A common misconception amongst non-vegans is that the vegan diet is lacking in protein. This article quickly dispels that myth. While the list below is by no means comprehensive, it does cover the basic staples, with recipe tips that sound so mouthwatering they’ll have your omnivore friends drooling.
Tempeh, originating from Indonesian, is a traditional food made from fermented soybeans or grains. It comes in cake-like form, much like packs of tofu or meat, and its flavor is best described as earthy and slightly nutty, kind of like a mix between meat and mushroom, without the nasty greasiness.
Because tempeh is fermented, it’s easier to digest that seitan and just as versatile. The fermentation also helps neutralize some of the estrogenic effects of soy, making it a popular choice for bodybuilders and those sensitive to tofu. Because of its increasing popularity amongst vegans and even non-vegans, many organic food delivery services use tempeh as a one-on-one replacement in traditional meat dishes. Beef stroganoff? Move over, tempeh stroganoff with a cashew cream and nutty mushrooms is in town.
Protein Count: 21 grams per 4 oz. of soy tempeh, about equivalent to the protein count in chicken or beef
Recipe Tip: Sear it in coconut oil with smoked paprika and mix it with spinach, fresh spring strawberries, and sliced grapes. Drizzle with an olive oil vinaigrette and some avocado for an extra-filling meal.
2. Beans and Rice:
Oh, people that say being vegan is expensive really don’t know what they’re talking about. Beans and rice, traditional staples in Mexican cooking, combine to create a complete protein. White beans top the list when it comes to being highest in protein, with just over 17 grams per cup. Rice options are endless. Brown rice, sweet sticky white rice, wild rice, red rice, have your pick.
Protein Count: Most beans have at least 14 grams per cup, with white beans coming in first place.
Recipe Tip: Whip up some enchiladas using organic tortillas, sweet potatoes, paprika, chili peppers, beans, and rice. Top with enchilada sauce and a cashew cream sauce or vegan cheese for extra deliciousness.
3. Nutritional Yeast:
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated, nutrient-rich yeast that comes in either large yellow flakes or yellow powder form. It is the beloved baby of the vegan food and not without reason. Nutritional yeast is one of the few vegan sources of Vitamin B12, a vital nutrient usually found only in meat. Besides that, nutritional yeast also contains ALL nine essential amino acids and delivers a whopping dose of iron, selenium, thiamin, folate, riboflavin, zinc, and niacin. If that’s not a superfood, we don’t what is.
Protein Count: Nutritional yeast outdoes itself again by delivering a whopping 9 grams of protein per 2 tbsp.
Recipe Tip: The flavor of nutritional yeast is best described as slightly cheesy and rich. Sprinkle it on popcorn, add it to homemade “cream” cheeses made with cashews or other nuts, or mix it into your salads or pasta.
Spirulina is an algae found in the sea. Before you turn up your nose (as if its cool name shouldn’t be enough to attract you), take a look at the amazing array of health benefits spirulina offers. This algae lowers the chances of stroke, make help prevent cancer, and improves heart health. Spirulina is a complete protein, delivering all 9 essential amino acids, along with a hefty dose of iron and B Vitamins.
Protein Count: 4 grams per 1 tbsp. powdered
Recipe Tip: The taste of spirulina can be rather strong, especially if your source is top-quality, so blend it with something sweet like a banana, some avocado, almond milk, and stevia, coconut sugar, or maple syrup to create a delicious protein-packed smoothie.
The plant world is so versatile in what it has to offer; these protein sources are only the tip of the iceberg. Cashews, walnuts, pistachios, and other nuts are rich in essential fatty acids and protein to fuel you, while avocado is particularly a miracle food in itself. The adventure starts with that first bite.
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