Many people decide to go vegan because of their concerns for the environment, animal welfare or just due to health concerns. Switching to a vegan lifestyle can be good for your health if done right, but it’s also challenging to do properly. One of the biggest challenges is finding good reliable protein sources that you can live off of.
What is a Complete Protein?
Before getting into the top protein sources, we should take a moment to define what a complete protein is. Proteins are used throughout the body, but every protein in your body is built from 20 amino acids. 11 of those amino acids are made right in your body, but the other 9 need to come from outside sources.
For a food to be considered a complete protein it must offer all 9 of the amino acids. Many vegan based protein sources are lacking in all 9 essential amino acids. What this means is you will usually have to consume a good variety of different protein sources in order to get all 9 essential amino acids.
With good planning and knowing which foods to eat, this is easily done.
Looking at the Protein Sources
Below are the top protein sources vegans should be looking at. Each is a dense protein option that’s healthy and useful in a wide range of recipes. Adding several of these sources to your diet will help bump up your protein intake dramatically.
Soybean Based Protein (2g-5g protein per ounce)
Soybeans are considered to be one of the best protein sources for vegans because they can be prepared in so many different ways and they’re affordable. Soybeans are a complete protein and can be enjoyed as edamame, tofu or tempeh.
Edamame is just immature soybeans and they’re known for having a mildly sweet and grassy flavour. They can be steamed or boiled and consumed as they are. Tofu is just ground up soybeans that are pressed into a solid cheese-like block that’s cooked and used in a wide range of recipes. Tofu is known for having little flavour, which means it can be flavoured to fit most recipes well. Tempeh is made the same way as Tofu, but the beans are cooked and slightly fermented before being strained and processed. It has a nutty flavour and works well to replace meats in recipes.
Seitan (7g protein per ounce)
Seitan is a gluten-based protein that’s dense, has a look similar to turkey when cooked and offers a massive amount of protein in each serving. It’s an excellent source of minerals like calcium, selenium and iron, and is the most protein-rich item on this list. It’s not a complete protein and isn’t good for those avoiding gluten, but is an excellent option.
Nutritional Yeast (14g per ounce)
This cheesy protein source is deactivated Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast sold in most health stores around the world. This product is available as a powder or as flakes and works as a savoury topping for things like popcorn, and as a flavour enhancer in tofu, mashed potatoes and some other bean dishes.
Lentils ( 2.5g protein per ounce)
Lentils are a dense and fibre-rich legume with an earthy flavour. One cup gives you about half the fibre you need for the day and they can be used in soups, salads, and a range of side-dishes. They’re well-known for improving gut health and encourage the growth of healthy bacteria for digestion. They’re versatile and an excellent source of protein for any vegan’s diet.
Spirulina (16.2g protein per ounce)
Spirulina is actually a type of blue-green algae, but it’s a complete protein and it’s a very dense variety of protein as well. This protein is normally taken as a supplement, added into smoothies and other drinks and consumed quickly. It’s a rich source of magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, manganese and heavy in iron and thiamin and it’s thought to help bolster immunity. It’s available at most health food stores and can be ordered online as a supplement.
Amaranth (4g protein per ounce)
Amaranth is a light and fluffy grain that serves as a complete protein as well. With 4g of protein per ounce this food is dense and nutritious and an excellent protein supplement for any vegan. Make it into porridge in the morning, make it into a soup or salad for lunch and use it in a stew for dinner. It’s versatile, delicious and healthy all at once, which is why it should be at the top of the list for vegans looking for more protein.
Quality Vegan Protein Shakes
Anyone in a hurry can rely on protein shakes instead of one of the best protein sources for vegans listed up above. The shakes listed below all offer a large amount of protein and additional vitamins while being quick and easy to consume as well.
Evolve Protein Shakes
These delicious chocolate shakes offer 20 grams of protein per bottle and they feature a healthy blend of vitamins and nutrients. These shakes rely on pea protein as their source and are free of both soy and gluten for buyers that suffer from allergies.
Orgain Organic Nutrition Shake
These shakes are affordable and offer 16 grams of protein per serving while mixing in 21 vitamins and minerals as well. They’re a quick and easy way to get protein in your daily diet conveniently. The shake relies on a mix of fruits and vegetables, but uses pea protein as the main source of protein to help keep it free from soy and gluten for those with allergies.
Owyn Vegan Protein Shakes
Owyn Vegan protein shakes come in chocolate and they are free of dairy, gluten, soy and egg allergens while offering an impressive 20g of protein per container. These shakes taste good and include all 9 essential amino acids making them an excellent complete protein source. They’re the most costly protein shake on this list, but also one of the highest quality options.
Best Protein Sources for Vegans
Being Vegan doesn’t have to be difficult or unhealthy. Add in some of the best protein sources for vegans listed up above to fill out your diet and ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients to remain healthy. The best way to get enough protein is to consume a variety of the protein options so make a conscious effort to consume protein at most of your meals and you’ll be healthier for it.
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