can be stir-fried on its own, with other vegetables or cooked as the very Indian Palak Paneer (spinach gravy with pieces of cottage cheese). It adds 5 grams of protein to your diet per cup and adds bulk to whatever you eat without many calories. And not just protein, spinach is also packed with iron. A wonderful source of plant-based, spinach is equally delicious and nutritious.
Amp up the goodness with a vegetable that adds 4 grams of protein per cup, along with other nutrients for very few calories. Par boil and eat with a dip, roast, grill, add to salads, pastas, baked casseroles, or eat this vegetarian protein source in other different ways.
Who isn’t nuts about these? Almonds add 15 grams, while Macadamia nuts adds 5 grams and Cashew, Brazil and Hazel nuts each adds 10 grams of vegetarian protein per half cup to your diet with a delightful crunch. Add them to muesli, desserts, or better still, keep a trail mix on your work station for healthy munching and a tasty way to get your dose of protein. In fact, the possibilities are endless – peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut milk and so on.
An algae that has 4 grams of protein per tablespoon, spirulina is a quick way to get the recommended daily fix of protein. Add it to shakes, wraps, bars and many other recipes to give them a striking colour while adding the power of protein. Spirulina is also rich in antioxidants and B-vitamins.
Buckwheat gives about 6 grams of protein per cup and can be added easily to breads, cakes, bars and burgers, it is a versatile food to have handy. It also offers multiple health benefits that make it a must add to your meals as one of the good vegan sources of protein.
With these at hand, there is no way there can be any trouble getting your daily dose of vegetarian protein. When in doubt, go for a combination of these and you will easily complete your requirement of all amino acids as well.
Aditi Garg is a writer who loves to just write anything and everything; be it magazine cover stories, blogs, website content, trivia cards, copy, or poems & stories for kids of friends and family. Books, desserts & fashion are her guilty pleasures. Mother to two boys, and as the only girl in the house, she expects to be treated like a princess (which she mostly is, unless it is a choice between a cricket match and her). With an opinion about everything under the sun, an insatiable appetite to know and a stickler for detail, she keeps on her toes and is happiest that way.