If you thought eating protein as a vegan was all about lentils, beans, and more lentils…think again. Not only is the ‘vegans don’t get enough protein’ myth unfounded, but the idea that plant-based diets lack easy and healthy sources of protein is totally untrue, too.
As a plant eater, it’s actually super easy to get more than enough protein into your daily diet without emptying your wallet on ingredients you’ve never heard of (let alone know how to cook with) in overpriced health stores.
Intrigued? Let us walk you through our five favourite vegan-friendly foods that deliver enough protein to make a body builder consider making the switch – and that you can find on the shelves of your local supermarket. And bear in mind that adults should eat at least 0.8g of protein for every 1kg of body weight, or 10-35% of their calorie intake.
1. Nutritional yeast
10 years ago most of us had never even heard of nutritional yeast, but for many vegans it’s now become a dietary staple. As well as its pleasing cheesy and nutty notes that add flavour to pasta, sauces, and buddha bowls, it’s also rich in protein and other essential nutrients.
Deliciously savoury nutritional yeast contains 8g protein and 3g fibre for every 16g used – that’s about 1.5 tablespoons. And be sure to buy the fortified variety, as that’s also high in B Vitamins, zinc, and magnesium.
2. Green peas
Who knew that just 1 cup (160g) of green peas contained almost 9g protein?! This same quantity also offers over 25% of your daily fibre as well as iron, zinc, and Vitamins A, B, C, and K. Do we even need to say more to encourage you to eat your veggies?!
The best thing about peas (other than their vibrant colour) is their versatility. You don’t just have to eat them as a side to your main meal – blend them into soups, smash them into guacs, and cook them into pasta sauces for a quick and easy hit of protein and more.
3. Wild rice
Unlike white rice, wild rice is one of the best sources of protein in your pantry. One cooked cup or 164g wild rice contains almost 7g of protein – that’s 1.5 times more than brown, basmati, and other long grain rice.
Wild rice is also high in fibre, magnesium, and B Vitamins, and is healthier than other types of rice because it still contains bran. This does mean it needs to be washed and boiled for longer than other varieties, but when you’re packing in all that extra health we think you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.
Thanks to Popeye the Sailor, we all know that spinach is packed full of iron and (supposedly) good for our muscles. But did you know that this leaf green is just as rich in protein? In fact, 50% of the calories in spinach come from protein, and 25g (1 cup ) contains 0.7g of protein alongside Vitamins A, C, and K, magnesium, calcium, and essential amino acids.
Making the simple switch from other, less nutritionally valuable greens like iceberg lettuce to spinach could provide up around 3g protein in just one salad. It’s also been shown to reduce oxidative stress, relieve inflammation, and improve heart health. We’re beginning to wonder why we ever invested our time in other salad leaves!
We don’t know about you, but we’ll be shoving handfuls of spinach into our smoothies, peas into our salads, and wild rice into our curry bowls from now on.
Between oatmeal and oat milk, you can get a good start on your daily protein intake just by eating breakfast. And all thanks to the humble oat. 40g of oats equates to roughly 5g protein, and they also pack an extra health punch with 4g fibre alongside zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and folate.
Sprinkle oats over your salad, use them to bulk up your veggie burger, and grind them into flour for a healthier alternative to other common grains like wheat. Simply opt for gluten-free oats if you need to.