Eight Plant-Based Proteins to Power Up Your Vegan Diet

Damn vegans, am I right?

We’ve earned quite the reputation in modern society. Obnoxious, pretentious, and unable to refrain from announcing our lifestyle at the absolute worst times.

Hey, I get it. We’re annoying. I won’t go into why we’re so proud of our diets or what a difference it can make in our environment, but I will say that if we have to sport the “annoying vegan” tag, meat-eaters have to sport the “professional FBI investigator” tag.

No matter how politely I turn down meat, I am always bombarded with a variety of questions. “Why?” “How?” “Since when?” “Aren’t you starving?” “Are you sure you don’t secretly eat meat at night when nobody’s watching?” and of course the unavoidable “How do you get your protein?”

Contrary to popular belief, meat is not the only source of protein. Relying on plant-based products for all of my nutrients has forced me to become hyper aware of what I put into my body. As a result, I’m consuming more protein than I ever did before cutting meat out of my diet.

There are tons of plant-based proteins hiding in your grocery store. You just have to know what they are. Here are eight sources that are a simple addition to any diet:

  1. Beans

Protein per cup: about 15 grams

Beans are one of the most affordable protein sources. They are super cheap and come in a wide variety. Whether you prefer white, black, kidney or pinto, you’re guaranteed to get at least 10 grams of protein with each cup. Besides protein, they come with a number of other nutrients including copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

  1. Tofu

Protein per cup: 20 grams

Tofu is a soft white substance made from pressed soybeans. At first I was hesitant to give it a try, but over time learned that tofu has the potential to be really great. It’s all about the preparation. If you’re turned off by weird textures, I would recommend marinating the tofu, then shredding it into thin bits. This works as a great substitute for meat in any dish.  

  1. Quinoa

Protein per cup: 8 grams

I had never even heard of quinoa before switching to a vegan diet, but boy was I missing out. This is a grain-like seed that primarily comes from South Africa. “A great plant-based protein is  Quinoa,” says Dr. Gregory Biren, Associate Director of Exercise Science Research Laboratory. “It’s one of the only plant-based protein that is complete with all nine essential amino acids.”

This is one of my favorite protein sources because it is so simple. No cooking is required and you can throw it on top of any platter.

  1. Soy Milk

Protein per cup: 8 grams

Soy milk is made from soybeans. Needless to say, it works best as a substitute for your typical dairy milk. Soymilk is also said to help fight osteoporosis and heart disease. I personally like to drink it with my coffee or cereal in the morning.

  1. Oatmeal

Protein per cup: 6 grams

Even if you’re not vegan, everyone can benefit from a hearty bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Oats are high in protein, plus they keep you full for a long time. You even can add dried fruit such as apricots or raisins to your oatmeal for even more protein.

  1. Green Peas

Protein per cup: 8 grams

Too often we mistake “green” for “boring.” Green peas may not be the most glamourous source of protein, but they contain so many nutrients that are essential to good health. They’re rich in antioxidants which have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Why not dump some peas into your salad if it means less wrinkles and lower risk of Alzheimer’s?

  1. Seeds

Protein per cup: Depends on the seed

There are so many different seeds and they are all high in protein. Flaxseed and dried sunflower seeds are at the head of the pack, containing about 30 grams in one single cup. But you’d be surprised at how much protein you can get from snacking on any type of seed, from pumpkin to pepita.

  1. Peanut Butter

Protein per cup: 65 grams

Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods because of the delicious taste alone. I could not believe my eyes when I looked at the nutrition label to find out this stuff contains 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. Plus, if you spread it on a slice of whole wheat bread, you’re creating a complete protein with all nine amino acids.

According to Dr. Biren, the average person needs at least .45 grams of protein per pound of their body weight each day. However, people who exercise regularly should be getting twice this amount of protein in order to support healthy muscle growth, a strong immune system, red blood cell functions and a balance of body fluid.  
Protein plays a key role in our health and is an essential part of any diet. It’s perfectly possible maintain a balanced diet without the consumption of animal products. Including these totally plant-based protein sources will keep you feeling good and pushing forward.