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How to Get Protein as a Vegan

A well-planned vegan diet can offer a multitude of health benefits, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as decreased risks of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. Better overall nutrition, lower body weight and heart health is also possible.

However, eating has to be planned carefully to ensure getting enough of some vitamins and minerals that are more easily found from animal products.

Protein, a molecule made up of amino acids, is an essential macronutrient. It is found in our muscle, bone, skin, hair, and more, and is necessary for body function.

While it may seem easier to obtain protein from animal products such as dairy products, there are many vegan protein sources. Some plant based protein foods are excellent sources. What's more, they bring higher levels of fibre and healthy fatty acids, and lower levels of saturated fat with them. Healthy vegan diets get enough protein from the plant foods in their plant based diet.

Vegan Diet Protein Sources

Nuts, grains, pulses and legumes are excellent plant protein sources, while certain vegetables and seeds are also sources. These offer excellent additional nutritional benefits, which are often lacking in carnivorous diets.

Spirulina, a blue-green algae, has 57.5g per 100g. One tablespoon of spirulina contains 4.02 g.

Hemp seeds have 31.56 g per 100 g or 3.16 g per tablespoon.

Peanuts have 25.8 g of protein per 100 g; an ounce, or about a handful, has 7.31 g.

Nut butters are good sources if you choose products that are 100% nut. Peanut butter has 22.5 g of protein per 100 g and 3.6 g per tablespoon. Almond butter has 20.96 g per 100g, for 3.36 g per tablespoon.

Cooked tempeh contains 19.91 g of protein per 100 g.

Fried tofu contains 18.81 g of protein per 100 g or 5.34 g per ounce.

Chia seeds have 18.29 g per 100 g.

Cooked soybeans have 16.92 g per 100g, or 15.65 g for half a cup.

Raw oats contain a high amount of protein, with 13.2g per 100g. A cup of raw oats has 10.7g of protein. However, a person should soak oats before consuming them to make them easier to digest.

Seitan, a substitute made from wheat gluten, has 11.28 g of protein per 100 g when cooked.

Cooked lentils have 9.02 g of protein per 100 g or 8.95 g per half cup.

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have 8.86g of protein per 100 g for 14.5 g per cup.

Garden peas offer about 7 g of protein per 100 g, or 4.12 g per cup.

Many beans, including cannellini, soya, edamame, pinto and kidney have between 7 to 10 g protein per 100 g.

Technically a seed, quinoa contains 4.38 g of protein per 100 g. A cup of cooked quinoa has 7.45g of protein.

Cooked mushrooms contain 3.74g of protein per 100g and 5.98 g per cup. Mycoproteins, mushroom-based sources of protein used in substitutes, have 11 g of protein per 100 g.

Broccoli contains 2.84 g per 100g or per cup when cooked.

Some other nuts and seed sources include ground linseed, for 3 g per tablespoon, walnuts for 3 g of protein per three nuts, pumpkin seeds for 4 g per tablespoon, cashew nuts for 3 g per 10 nuts, brazil nuts for 4 g per six nuts, and almonds for 3 g for six nuts.

Essential Amino Acids

Proteins are broken down into 22 naturally occurring amino acids. Nine of these are the essential amino acids, which we need to obtain from diet, as we cannot make them ourselves. Our bodies can produce nonessential amino acids through eating essential amino acids, or breaking down body proteins. Any amino acid that we cannot make in our body must be included in a healthy diet.

A food which has all the amino acids is known as a complete protein, and includes quinoa, soy products, and mycoproteins. Those foods which have only some of the nine essential acids are incomplete proteins, and include nuts and seeds, pulses and legumes, and vegetables.

You can combine certain incomplete proteins together, as complementary proteins, to consume all nine essential acids. For example, peanut butter with whole wheat bread, provides a source for all nine.

How Much Protein

In Canada, it is generally recommended to consume 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram you weigh each day. However, your protein requirements are based on your age, sex, weight, and how active you are.

If you are very active, or trying to build muscle mass, you will need more. The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests about 1.7 g of protein per kg of weight for strength athletes and 1.2 to 1.4 g of protein per kg of weight for endurance athletes. If you are pregnant, you will also need to increase your intake by 10%. Always confirm your specific intake needs with your doctor.

You can also use this protein needs calculator from the USDA.

It is possible for a person to have too much protein in their diet. While unlikely on a healthy vegan diet, and usually more of a concern for those on a ketogenic diet, consuming 2 g per kilogram of weight could cause many health concerns. Symptoms like intestinal discomfort, irritation, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue and more may indicate too much protein intake.

La Dee Da

Whether you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, or responsibly trying to limit how much you eat animal products, delicious whole plant foods and increasing your plant based proteins is part of a healthy lifestyle. Make eating healthy easier and more delicious, with La Dee Da's sauces and soups. Including protein-rich foods like lentils, found in our Moroccan Lentil soup, can be tasty and convenient.