I come from a family that loves meat and dairy. Sound familiar?
My dad is an avid bow hunter. My mother is down with Paula Dean. My brother and I were certainly a product of them. That is, I freaking loved meat and cheese. Upon challenging myself to be vegan, I had to re-educate myself about what food was good for me. Being disgustingly close to a scientist/vegan makes for delicious amounts of good information.
Ultimately the question from my family is always — always — “How do you get your protein?” Without going into an anthropological diatribe reminding you and them how our LCA likely survived best on nuts and plants gathered rather than from the often rotten scavenged meats the males would kill themselves to get, I will throw down a quick list of vegan goodies that are high in protein.
Peas are the overlooked powerhouse of the western diet. Not only are they jam packed with vitamins and minerals your body craves, but they offer a generous dose of protein to keep you strong like young bull (5.9g/100g). Protip : Stay away from canned peas… or canned anything for that matter.
They don’t just make you toot; they make you strong. A cup of cooked beans can yield 12g of protein. That’s pretty gangster if you ask me. I prefer black beans when I get the choice (read : when cooking). I like the flavor more than green beans, and I stay away from refried beans. While that seems limiting, the nutritional benefit is nothing to scoff at and there are loads of ways to prepare them.
I had to put these separately as they provide such an insane amount of protein. 68g per cup, is what I’m reading. Unreal. I also had to put this separately as I know some folks who are allergic to soy. That really really really sucks.
I love lentils. Lentil soup is amazing. Lentils with rice and quinoa is killer. What’s more is how they provide such an unreal amount of nutritional substance. 18g protein per cup? Yes please. Protip : If you sprout lentils before consumption (soak for more than 8 hours) you get all of the essential amino acids. By themselves.
Here’s a fun one. Pumpkin seeds can provide 74g protein per cup. Eat them like sunflower seeds and crack the shell. Or eat them whole when cooking them in something. Better still, grind/blend up the seeds and make the pasty substance into something delicious!
Nuts are awesome for protein, but the consequence for all that delicious flavor is a lot of extra fat and whatnot (20g protein per cup, but 48.11g fat too). That’s not to say that one should avoid nuts, but if looking for a lean way to get protein, nuts should be used sparingly. Almonds are a solid go-to and are now made into all sorts of goodies.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have asparagus. Not a lot of fat, but not a whopping amount of protein either (2.95g protein per cup, .16g fat per cup /underwhelmed). But consider that the human body isn’t meant to get 200g protein a day, folks. Rather, the average should be somewhere around 50-60g for men, 40-50g for the ladies. Then again, I’m not a nutritionist, and these numbers vary on height and weight. This should give you a nice jumping off point, though.
By being vegan, you don’t have to sacrifice protein. In fact, you shouldn’t. Your body effing needs it. I hope this post helps point you to the threshold of the myriad of options you have as a vegan to get your protein. Protein doesn’t just come from milk, cheese, eggs, meat. Some of the best protein comes from anything but meat and dairy. That said, this is not a comprehensive list by any means. There are loads of other protein sources out there. What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.
Peas out, my vegans.