Protein consistently dominates a conversation when one declares that they are vegan. “Where do you get your protein from?” Heard that before? Of course you have. Many gym goers will tell you that you can’t be strong by being meat free. But interestingly we are starting to see some high profile athletes adapt to a vegan diet.
Below is a simple list of easy to eat vegan high protein foods, that can really show you what is possible with easy access foods.
Legumes are a vegan staple when it comes to consuming protein easily. They are seeds that grow in pods, and offers a variety of high protein, low fat, high fibre nutrients. Importantly, legumes are very affordable.
Examples of legumes include:
- Baked Beans
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Butter Beans
- Garden Peas
All the above offer anything from 5 to 10g of protein per 100g, with lentils offering a high bang for your buck. You can also use chickpeas to make hummus, offering a tasty, nutrient dense paste than can be used in a variety of ways.
Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds offer nutrient dense snacks and cooking ingredients. They are high in protein, also containing healthy fats and a number of vitamin and minerals. Nuts can be used in a variety of ways, including a broad range of nut butter spreads such as peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter, can be used on breads, or even with meals.
Examples of nuts and seeds are:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Pine nuts
- Hemp seeds
- Brazil nuts
On average, nuts can offer between 12 to 20g of protein per 100g, making it a highly credible source. Rich in monounsaturated fats, nuts are great for heart health. In addition to protein, most nuts offer a good range of fibre, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals. A recommended portion of nuts per day is around 20 to 50g.
Many vegetables are typically known for being a great source of iron, vitamins and minerals and perhaps are not the food source you would expect to hear as a credible protein source, but some vegetables do indeed possess traces of protein when eaten in abundance. For example, and 80g serving of broccoli could give you up to 3g of protein.
Some of the key vegetables are:
It is not recommended that you solely rely on vegetables as your protein source, but a generous intake of vegetables for their wider health benefits can enable a passive intake of protein, ideally alongside more protein-rich sources such as beans or lentils.
Some grains have been tried and tested as a reliable source of protein, also offering other attributes such as fibre, zinc and selenium.
- Brown or Wild Rice
Quinoa in-particular has proven to be a versatile, easy to eat grain, that in addition to being an excellent protein source (one of the few grains with a complete amino acid profile), also offers slow digesting carbohydrates (great for blood sugar control), and is one of the best grains for fibre content.
As a whole, grains can offer up to 10g of protein per 100g in addition to its nutrient rich properties.
Tofu is derived from soya milk, curdled and pressed into solid blocks. It can offer close to 10g of protein per 100g. Tofu can be used in a number of ways. As its creation process from soya milk is not too dissimilar to how cheese is created from milk, tofu is often able to emulate dairy and even meat-based meals in texture and a viable protein source.
Summary: Can athletes be vegans?
Absolutely! However, it is absolutely vital that a vegan athlete is consuming the right level of macro nutrients. The above gives an overview of some of protein options available to everyday vegans. Whilst also relevant to athletes, in a similar capacity to a meat-based athlete, vegan athletes may want to consider supplements, using good plant-based protein powder, vegan branched chain amino acid, and an ethical multivitamin solution.