Where does a vegan get protein from? It is the most repeated question when it comes back to the never-ending debate about vegetarian and vegan diets. We should already know that, well planned, a diet without animal products can be perfectly complete, and you don’t have to be vegan to take advantage of the good protein intake from many vegetables.
Taking into account that any healthy diet should have the plant world as its basic pillar, it would be a mistake to rely only on meat to ensure the necessary protein intake. Everybody can benefit from plant proteins diversifying your diet; In addition to gaining in other nutrients, we will give more variety and flavor to our dishes.
Three keys to decipher the labeling of any food
Incomplete proteins? Not at all
The defense of foods of animal origin is still common today because they are a source of “complete proteins”, although it is a definition that is usually misunderstood or that generates confusion.
Proteins are an essential nutrient because they are in themselves the basis of any living being. They serve many different functions and the body is capable of making many of them, but we need to get its parts from food. Those pieces are the amino acids, of which those we have to ingest are considered essential amino acids through the diet: phenylalanine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and valine – it being possible to include histidine, which is important for children along with arginine.
Animal proteins are considered complete because they contain all of these essential amino acids, while in the plant world it is usual to find them distributed. For example, legumes are rich in lysine and poor in methionine, just the opposite of cereals like wheat or rice.
So the key is to eat a good variety of foods, which do not have to be especially rare. It is true that some so-called superfoods they concentrate a high amount of proteins in small doses, such as spirulina, but following a diet based on the usual products it is perfectly feasible to get all the nutrients we need, even if we are vegan -with the exception of vitamin B12-.
In a balanced diet, it is not necessary to combine all the proteins in the same meal
The classic combination of lentils with rice is a perfect example of how to include all the essential amino acids of proteins in the same dish. Also a multigrain bread with nuts, hummus toasts, a tagine of vegetables, legumes and couscous, oatmeal with nuts, etc. And it is not necessary to consume them on the same plate, can be ingested throughout the day in the different meals.
In addition, there are plant foods that are complete proteins, of high quality, such as soy, quinoa or amaranth. Soy, a legume, actually contains as much protein as many meats or fish, with hardly any fat.
The contribution of proteins generates not a few controversies and doubts when it comes especially to vegan athletes; But yes, it is possible to practice high resistance and even muscular sports without food of animal origin. As the dietitian-nutritionist comments Lucia Martinez on his blog, legumes and nuts are a great source of protein, very rich in other essential nutrients, which he also recommends distribute at all meals of the day for a better use.
The most protein-rich plant foods
Since eating only a few products would be very boring, and we would run the risk of nutritional deficiencies, the ideal is to introduce a good variety of foods in our dietespecially if we are vegetarians or vegans. Next we review the list of the most protein-rich plant foods, with ideas to introduce them into your diet.
Soy in all its formats
Soy is a legume with many applications in the kitchen, very rich in quality vegetable proteins and many other nutrients. The most protein format is in the form of flour, with 37.3 g of total protein per 100 g of product, but it is also excellent in its dry form, with 35.9 g raw.
Textured soybeans, tofu or vegetable drinks made with soybeans also provide a notable protein intake, also allowing us to play with the preparations to give more variety to our diet, whether or not it is vegetarian. In our cookbook we have a multitude of ideas for all tastes, for example:
A somewhat forgotten classic of the aperitif that is worth claiming; lupins or lupines are also a legume, and one of the richest in vegetable proteins. With 36.17 g of protein per 100 g of product, we can treat them like any other legume and add them to any dish that comes to mind.
A good way to enrich with protein salads or stir fries It is by adding a handful of cooked lupins, or we can mix them with other legumes, cereals or vegetables. Of course, they are still an excellent healthy snack between meals, too.
Pumpkin seeds or seeds
Known as “pepitas” in much of the world, pumpkin seeds are often overlooked as great source of nutrients. They are very rich in protein, with 30.23 g per 100 g of raw product, and they also provide healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals such as calcium.
The best way to take advantage of them is dispensing with those that already sell fried and salted, opting for its raw format or using the seeds of the pumpkins that we cook at home. We can add them to bakery recipes, salads, homemade muesli mixes, smoothie bowls, soups and creams, sauces and spreads, healthy crackers, etc.
Sunflower seeds or seeds
The most classic pipes as popular as pecking -the unofficial snack of football matches- are the sunflower ones, increasingly easy to find raw peeled. They are also a great source of minerals, a very healthy energy snack with applications similar to the previous ones.
They are seeds that they give a lot of play when it comes to enriching all kinds of bakery doughs, such as beer breadsticks or a good loaf of sourdough, also preparations such as original pesto, crispy crackers, or as a dressing for soups, salads or oatmeal bowls with fruit or yogurt .
Peanuts (natural and in cream or butter)
The peanut, really, is a legume, even if we treat it like a dried fruit. Rich in vegetable proteins in addition to unsaturated fats, it stands out as a source of potassium, zinc, vitamin E and omega 3. Raw peanut butter or cream -without added fats or sugar- provides 25.5 g of protein, practically the same amount as the raw or lightly toasted fruit.
Since we can take advantage of whole peanuts, crushed or in their cream format, we have again multitude of options to enrich our diet with their proteins and nutrients, without forgetting that they are very energetic. Here are some ideas:
Fresh broad beans are a delight that become exquisite if we also find them tender and in a small format, but when they are out of season we can take advantage of them in a dry format. Precisely, dried beans concentrate more nutrients, being therefore more protein than in the fresh version.
We can treat them, again, like any other legume, incorporating it into stews or cooking ita to prepare stir-fries, rice, soups or stir-fry with cereals or vegetables. In Murcia, for example, it is the base of an iconic dish, the michirones.
With 25 g of vegetable protein per 100 g of product, wheat germ is one of the most nutritious parts of this common cereal that we often do not take advantage of by consuming it in refined versions. The germ is already marketed in this format, in the form of small flakes, designed to enrich the usual diet with small amounts.
It can add to smoothies and juices, soups or creams, in addition to taking with yogurt, mixed in salads, omelets or dressings, or as part of bread dough. It also stands out for its iron content.
Within the trio of legumes most common in our gastronomy, lentils stand out in terms of their protein content, with 23 g per 100 g of boiled lentils. If we combine them with cereals or pseudo-cereals in the same dish, we will multiply their nutrients, but we have already commented that it is not necessary if our diet is balanced.
Stews, widows or with their chorizo, in exotic or more creative versions, in salads and stir-fries … I don’t think nobody lacks ideas to cook with lentils, and we have countless recipes to try new dishes.
Elaborated from wheat gluten -not suitable, therefore, for celiacs or people with gluten sensitivity-, seitan contains about 24 g of protein per 100 g of weight, with few carbohydrates and very little fat.
Although the texture does not appeal to everyone, it is a good alternative or complement to tofu, and you can cook like that. It is already marketed in prepared and precooked formats, but it is preferable to buy it natural to season it at home to our liking. It can be cooked in sauce, stew or stew, grilled, etc.
Beans or beans
Black and white beans or beans They are the ones that stand out the most in terms of their protein content. Since all the varieties are very healthy and nutritious, it is advisable to take advantage of all the varieties that we have available in the market, to also play with the flavors and textures.
Again, the possibilities when cooking With these legumes they are almost infinite, from dishes as typical as a fabada or some beans with chorizo, to salads, creams or even desserts.
Another nutritional gem very rich in nutrients, energetic, satiating and a good source of vegetable protein. Almonds are a perfect snack especially for athletes, being it is preferable not to take them fried or salted. Lightly toasted they appear to have slightly higher protein content, although raw with the skin they are also excellent.
In addition to taking almonds like any other dried fruit, …