Vegans may lack sufficient protein in their diets. Luckily, that's not a real problem anymore. Experts assure vegan diets to perfectly provide all nutrients, including protein. In this post, we review the 13 best vegan protein rich foods available on the market!
Why is Protein Important for Muscle Building?
Protein is the most important macronutrient for muscle building. It provides the nutrients needed to repair, maintain, and create muscle mass (study)
Muscle building is ruled by muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and muscle protein degradation (MPD). The balance between these two concepts will determine the fate of your muscle mass.
Protein intake can, thus, increase MPS and decrease MPD, favouring the process of muscle building (study)
Recommended Protein Intake
The RDA for protein is 0.8-1.2 g/kg, but we know this is not enough. Muscle building requires of larger amounts of protein.
Studies show 2-3 g/kg to be a really good approach for your protein intake. Going beyond 3 g/kg can provide some extra benefits, but the safety in the long term is still in doubt.
Protein Quality Assesment
The quality of protein foods can be assesed using different methods. All protein foods differ in the amino acid profile, digestibility, or availability of protein. Thus, we cannot say that eggs and legumes will have the same effect as protein source.
The main methods for classifying protein quality are:
- Amino Acid Profile: compares amounts and variety of amino acids among different protein sources
- Biological value: measure of the proportion of absorbed protein from a food which becomes incorporated into the proteins of the organism's body (source)
- DIAAS: measures the ratio of the digestible amino acid content compared to the same amino acid in a reference pattern, taken from age-specific amino acid requirements. The lowest value across amino acids is multiplied by 100 to give a final value (source)
Best Vegan Protein Rich Foods
Vegans have always had the problem of reaching the recommended protein intake. Moreover, athletes specially struggled with this, as more protein is required to maintain and improve the sports performance.
But there are now a wide variety of vegan protein rich foods to choose from and reach the recommended protein levels.
In the next 5 min, the 13 best vegan protein rich foods to eat and get you jacked
Soy Vegan Rich Protein Foods
What do edamame, tofu, and tempeh have in common? All three derive from soy beans.
Soy beans are a great vegan protein rich food (source). It's one of the most complete vegan protein sources, providing all essential amino acids your body is not able to produce.
A serving of 100g soy beans or soy derived products contains 12-20g protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B, and other minerals such as selenium or magnesium (source)
Seitan is a vegan protein rich food made from gluten, the main protein found in wheat.
When cooked, the texture and mouth feeling ressembles a lot to that of cooked meat. This makes seitan a great substitute and vegan protein rich food.
A serving of 100g seitan contains 18g protein, as well as calcium and iron.
Seitan can be sautéed, pan-fried, baked, and even grilled. Because it contains wheat, seitan is not an option for people with gluten-related disorders.
Chickpeas is a legume of the family Fabaceae (source). The most common type has a round shape and a beige color, but other varieties are black, green, or red.
One serving of chickpeas (1 cup) provides 15g protein and 45g carbohydrates. Chickpeas also contains large amounts of phosphorus, potassium, and iron, making it a great vegan protein rich food (source)
Chickpeas can be prepared dried as snacks, or boiled and included in stews, salads, and hummus.
Heura is a popular and trendy vegan protein rich food. It has a surprisingly similar texture, appearance, and taste to chicken.
This vegan alternative is high in protein, iron and vitamin B12. For 100g of heura, it contains 20g protein, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B12.
It can be used as a meat-substitue. Include it in sandwiches, pasta dishes, salads, stews, pizzas... be creative!
Lentils are a great vegan source to reach the recommended protein intake.
Per cooked cup (198g), lentils contain 18g protein. They are a great source of fiber, providing half of the daily recommended protein intake in just one serving.
Lentils are considered prebiotics, providing fiber to the good bacteria in your gut. They are rich in folate, manganese, and iron.
They can be used in a wide range of dishes. Boil them and include them on salads, soups, stews, or prepare a spice-infused dahl
A nut is a seed covered by a hard nutshell. Example of nuts are almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistacchios, or hazelnuts.
Nuts and seeds are generally high in protein. One ounce of nuts contains 3-6 g protein, depending on the nut of choice.
Nuts are a recommended vegan protein rich food. They are also rich in choline, magnesium, and zinc; three important micronutrients for the well-functioning of our body.
They can be eaten as snacks, or used as toppings in yogurt parfaits, oatmeals, or asian salty dishes. But careful with the amounts... nuts are very high in calories as well!
Hemp seeds, considered a nut, is the highest protein nut known. It contains 9g protein per ounce of serving.
It comes from the Cannabis Sativa plant. However, it only contains trace amounts of THC, which makes hemp seeds a safe food to consume.
Hemp seeds contain all essential amino acids, making it a grea vegan protein rich food.
They also contain great amounts of magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium (source). Hemp seeds are also a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of yeast, most often Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, or Baker's yeast (source).
It's a popular vegan protein rich food, containing 8g protein for a serving of 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast! Itcontains all essential amino acids, making it a great vegan protein source.
Nutritonal yeast is also a great source of vitamins B1, B2, and B6, potassium, and zinc (source)
The fibre found in nutritional yeast, beta glucan, shows to improve your inmune system, physical recovery, and fatigue (source)
Wild Rice and Other Grains
Wild grains are uncultivated grains that grow naturally and have been used for centuries as a source of sustenance. Examples of wild grains are wild rice, wild wheat, or barnyard grass.
Wild grains, compared to cultivated grains, often contain higher amounts of micronutrients and protein. Wild rice, compared to white rice, has three times more magnesium, as well as higher protein content and vitamin B6 (source)
A serving of wild rice (100g) contains 15g protein. Wild rice is also a great source of potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus (source)
Spirulina is a food product coming from a microalgae called Cyanobacteria. Due to its high nutritional value, it's been used in the food industry as a healthy ingredient to add in your smoothies, ice creams, or salad dressings.
This microalgae shows to have a very high antioxidant capacity, improving your inmune system and fighting oxidative stress and inflammation (source)
One teaspoon of spirulina contains 4g protein. It's also a great source of beta-carotene, potassium, and calcium.
Green peas are one of the best vegan protein rich foods available. It contains 9g protein per cooked cup, close to the protein content of a cup of milk (source)
The protein quality of green peas is one of the highest in the vegan domain. Pea protein isolates are often used as substitutes of whey protein due to its complete amino acid profile and fast digestibility (source)
One serving of green peas covers 25% of your daily fiber , thiamine, folate, manganese, and vitamin A, C, and K needs.
Oats is an easy and delicious way to add protein into your diet. They can be prepared as oatmeal, baked oats, or used for making cookies, mugcakes, or any other baked good.
One cup of oats contains 8g protein. It's also a great source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium (source)
Oats don't contain all essential amino acids, but it can still be used as a complementary protein source to your vegan diet.
Vegan Protein Powder
Vegan isolates are often made of green peas, rice, or soy protein.
Used as a substitue of whey protein, vegan protein powder provides a complete amino acid profile and high quality protein source.
The effects of vegan protein powders on strength, muscle metabolism, and performance are similar to whey protein (source)
Protein is important to repair, maintain, and create muscle mass. It's always been said that vegans may lack protein in their diets, but experts assure vegan diets to perfectly provide all nutrients... including protein.
In this post, we've seen 13 vegan protein rich foods to include in your diet to reach your daily protein intake. Now it's time to get in the kitchen... and let creativity guide you!