So, where do vegans get their protein? In today’s society, it is widely assumed that humans need a ton their daily calories from protein. We have been misled to believe that we need a lot of this specific nutrient – when really all nutrients combined work together to fuel the body. The true, proper daily intake of protein should be anywhere from 10-25% of your caloric needs, based on your weight, height and activity level. Believe it or not, plants do contain a decent amount of protein: a 100 calorie serving of broccoli contains over 8g of protein! And tons of fiber, vitamins and minerals too? Count me in. There is an incredible assortment of healthy, plant-based proteins to choose from: 1) Legumes: Beans & Lentils. Black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, red lentils, green lentils, black lentils….the list goes on! A 1/2 cup serving of black beans has
- 130 calories
- 15 grams of fiber (wow!)
- 7.5 grams of protein
- 10% of daily iron intake
And only 4 calories from fat. Legumes are also a great source of magnesium, manganese, and folate – all important in regulating cellular functions and converting energy. 2) Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan. Tofu, which is curdled from soybeans, is a versatile and high-protein food. It takes on the flavor of whatever dish you’re making and is therefore easy to add to recipes. Tempeh, which is fermented tofu, is more firm than tofu and has a nutty flavor to it. This is great for stir fries, salads, bowls-just about anything. Both contain anywhere from 10-15g protein per 1/2 cup, along with essential vitamins and minerals. Seitan: Also known as wheat gluten, seitan is a great substitute for meat, as it has a similar texture and look. A low calorie food, a one ounce serving of seitan contains 21g of protein and only a few calories from fat. These foods can easily be baked, grilled or sautéed to be eaten with a meal. 3) Nuts & Seeds. There are so many great seeds to choose from – flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin and sunflower. A three tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains a whopping 11g of protein and tons of healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews….the list goes on! Nuts are a fantastic source of protein and healthy fatty acids as well – just make sure you don’t eat too many of these, as they are high in fat. I like to limit nut butter or raw nuts/seeds to once a day. I enjoy nuts and seeds in smoothie bowls, salads, or sprinkled over quinoa and veggies…even eaten plain! Their uses and benefits are endless. 4) Grains: Quinoa, millet, barley, wild rice, brown rice, rye, wheat, oats…There are so many types of grains to choose from! Enjoy any of these protein-rich, fiber-packed grains with your next dinner, lunch or even breakfast. Whole grains are low fat and contain plenty of protein as well as fiber, which helps you stay full longer. Many grains are gluten-free as well, a great option for celiacs or those with gluten intolerance. These foods are certainly not the only way to get protein: as I mentioned earlier, all vegetables contain protein AND fiber (meat contains no fiber). Fortified plant milks (almond, coconut, soy, hemp, hazelnut, cashew, oat, etc) can also be enjoyed in cereal, smoothies or recipes. Fruits are usually low on protein, but contain a lot of fiber and tons of antioxidants and vitamins. Eat a colorful, balanced diet and you’ll be sure to get what you need throughout the day.
Speedy Chickpea Scramble
Let’s end this protein post with an awesome, high protein recipe: Chickpea Flour Scramble! Originally adapted from Bonzai Aphrodite’s recipe (see her version here). Also called besan flour, chickpea flour can be a little tricky to find, but is usually in natural grocery stores or health stores. This high-protein, soy-free flour can be cooked into many things – I’ve even made pancakes with them! This recipe reminds me of scrambled eggs…but this is a much healthier version, with significantly less fat and no cholesterol or animal protein. Go plants.
- 1/2 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- Enough water to make it a runny batter
- Spices of choice: turmeric, cumin, cayenne, coriander, chili, chipotle, garlic, paprika, italian seasoning, S & P (I recommend using some turmeric to achieve a yellow color)
- Veggie add-ins: This can be whatever you have on hand or left in the fridge: mine above was rainbow chard, kale, jalapeño, onion, and celery. Once it was almost done cooking I added tomatoes and cilantro. Feel free to add any type of greens, zucchini, bell pepper, hot pepper, mushrooms, garlic and other fresh herbs or veggies!
Mix your spices with the bowl of chickpea batter and baking soda. Sauté your veggies in a little oil until soft. Slowly pour batter into pan – be sure to keep the pan around medium heat. If the batter starts sticking to the pan, pour some water in to avoid burning. This stuff takes longer to cook than scrambled eggs – patience is key 🙂 Once it starts to thicken up, begin scrambling and flipping some pieces in the pan. When most of the batter has cooked, add in fresh herbs and tomatoes, if using. When the batter is done cooking, remove from heat and enjoy with avocado, toast, salad…whatever you like! This is an easy and versatile recipe, so feel free to play around. Hope you all learned something today! If you are curious about anything or have questions or suggestions, please feel free to ask – I love to answer. Do you have a favorite go-to recipe including plant protein? Share with me in the comments 🙂 Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend, Kathrine