Protein is the primary essential nutrient needed by the body for recovering, repairing and building all of our body’s cells including muscle tissue.
Where do we find protein?
We get our protein through everything we eat and drink, with these proteins then breaking down into amino acids.
Speak to any bodybuilder or fitness guru about protein and they will give you some great advice on eating all of your protein in the form of eggs, chicken, beef and whey protein shakes.
Whilst there is no denying that the aforementioned are great sources of protein (for the meat eater) what a lot of people don’t realise is that we can also get good quality, complete, proteins from other food sources that do not involve the eating of animals or any products derived from animals, obviously essential for all vegetarians and vegans needing to get enough protein in their diet.
Protein packed vegan foods
Below are some of the best sources of vegan-friendly protein to add to your daily nutritional intake, whether you are a vegan or not:
1. Quinoa – This is a grain crop grown for its edible seeds, however does not contain a lot of the nutritional drawbacks that most grains have and is completely wheat free.
It is extremely versatile, packed with a range of nutrients and boasts an impressive 14g of protein per 100g of uncooked product, twice the amount of rice or barley.
2. Hemp – The usual way of eating hemp protein is in powdered form and mixed into a shake or used in cooking. Hemp powder simply comes from grinding down the leaves of the hemp plant so goes through very little processing. It has a similar profile to egg as it contains all the essential amino acids making it a complete protein with a whopping 47g of protein per 100g of powder.
3. Chia Seeds – As the name suggests these are seeds taken from the chia plant, which is native to Mexico, Argentina and Australia. The seeds themselves are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, Calcium and a range of other dietary minerals. A 100g serving of these seeds yields 17g of protein.
4. Soya Beans (including Tofu) – These beans are amongst the most popular and most consumed beans across the entire globe due to their versatility and high nutritional content.
They originated in China and the Chinese people still regard this bean and the products made from them as essential to life! You will get 36g of protein per 100g of soya beans consumed.
5. Nuts – Most nuts are a good source of protein and low in saturated fats, but obviously the amounts do vary. Almonds are amongst the best for protein and a host of other vital nutrients including fibre, calcium and vitamin E. For a handful of just 22 almonds you will get 6g of protein as well as the benefits of all those other nutrients.
6. Peas – Peas, believe it or not, are a power pack vegan protein source. You can either just eat them raw or cooked in a meal or make up a protein shake using powdered pea protein. Its amino acid profile is similar to whey protein but without the attached allergies or digestion problems whey can induce in some people. It is also more concentrated than whey protein with just 30g of pea protein powder providing a massive 25g of protein.
7. Chickpeas – The main ingredient in hummus, these are both high in meat-free protein and low in fat, they are also pretty cheap so make an inexpensive, low-cost alternative to meat even if you are not a vegan. Although not a complete protein source, they do contain 23g of protein per 100g of chick peas.
8. Seeds – like nuts, seeds cover a range of different sized, shaped and coloured nutritional power houses. All seeds are loaded with vitamins, minerals and relatively high in protein. Pumpkin seeds are amongst the best and actually contain more protein than Chia seeds with a 100g serving providing 19g of protein.
So even if you are not vegan or vegetarian, due to the high nutritional content and relatively low saturated fat levels in these vegan protein foods, the above seeds, grains and nuts are a beneficial addition to everyone’s diet.
Read more from Expert Justin Conway.