Are you new to the vegan diet? What do you understand by vegan protein? Why this is necessary for us? What are the sources of vegan protein? - Let us see some facts on vegan protein, its health benefits, and its major sources, i.e. where do vegans get their protein?
What is protein?
Protein is an integral part of our bodies. Proteins are compounds that consist of one or more chains of amino acids linked together by peptide (amide) bonds. There are 20 different amino acids found in all-natural proteins.
These are classified into two groups - non-essential and essential amino acids. Our body can produce non-essential amino acids, while the major source of the 9 essential aminos is foods or supplements.
Why is protein essential for us?
Protein is essential for almost all processes occurring in the human body. These are the amino acids that the human body uses to produce new cells, replace damaged cells, regulate metabolism, and promote overall growth and development.
These functions of protein also include immune function, regulation of organs and tissues, cell division, transport of various substances like hormones, along thousands of chemical reactions that occur inside cells.
Proteins are really important for our bodies because they give us energy. It helps in creating antibodies and also in building muscle mass. This helps maintain the function of organs and tissues throughout the whole body.
To summarize the importance of proteins, proteins make up for a lot of things that are necessary to sustain life. We need them because the absence of protein may cause serious health problems.
How much protein shall I take daily?
Everyone should have at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight. Roughly 20-30 grams of protein per meal is ideal for most healthy, moderately active individuals.
What Is Vegan Protein?
Vegan protein is a vegan source of protein. It comes from various plant sources. Vegan protein basically excludes animal protein sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
These are popular as plant-based proteins as well. Some of such protein sources are coconut, soy, legumes and lentils, and many others.
Vegan Protein Benefits Vs Animal Protein
Vegan protein contains all the amino acids in it. What makes vegan proteins different from animal proteins is that vegan proteins usually contain more than one type of vegan amino acid.
vegan protein is much easier for your body to absorb and digest which makes it an ideal way to get your amino acids. This increases the life of our digestive system. In contrast animal protein completely lacks fiber which is an essential component of a healthy digestive system.
These are also free from cholesterol and blood-clotting factors found in almost all animal products. So they control and reduce cholesterol and are much healthier for the heart as compared to meat proteins.
One of the biggest myths is that in a plant-based diet is that it is difficult to find much vegan protein. But the fact is there is enough protein available in a vegan diet. And vegan protein is in fact healthier than animal protein.
One cup of cooked soybeans has about the same amount of saturated fat as a steak but this is without any cholesterol. This makes vegan products good for your general health because they reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes & cancers. Vegan proteins lead to stronger bones, and increased lean body mass growth or maintenance.
Sources of Vegan Protein/ Plant-based Protein
Lentils, peas, pulses, soy, and beans contain high levels of vegan protein which is why they should be included in any vegan diet.
Vegans must eat plenty of plant-based protein as much as required to avoid any major concerns because of protein deficiency. As mentioned before vegan protein sources are readily available in many forms.
Soybean is rich in protein. It is a legume that has up to 20% sources of vegan protein. Soybeans are the ideal sources of plant-based protein for vegans, vegetarians, and even hard-core meat lovers looking for alternative sources of protein.
There are many soy products to add to your vegan diet, like tofu, tempeh, and dehydrated TVP granules.
Tofu is a popular choice for those who want an inexpensive source of soy-based protein. Health-conscious people as well as vegetarians and vegans flock to this food because of its nutritional value. One of the most attractive features of tofu is that it is exceptionally high in protein.
Tofu contains all essential amino acids, making it a good source of complete plant-based protein. The amount varies depending on how much whole soybean was used in processing, but a 4-ounce serving typically has between 9 and 16 grams of protein, with only 2 to 5 grams coming from non-soy sources. The protein content of tofu is comparable to meats and other protein-rich foods.
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are legumes that are rich in protein and very useful if you are on a vegan diet.
These are protein-rich beans, containing between 20 to 25% protein by dry weight. They are high in amino acids, especially lysine. One cup of chickpeas contains about 8.75 mg L-lysine which is 3% of the RDI or recommended daily intake.
Use them as snacks (falafel), or make simple chickpea salad, it tastes awesome. More than that these are affordable and won't cost you more. Isn't it a great idea to start your day with a protein-rich chickpea omelet? This is versatile in recipes and you can make many delicious dishes out of them.
Nutritional Yeast -
If you are looking to build muscle, the most important step is getting enough protein in your diet. Nutritional yeast is one such source of high-quality vegan and plant-based protein.
Nutritional yeast is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. It contains all nine amino acids, making this a complete protein similar to animal protein.
Protein is essential for building muscle mass and repairing damaged cells. Nutritional yeast contains 50% protein by weight, which makes it one of the most concentrated sources of protein available. One tablespoon of nutritional yeast contains 4 gm of protein in it.
Lentils are a good source of protein. Per 100 gm lentils, protein is 16 gm protein which is around 26% protein. Protein content in lentils depends on variety, method of cooking, and storage condition. In cooked lentils protein is around 18-20 grams per 100 grams serving.
Protein content also increases when you sprout/soak them for a few hours before cooking them. e.g. protein content in soaked lentils is 24 grams per 100 grams serving, while unsoaked lentils have 13-15 gm protein per 100 grams.
Lentils contain 9 out of 20 amino acids (9 essential and 11 non-essential amino acids), and these include a good amount of lysine and leucine. Lysine is a limiting amino acid in cereal proteins, while it is abundant in many legume proteins.
Spirulina - Vegan protein
Spirulina has a high percentage of proteins. In fact, it contains up to 70 percent proteins. Furthermore, for every 100 grams you consume spirulina, there is about 16 g. of protein which puts this supplement at the top protein source and at the top of the protein-rich foods list.
Spirulina protein content is very high, so you can get all of your protein needs from spirulina alone. One study tested it's found that protein in Spirulina had a protein efficiency ratio (PER) value of 1.62 which is higher than the value of casein protein (1.5), but lower than whey protein (2.5).
Also, spirulina protein contains all essential amino acids in rich amounts - making it a complete protein source. All 9 amino acids were present including arginine which is not in meats or most plant sources.
Spirulina protein is among the purest protein supplements available today because it does not contain fats, carbohydrates, sugars, fiber, lactose, or cholesterol.
Furthermore, this supplement can be easily absorbed by your cells since it's very easy to digest. Spirulina protein content has high biological value.
Quinoa protein is another complete protein because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids necessary for building and maintaining muscle.
In a protein-rich diet, quinoa is a wonderful addition. It contains about 8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Quinoa protein comes in high quality containing all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source.
Quinoa is usually grouped with grains and vegetables when it comes to food sources for protein. Even though quinoa doesn't contain as much protein per serving as red meat or poultry (taking into account its weight), adding this food to your daily meals can boost protein intake to help aid in muscle recovery after strenuous exercise.
Beans - Kidney beans, Black Beans, White Beans, Cannelini Beans, Pinto Beans, etc.
Protein in beans can have serious benefits for your health. Not only does protein in beans help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, but also it makes you feel full faster, which can help with weight loss.
The protein content of beans depends on the type of bean as well. For instance, black-eyed peas contain seven grams of protein per cup, while wax beans contain six grams per one-fourth cup.
However, not only is just how much protein there is important; also consider where this protein comes from. Beans are typically high in amino acids which are essential to good health and building muscles
This vegan plant-based protein in beans is easier for the body to digest and absorb than the protein from animal meats since it requires less energy. For example, protein in protein in beans is absorbed by the body at 17%, while protein from meat is only 12%. Therefore, protein in beans makes up for this deficiency by helping your body process the protein more efficiently.
Beans are also high in fiber. Eating foods that are high in fiber helps to reduce cholesterol levels, which helps prevent heart disease. Increases in soluble fiber intake have been associated with decreases in serum cholesterol levels as well as lowering blood glucose.
Amaranth - Vegan Protein Sources
Amaranth is a protein-rich grain that can be used in many different dishes such as desserts, side dishes, etc. The leaves are edible too. This grain is pseudo-cereal. It's gluten-free also.
The protein content of amaranth varies depending on the type of seeds. However, protein content in amaranth seeds ranges from about 13 percent to 19.5 percent protein.
For example, a three-ounce serving of cooked amaranth has 12 grams of protein or a 24% daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of industrial hemp. It is nutritionally superior to protein powders made from soy, pea, or whey.
Hemp protein cannot be manufactured synthetically. The protein found in hemp seed shares over 60% identifying protein fractions with human plasma protein including the enzymes trypsin and chymotrypsin.
This is a 100% natural protein with no additives, no preservatives, and no artificial anything.
One tablespoon of hemp protein contains an average of nine grams of raw organic vegan protein that is easily digested due to its protein fraction profile.
The protein content of hemp protein will vary depending upon the quality and purity of the product you purchase. As a general rule, hemp protein contains between 25% to 35% protein content by weight which is better than soy protein (30%) but less than whey protein concentrate (80%).
Seeds - Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, etc
These are small, dry fruits found in plants. Seeds have an inner embryo to which they provide nutrition and support for germination.
In many cases, the seed itself is edible while other times it's more useful to extract protein from the seed. This protein usually has a fair amount of lysine or methionine.
Although protein is present in all types of seeds, there are differences depending on the type of seeds. Pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds generally have a high protein content of 70-90%.
Nuts - Almonds, Cashews, & Walnuts
The amount of protein in nuts is considerably high. However, different types of nuts have different amounts of protein per 100 grams.
Almonds are the best type of nut for protein consumption because it contains 32.1 grams of protein per 100 g. It has more than double the amount that walnuts contain. Both walnuts and almonds contain twice the amount tofu does at 16 grams per 100 g.
Cashews are not bad either with 17g/100g, Pistachios are only slightly lower than cashews with 16.8g/100g protein. But peanuts are inferior to any other nut with only 7g/100g, which is half that of both almonds and cashews. , but peanuts are the least protein-rich nut with 7g/100g protein.
However, the protein in nuts is incomplete protein since it doesn't contain all 9 essential amino acids. However, protein in almonds is a complete protein, and protein in cashews also contains a good amount of these amino acids.
Nut consumption should not be the only protein intake for vegans or vegetarians due to missing essential amino acids, but adding them can help make up for this shortcoming.
Oats - Vegan Protein Sources
Oats are an ancient grain. Oatmeal is the most popular form of oats. Some popular oats recipes are baked oatmeal, oats porridge, etc. This is an excellent source of protein and fiber. This superfood has numerous health benefits.
Rolled oats are a healthy choice as long as you exercise portion control and eat them plain instead of adding sugar or other toppings.
One-half cup of dry-rolled oats contains about 11 grams (2.4 ounces) of protein, which is more than enough protein for breakfast. Drinking post-workout protein shakes containing protein powder made from oats boosts muscle mass growth.
Oats protein has several health benefits. Oatmeal is very healthy for your heart because it lowers cholesterol levels and reduces blood pressure by removing stress on the arteries that deliver nutrients around the body.
Oats protein contains soluble fiber which absorbs water and turns into a gel-like substance, slowing down digestion time. This undigested food moves through the intestines and out of the body more slowly which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Broken Wheat or Cracked Wheat or Bulgur Wheat
Broken Wheat is a name for wheat grains that have been husked and crushed to different sizes; typically 1/4 inch (6 mm) or smaller.
The protein content of Broken Wheat can vary significantly, depending upon the protein content of the wheat grain from which it was prepared and processing factors such as milling and sifting.
The broken wheat protein content is approx. 8.5g/100g
Seitan - Vegan Protein
Seitan, more commonly known as "wheat meat," is often consumed by those on plant-based or vegan diets. It's an excellent high-protein alternative to meat.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten. It has around 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce portion (roughly the size of a deck of playing cards). This makes seitan a pretty good source of protein for those looking for a meatless protein source.
However, if you're looking to bump up the protein content of your meal, seitan isn't going to be much help. While many people enjoy eating seitan as a substitute for chicken breasts or burgers, consuming 3 ounces will only get you roughly 20 grams of protein, whereas three-quarters of a cup of cooked lentils has about 16 grams of protein.
So in order to increase your protein intake with seitan, simply pair it with other high-protein foods like beans or lentils.
Though vegetables contain less protein than animal products such as meat, fish, and eggs, there are several protein-rich vegetables that are decent sources of protein. Some of the vegetables that have high protein content are -
Eggplant - One-half cup of cooked eggplant contains 0.4 g of protein
Broccoli - One cup (100gm) of chopped broccoli contains 2.8 g of protein
Cabbage - One-half cup of cooked cabbage contains 0.4 g of protein
Carrots - One-half cup contains 0.5 g of protein
Cauliflower - One-half cup contains 2 g of protein
Green Peas - 5 gm protein in 100 gm green peas
Spinach - 5.35 gm protein in 100 gm spinach
Kale - 4.3 gm protein in 100gm kale
Watercress - 0.8 gm in 1 cup (34gm)
Alfalfa sprouts - 1.3 gm protein in 34gm / 1 cup
Bok choy - 1.1 gm protein per 70 gm
Asparagus - 3 gm protein in 134 gm
Mustard greens - 2.9gm protein in 100 gm of chopped greens
Collard Greens - 3 gm protein in 100gms
Brussels sprout - 3.4 gms protein per 100 gm
Summary - Sources of Vegan Protein
Vegan proteins are widely available in many forms. And these are proven to be healthier in many ways than animal protein. Must add these sources to your vegan diet for a healthier lifestyle.