The famous question that every vegan gets asked at least once in their lifetime is where do you get your protein? It seems like a lot of people are unaware that plants are made up of protein. Most people assume animals products are the only reliable protein sources.
The truth is, the animals that most people eat get their protein from plants. Our bodies cannot build protein on its own, so it has to rely on external sources. The same thing applies to animals. Luckily, if you’re reading this, you’re likely fortunate enough to have access to ample amounts of plant-based protein sources. That’s because nearly every plant-based food item at your grocery store contains some form of protein.
A balanced vegan diet will naturally provide you with a sufficient amount of protein, but there are certain lifestyles that require higher amounts of protein. Keep reading to discover the best high-protein vegan foods.
What are the best vegan protein sources?
If you’re still wondering what vegan food is high in protein, here are some of the best plant-based protein sources.
Beans & Legumes
Legumes are one of the best plant-based protein sources. They’re affordable, highly versatile and nutritious. Not only are lentils high in protein, they’re also a great source of folate, B vitamins and minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, zinc and more. Some of the legumes highest in protein include lentils, soybeans (edamame), chickpeas, split peas and black beans.
Grains like quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice, and kamut are fantastic sources of protein. Whole wheat pasta and bread can also be an excellent source of protein. For even more protein, look for breads that contain sprouted grains or that are topped with nuts and/or seeds.
Not only are grains high in protein, they are also rich in many essential nutrients and vitamins, including B vitamins, folate, iron and zinc. Grains are also high in fibre which is essential for keeping our digestive system clean and healthy.
Nuts & Seeds
Whether they’re toasted, roasted or raw, nuts and seeds are an easy way to add extra plant-based protein to your diet. You can sprinkle them on salads, rice bowls, pasta, oatmeal and you name it. They’re highly versatile since they can be incorporated into a variety of dessert, breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
As a bonus, nuts and seeds can also be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Add 2 tablespoons of hemp hearts to a meal and that’s 6.4 extra grams of protein and 164% of your required daily omega-3 intake!
Tofu, Tempeh, or Seitan
Both tofu and tempeh are made from soybeans, so naturally these are very high in protein. If you’re looking for the tofy with the highest protein, opt for extra firm tofu. Extra firm tofu contains much higher levels of protein per gram than silken, medium or firm tofu. Tempeh is also a great source of protein, providing even more protein per serving than tofu.
- Protein per 100 grams of tempeh: 19.9 g
- Protein per 100 grams of extra firm tofu: 13.3 g
- Protein per 100 grams of seitan: 20-25 g
Seitan is typically quite high in protein, but the actual amount will really depend on the seitan product in question. At its core, seitan is made from vital wheat gluten which is 75% protein. Depending on what other ingredients are added to the seitan, the protein quantities can vary. To give you an example, Gusta’s Classic Seitan Roast contains 22 grams of protein per 100 grams.
Vegetables also contain protein, but are not considered a high source of protein. Since they’re generally less dense, you’d have to eat an excessive amount to attain your protein requirements. Despite that, if you incorporate the right vegetables into your diet, you can certainly reap the benefits of extra protein.
If you’re looking for vegetables highest in protein, opt for more dense vegetables like asparagus, brussel sprouts and broccoli and cauliflower. Despite being dense, potatoes and squash are not very high in protein.
- Protein in 1 cup of brussel sprouts: 5.7 g
- Protein in 1 cup of cooked spinach: 5.3 g
- Protein in 1 cup of asparagus: 4.3 g
- Protein in 1 cup of broccoli: 3.7 g
- Protein in 1 avocado: 3-6.8 g depending on the size and variety
Due to their high water content, mushrooms do not contain a high amount of protein per gram. Nonetheless, if you appreciate mushrooms enough to eat a cup or two, mushrooms can certainly be a great way to add a few extra grams of protein to your meals.
- Protein in 1 cup of portobello mushrooms: 4 g
- Protein in 1 cup of king oyster mushrooms: 3 g
- Protein in 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms: 2.3 g
Vegan Protein Powders & Bars
How much protein do vegans really need?
How much protein you need ultimately depends on your lifestyle and fitness goals. If you’re trying to maintain or gain muscle mass, then adding extra protein to your diet makes sense. Otherwise, you probably don’t really have to worry about your protein intake. A vegan diet effortlessly provides you with more than enough protein.
According to Mayo Clinic Health System, the recommended daily intake (RDI) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Here’s how you can calculate your daily protein requirements:
- Convert your weight from pounds to kilograms by dividing it by 2.2
- Multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8
This calculation will give you your recommended daily protein intake.
Here is an example for someone who weighs 150 pounds:
- Convert 150 pounds to kilograms: 150 ÷ 2.2 = 68 kg
- Weight in kg multiplied by RDI of 0.8 = 54 g
Therefore, the average sedentary adult weighing 150 pounds should aim for at least 54 grams of protein per day. Of course, if you’re exercising vigorously or looking to gain muscle mass, this number could be higher.
How to know if you're getting enough protein on a vegan diet?
Once again, unless you have particular protein requirements, you’re probably already getting enough protein. If you’re curious about your current protein intake, a useful tool that can help you is Cronometer. Cronometer is a free online tool that lets you easily measure the nutritional value of the food you’re consuming. Not only will it tell you how much protein you consumed on a given day, it will also give you a breakdown of the amino acids profile of that protein. Here is a quick example of the protein that came from my lunch, dinner and snacks on sunday.
Looking to add even more protein to your diet? Check out the 12 Best Vegan Protein Powders in Canada this year.