With so many people turning to a vegan diet for reasons such as; ethicality, health, and weight loss, we need to ensure the meat- and dairy-free options we consume contain the right nutrients and Essential Amino Acids for optimal health and performance.

Protein – What is it?

Protein is a combination of amino acids usually classed as essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids come from our food intake whereas non-essential amino acids are created inside our bodies.

Therefore, it is not essential to consume these. Typically you have to ensure your diet includes complete amino acids (all nine of the essential amino acids) in order for your body to function optimally.

Complete sources of protein can be found in all animal food products however it is a little more difficult to find them on a plant-based diet. To go vegan or not to go vegan is currently a hugely popular topic with conflicting research even from the professionals.

One question we ask ourselves is: is a plant-based diet healthy?. The answer is based on how you supplement your meat- and dairy-free options to ensure you get the right amount of protein for your needs.

Why is it so important?

Protein is a macronutrient meaning we have to consume lots of it in order to ensure our bodies function properly. Protein turns into hormones, muscles, antibodies, enzymes, skin, nails, bodily tissue and many more essential processes that happen inside our bodies.

They also transport the oxygen through your blood, grow and repair cells, contract your muscles...basically, without it, we can not survive. People even suggest that it helps to speed up weight loss which is a plus for people looking to shed a few pounds of unwanted fat.

According to the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), and to stop your body from shutting down, we need a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein to every 1kg of body weight.

Of course, not all of us have the luxury of doing pretty much nothing during the day so for the people who are a little more active there are some new guidelines out you should really follow in order for optimal health and performance. The Institute of Medicine uses Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) which suggests that 10 percent - 35 percent of your daily calorie intake needs should be from protein.

Vegan foods high in protein

Here are three foods contain complete proteins, in other words, all nine of the essential amino acids that your body needs.

Quinoa

8 grams per 1 cup serving

Also contains: fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, Phosphorus, vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate

Buckwheat

6 grams per 1 cup serving

Also contains: Dietary Fiber, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6

Soy (Firm tofu)

20 grams per 1 cup serving

Also contains: Phosphorus, Copper, Selenium, Calcium, Manganese

But you can also try these combinations to make complete proteins:

  • Beans, lentils or chickpeas with rice - 7 grams per 1 cup serving
  • Hummus with pita bread - 7 grams – 1 whole-wheat pita, 2tbsps hummus
  • Spirulina with nuts, seeds, oats or grains - 4 grams per 1 tbsp
  • Beans, lentils, nuts with wheat, rice or corn - 7 grams per 1 cup serving
  • Peanut butter sandwich - 15 grams – 2 slices of bread, 2tbsps peanut butter

Other foods high in protein but do not contain all nine essential amino acids:

  • Chia seeds - 2g per tbsp
  • Hempseed - 5g per tbsp
  • Beans - 12 – 16g per cup
  • Lentils - 17.9g per cup
  • Chickpeas - 14.5g per cup
  • Rice - 8g per cup
  • Peanuts - 7g per oz
  • Almonds - 6g per oz
  • Pistachios - 8g per oz
  • Corn grain (yellow) - 15g per cup
  • Oats - 26g per cup
  • Green peas - 8g per cup
  • Flaxseed - 3g per tbsp
  • Sesame Seeds - 6g per tbsp
  • Sunflower seeds - 5g per tbsp
  • Pumpkin seeds - 3g per tbsp
  • Wheat germ - 6g per oz
  • Edamame - 19g per 1 cup

To finish off, here are some high protein delicious meal ideas for a new, much healthier, vegan diet:

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