Fitness model, blogger and social media consultant Flora Beverley shares her tips for finding plant-based sources of protein to support a balanced lifestyle.
One of the questions I am asked most frequently when people learn that I am vegan is ‘but how do you get enough protein?’. It’s an understandable query – the last few years have placed so much emphasis on protein as the answer to all our health and fitness queries, it’s hard not to believe that the more protein we eat, the healthier we are.
Contrary to popular belief, if you eat a wide variety of foods containing plenty of wholegrains, meeting your daily protein requirements as a vegan is not difficult. Whilst complete proteins sources are primarily found in animal products, such as meat and eggs, consuming a mix of plant-based foods means it’s possible to consume all essential amino acids in a vegan meal, e.g. peanut butter on toast, or rice and beans.
There are plenty of great protein supplements out there, but protein is best consumed in food instead of supplements, because of the increased intake of micronutrients and heightened absorbability.
How much protein should I be eating?
The recommended daily allowance of protein is somewhere between 0.8g and 1.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Certain factors can push you towards the higher end of this, such as having a very active lifestyle, and older people also have higher protein requirements, but the majority of people are fine towards the lower end of the scale. In fact, some evidence suggests that reduced protein consumption is linked to increased longevity. However, there is little evidence to suggest that eating excess protein is harmful for an otherwise healthy adult, but excess protein cannot be utilised by the body, which is why protein supplements are possibly more fuss than they are worth: excess protein will go straight though you, or be stored as fat!
Read on to see five of the best plant-based sources of protein.
Danielle Copperman’s tofu cream cheese
Tofu is derived from soya (another great source of protein) and can be cooked in many ways, taking on the flavour of whatever it is being cooked in. 100g tofu provides 8g protein and is also incredibly low in fat. Get creative with tofu and make Danielle Copperman‘s vegan alternative to cream cheese.
While you may think of oats as a carbohydrate, they are also one of the best vegan protein sources. Oats pack a protein punch at 10g protein per 100g! Buy whole or steel-cut oats rather than instant to get the full benefits.
While not extremely high in protein (4g in 100g cooked), quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein. Contrary to its appearance, quinoa is actually a seed, but makes a great alternative to other carbohydrates. Try swapping out oats for quinoa in your morning porridge for a twist on the classic.
Alexandra Dudley’s crispy chickpeas
Pulses and legumes
Pulses and legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are not only extremely healthy, but also cheap and easy to bulk out any meal. Chickpeas come in at 7g protein per 100g, lentils at 8-9g protein per 100g and peas at 7g per 100g. These should make up a large proportion of any plant-based diet. Try Alexandra Dudley‘s crispy chickpeas with sumac and lemon for a high protein snack or salad topper.
Although high in fats and therefore best consumed in moderation, peanut butter contains 25g of protein per 100g, making it also an excellent (and cheap) source of protein. When combined with wholemeal bread, it acts as a complete protein source (i.e. all essential amino acids are present). Just make sure you are opting for a brand that avoids palm oil and has no added chemicals or oils.
Though meat may be the most conventional and widely consumed protein source, it is important to remember that it is not the only one. In fact, eating a varied and wholegrain-rich diet is a simple and easy way of ensuring you are consuming enough protein everyday. Many plant-based proteins are often cheap dietary staples that you already have in your cupboards and so can be used to ensure your plate is full of all the necessary nutrients.