Veganism is growing, with more and more people signing up for Veganuary every year. This is unsurprising given that a plant-based diet is associated with a number of health benefits, from supporting weight loss, to reducing cholesterol in overweight peopl. However, as animal products are omitted, it is frequently believed that it is challenging to get enough protein.
The UK government suggests that the average adult requires 45-55g protein a da. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids, of which there are 9 essential ones that our bodies cannot synthesise, meaning it is important to get them from our food.
Protein is critical for the body, not only to grow and maintain muscle mass, but also to synthesise hormones and repair tissues. Research has also shown that protein-based meals help us to feel fuller for longer; great if you are trying to lose weight.
The key to getting enough protein is to try and consume a variety of sources with every meal. This will also help ensure you consume all essential amino acids as many plant-based foods do not contain them.
Whether you are interested in fully converting to veganism, or simply looking to make a few savvy swaps, we cover some top vegan protein sources and tips here on how to add them to your diet.
Beans and lentils are generally good plant sources of protein. However, chickpeas are arguably the most diverse bean.
At 18g per 100g, adding chickpeas to your meals can help increase protein content. Canned chickpeas can be used in salads and hummus. Additionally, chickpeas can replace flour in desserts such as blondies.
Chickpea flour boasts 22g protein per 100g and can replace part of the flour in bread, or used to make vegan frittatas.
Need a snack? Roasted, spiced chickpeas make for a great portable snack on the go.
Not only do chickpeas also contain fibre, folate and zinc; an 80g portion counts as 1 of your 5-a-day, making them a nutritious staple food for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Many types of tofu exist, though all are made from soybeans and contain between 10-20 g protein per 100g.
Tofu can be bought plain or marinated. As tofu is flavourless it can take on the flavour of any spices and herbs added to it, making it a great addition to different meals.
Silken tofu can be used to make desserts such as chocolate tarts, soft tofu to make a scramble, while firm tofu and tempeh can be used as a meat replacement in stir frys and chilli con carne.
Tempeh has the additional benefit of being a fermented food. Such foods contain bacteria strains that are associated with a healthy gut and therefore may help support digestive functions and regulate inflammation.
Tofu is also low in fat and calories and therefore may be a useful protein source when trying to lose weight.
Shelled, also known as de-hulled, hemp seeds or hearts are an easy and nutritious addition to meals to increase protein content. Containing more than 30g of protein per 100g, adding 1 tablespoon to your porridge or salad providesan additional 3g protein.
One tablespoon of hemp seeds also provides more than 10% of the Zinc RNI. This is handy, as zinc intake in vegans is often inadequate as this mineral is mostly found in non-vegan foods such as seafood.
Vegans are also at risk of inadequate omega 3 intake as this group of essential fatty acids are mostly found in fish. Hemp seeds offer a source of ALA, a type of omega 3. This fatty acid is necessary in promoting brain health and sufficient intake has also been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Pronounced ‘sey-tan’, this meat replacement is made from gluten. It is produced by washing wheat flour to remove the dough so only the proteins associated with gluten are left.
Similar to tofu, the flavourless taste makes this protein source an easy addition to meals as it can be marinated to your preference with herbs and spices. Seitan is often touted as having a texture similar to meat and therefore can be fried and used to make vegan steaks and stews.
Seitan contains 10-20g protein per 100g; however, unlike tofu, it does not contain all essential amino acids.
As a wheat product, seitan should be avoided if you suffer from gluten intolerance or sensitivities.
Known as a complete protein for containing all essential amino acids, quinoa contains 5g protein per 100g cooked. Quinoa is most commonly found in its white variety; however, red and black quinoa also exist and offer a nuttier flavour.
Quinoa is also a source of complex carbohydrates and fibre and is referred to as a wholegrain. The unique nutritional profile of quinoa therefore provides energy while reducing blood sugar spikes due to its low glycaemic load.
Cooked in a similar way to rice, quinoa is a gluten free pseudo-grain often used to replace rice or couscous in dishes. Quinoa can also be stirred through salads, used to make porridge, and in vegan burgers.