Vegans, or those on a plant-based diet, are often asked the source of their protein. In developed countries protein deficiency is incredibly rare, the amount of protein people think they need is often way above what the world health organisation recommends. So, how much protein do we actually need and where can we get it from?
Protein requirements are based on your ideal weight (not your actual weight) so are actually pretty similar for most men and women. The average man requires 55g a day, and the average woman 45g. Toddlers need 15g daily, 4-6 year olds 20g, 7-10 year olds need 28g. As children get older their protein requirement increases. A tall 11-14 year old would need 42g, and an 18 year old boy about 55g.
Being plant-based opens up a fantastic range of healthy protein options. Read on for my top ten.
10. Quinoa, the South American superfood, is packed full of protein making amino acids so is an excellent choice to add bulk to a meal. It's easy to cook, filling, and its slightly nutty taste combines well with other flavours. Add it to salads or serve with a spicy bean chilli for a main meal or alternatively try it as a breakfast in this cardamon and peach porridge.
Rating: 4.4g per 100g
9. Beans are another great choice to add protein to a vegan or plant based diet. One of the earliest crops to be cultivated by people, they have been part of our diet for millennia. They can be bought in cans (although check for added salt) or a great money saving option is to buy them dried in bulk. Invest in a slow cooker, stick them on in the morning and you'll be ready to go at tea time. Vegan Mexican food has a great recipe for pinto beans that can be used as a basis for a whole variety of other dishes. Consider cooking in bulk to prepare for quick meals on weeknights.
Rating: 4.8 per 100g
8. Green peas make a great addition to many meals and are a sure fire hit with kids. Buy them fresh in the pod as a delicious snack, serve as a side, or include them as part of a more complicated dish. They're also ridiculously easy to grow yourself if you have a bit of outdoor space. Try a novel way of serving peas as a dip in this pea-camole recipe.
Rating: 5.36g per 100g
7. If your morning routine doesn't involve a half hour to prep your lunch, you'll be relieved to find out that whole wheat bread is a great source of protein. If you're buying pre-made, check the ingredients carefully. If you fancy making your own, a bread maker is a great investment, and allows you full control of the ingredients. Additions such as soya milk powder, ground flaxseed, and cold pressed oils such as avocado or hemp will give your bread a valuable nutrient power up. If you fancy working it by hand there's a great starter recipe below.
Rating: 8.8g per 100g
6. Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are well known for their starring role in the middle eastern dip hummus. They also make a fabulous protein boosting addition to many vegan dishes. They can be used in curries, stews, home made hummus, or are delicious roasted as a moreish snack. Gram or besan flour is made from chickpeas and makes delicious tortillas or pancakes as a savoury dish. They're also a great source of dietary fibre, essential for maintaining gut health. Fancy a snack, here's a recipe for roasting them.
Rating: 8.9g per 100g
5. A staple food of the vegans of yesterday no discussion of plant based protein would be complete without a discussion of lentils. Whatever colour catches your eye, green, brown, or orange they all pack a protein punch. Found in Indian and French cuisine and many in between, you'll never be short of a recipe. They also make an easy go-to mince substitute. Stick them in family favourites such as Spaghetti Bolognese or Shepherd's Pie as an alternative to meat. Use vegan stock in this recipe for a warming winter soup.
Rating: 9.2g per 100g
4. Consumed in South East Asia since 1100 BCE, the soy bean has been a mainstay of plant based diets for generations. Used as a bean (often called edamame), turned into milk, or processed, soy beans are incredibly low in fat. Its history is not without controversy though in recent years. It's often claimed that it contains estrogens that can be harmful to health. There is no scientific evidence to back this up, and in fact populations in South East Asia that eat high levels of soy products tend to be healthier overall. A study also showed that soy can have a positive effect on men's health, reducing the risk of, and survival rates from, prostate cancer. (Messina M, Barnes S. The role of soy products in reducing risk of cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1991; 83:541-546.)
Sometimes simple is the best, try Wagamama's Steamed Edamame Beans for a delicious accompaniment or snack.
Rating: 13.10g per 100g
3. Some claim a vegan diet can be expensive, but with the humble oat being full of protein, it doesn't have to be. Oats, which grow best in cooler wet climates, have long been a staple food in Northern countries. Delicious in porridge, or as a sweet and satisfying flapjack it would be hard to find a person who couldn't be pleased by them in some form. Try adding them to a smoothie along with flaxseed and almonds and start your day full of protein.
Rating: 16.89g per 100g
2. Love it or hate it, tofu is an excellent source of protein. Containing even more than the soya beans it's made from, it is definitely worth investigating different brands and cooking styles to find one you like. It comes in many forms, but you are most likely to encounter silken, which has a creamy texture suitable for sauces and desserts or firm, which can be sliced and used in savoury dishes. Vegan Quiche anyone? Check out the recipe below.
Rating: 17.19g per 100g
1. Number one on our list are nuts and seeds. With peanuts and pumpkin seeds lording it over other plant based protein sources, closely followed by hemp and almonds there are many delicious ways to enjoy. Eat as is for a healthy snack, blend into smoothies or sprinkle on cereal. They also make great ingredients in tasty protein balls that are fantastic to have in the fridge for when you fancy a snack.
Rating: Pumpkin 32.97