“But how do you get your protein?” If you’re eating or considering eating a plant-based diet, that question will sound all too familiar. Fortunately for you, plant-based protein is readily available from a long list of diverse vegan ingredients and the concept of an incomplete protein is a complete myth. Both vegan and vegetarian diets offer an abundance of options when it comes to plant-based protein, many of which are readily available and can be easily incorporated into your daily eating plan. With the vegan diet on the rise in the United States, many people are looking beyond “traditional” sources of protein, eschewing meat and dairy-based proteins in favor of leafy greens, grains and grasses, and soy-based foods. People’s protein needs vary according to activity level, gender, and age, but the go-to formula for making sure you’re eating enough protein is to multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36, which will churn out your body’s daily protein requirement in grams. Unlike fats or carbohydrates, our bodies don’t store protein very efficiently, which is why it’s important we make sure at least some plant-based protein is found in our food sources. Here are five plant-based proteins that will keep you feeling full and energized from meal to meal:
A single one-cup serving of cooked quinoa contains an impressive 8 grams of plant-based protein. Quinoa is actually a flowering plant in the same family as Swiss chard and spinach, which means it’s not a grain. Quinoa is a rare plant-based protein in that it contains all nine essential amino acids—a trait usually exclusive to meat, poultry, and fish, as most plant-based sources of protein are missing essential amino acids. These missing amino acids can be easily be incorporated into your meals by including foods like quinoa, which is a versatile ingredient that can be used in porridge and hearty salads, or as a stand-in for rice (especially in quinoa risotto). Make a large batch of quinoa and freeze it for later use. When you’re ready to use the frozen quinoa, simply defrost it at room temperature before adding it to your recipe.
There’s a good reason lentils are praised for their nutritional benefits. One cup of cooked lentils contains nearly 18 grams of protein (and a whopping 15 grams of fiber!) which will keep you feeling full hours after you’ve eaten. There are several varieties of lentils available and their flavor and cooking methods differ slightly from one to the next. Red lentils are best for Indian-style dahl, green and brown lentils work well in soups, and Puy lentils are sturdy enough to hold their shape in a salad. Use canned lentils or dried, and consider freezing extra lentils for future use.
3. Firm Tofu
Firm tofu isn’t just a bland accompaniment for brown rice. A half a cup of this protein superstar contains almost 20 grams of protein, 86 percent of your calcium requirements, and 74 percent of your recommended daily intake of manganese. Tofu is made of pressed bean curd and has a very mild flavor, making it a great chameleon in terms of potential preparations and the flavors it can take on. Firm tofu can serve as the base for a curry, be stir-fried, be baked in a marinade, or be breaded and pan-fried. Basically, the sky’s the limit with tofu and it has many uses depending on the recipes you prefer.
4. Dried Beans
Dried beans are a useful ingredient to have in your pantry. Depending on the type, a one-cup serving can offer anywhere from 15 to 17 grams of protein. Soak dried beans overnight in cold water to shorten the cooking time and make up a big batch in the slowcooker. Extra beans can be frozen in resealable bags and thawed in the fridge or at room temperature. Bean salads are a tasty option that will last for up to a week in the fridge.
Tempeh is made of soy beans that have been pressed into cakes and fermented. Tempeh is a more flavorsome cousin of tofu that has wide-ranging nutritional benefits including an incredible 31 grams of protein per half-cup serving. Tempeh has a pronounced nutty taste which makes it a good candidate for recipes with big flavor. It will soak up any sauce or marinade like a sponge, so add tempeh to grain bowls, make a savory kebab, or tuck it into a tempeh and tomato sandwich.