Food

6 Complete Protein Food Sources Vegans Should Know About

Here’s a question all vegans are tired of hearing: “where do you get your protein?” We’ve been taught that meat is the best source of protein and that a healthy diet doesn’t exist without it.

So every traditional household abides by the rule that a serving of beef, pork, or fish is a must in every meal. It’s no wonder non-vegans still question the protein sufficiency of a plant-based diet.

According to the New Scientist, there are about 300,000 species of edible plants in the world. 170 of them are actually considered to be commonly eaten foods across different countries. With that many options, there should at least be one protein-filled fruit or vegetable in that list, right?

But here’s another argument that questions the effectivity of vegan nutrition: Animal proteins are complete, plant proteins aren’t

And the sad part is, this fact is absolutely true! Vegans hate to admit it but protein from meat is simply more potent than protein from plant sources. Among those 170 edible plants in the world, there are only a few vegan protein sources out there that are considered to be complete.

Animal Protein vs Plant Protein

Unlike most plant-based proteins, animal-sourced protein contains essential amino acids, which the body needs in order to achieve optimal health. Since our bodies can’t produce these amino acids, the only way of getting it into our system is through our diet.

So what can vegans do to counter this problem? No matter how much veggies one could eat in a meal, it still cannot compensate for the lack of amino acids in meat protein.

The next best thing is to include some plant-based complete proteins into one’s daily diet. Many do not know this but although the list is quite small, there are actually quite a handful of vegan-friendly foods that contain complete protein.

So vegans, do you really know where you can get your (complete) protein from? Read below to find out which vegan foods are the best sources of complete protein. So the next time someone asks you about your protein intake as a vegan, make sure to send them this list.

6 Vegan-Friendly Food Options With Complete Protein

Tempeh

Image Credits: Full of Plants

The first thing that usually comes to mind when talking about vegan protein is soy. Not only do they contain complete protein, but soy products also come in many different food variations. From tofu and miso to edamame and soy nuts, there are plenty of options to experiment with in the kitchen.

But if you’re looking for something richer in nutritional value, why not give tempeh a try?

Tempeh is an Indonesian staple food that is created by fermenting soybeans in banana leaves until a firm patty is formed. Its light nutty taste makes it compatible with plenty of homemade vegan recipes.

A 4-ounce serving of pork loin yields 29 grams of protein. But a serving of tempeh with equivalent portions will give you 21 grams of protein, cardiovascular benefits, and colon cancer prevention. The slight difference in protein content (and additional health benefits) makes tempeh one of the most viable meat substitutes for vegans.

Quinoa

Image by Edgar Castrejon for rawpixel.com

The correct pronunciation of quinoa isn’t the only thing that is often mistaken by many. Most people know quinoa to be a type of grain when it is actually a pseudo-cereal seed.

Don’t let the technical terms intimidate you. It simply means that quinoa shares the same texture as cereal or grains, despite being classified as a seed. In fact, some people may even say that quinoa is almost like a cross between brown rice and oatmeal. It’s creamy, fluffy, and it has a nutty flavor as well.

This superfood has a long ancient history dating back thousands of years ago. It was first discovered in the Andes Mountains and it didn’t take very long before it was given the title, “The Gold of the Incas”.

Perhaps the tan or yellow color had something to do with it, but its superior nutritive value was sure to reign no matter what color it was.

Today, quinoa remains a beloved food staple for many, especially among vegans. Apart from being gluten-free, it is also rich in minerals, vitamins, and of course, protein. A cup of quinoa would contain about 8.14 grams of protein which is plenty, coming from a handful of seeds.

Seitan

Image Credits: Brand New Vegan

Despite its evil-sounding name, seitan is actually an angel-in-disguise for a lot of vegans. It is a popular meat substitute that is made purely out of hydrated gluten, otherwise known as the main protein of wheat. In fact, other people may even refer to seitan as simply wheat gluten or wheat protein.

And as the name explicitly suggests, it is no question that seitan is rich in vegan protein.

Seitan is produced by simply kneading the wheat flour with water, creating sticky strands of gluten in the process. The dough is then rinsed off of starch and is then ready to be used for cooking.

Seitan may not be the best choice for those who experience gluten-intolerance. But for those who aren’t sensitive to gluten, seitan is definitely one of the more filling meat substitutes there are for vegans.

Ezekiel Bread

Image Credit: Healthline

Calling all bread-loving vegans out there: finally, there is such a thing as healthy bread. Compared to white bread, Ezekiel bread does not contain added sugar. And instead of wheat flour as the main ingredient, Ezekiel bread is made out of a variety of sprouted whole grains (millet, wheat, and barley) and legumes (soybeans and lentils).

In general, whole grains and legumes are already packed with protein. But because Ezekiel bread utilizes the sprouted kind, its nutritional value becomes a lot higher than your average grain or legume. Moreover, a loaf of Ezekiel bread is said to contain 18 amino acids — making it a complete source of protein as well.

Quorn

Image Credits: Quorn

n case you’re wondering, Quorn isn’t made out of corn — quite far from it actually. It is quite the controversial food and it isn’t just because of its name. Quorn is known to many as another type of meat substitute. But compared to other options in the market, this vegan food option is surprisingly NOT made out of plants at all…

Also known as mycoprotein, Quorn was first introduced to the public as mushroom protein. However, the more appropriate description would be to classify Quorn as a fungus. Yes, you’ve read that right; mycoprotein is defined as fermented fungus. But despite its unglamorous origins, it is without a doubt that Quorn is protein-rich — it’s in the name after all.

However, there were some reports of allergic reactions and digestive discomfort from those who were brave enough to try. Make sure to do a bit of research before ingesting mycoprotein to avoid unwanted accidents.

Spirulina

Image Credits: Healthline

If you’ve been paying close attention to the list of food options above, you might have realized that none of them are your standard vegetables. Some people may think that anything green can’t possibly contain complete protein, but that’s where they’re wrong!

If you’re looking for a lean, green complete protein, spirulina is the best answer. Considered to be a superfood and a popular dietary supplement for vegans, spirulina is the definition of a perfect protein. This means that it contains all 12 essential amino acids that your body needs for optimal health. But that doesn’t end there…

Did you know that spirulina is actually 60% protein? 100 grams of red meat will give you about 28 grams of protein but 100 grams of spirulina will give you 57! Not only is it ultra-healthy but spirulina is also a very sustainable protein source. Compared to meat production, spirulina does not impact the environment negatively. How’s that for a vegan source of protein?

Final Thoughts

In the end, balance is what matters most in a vegan diet. It’s easy to assume that having a diet filled with fruits and veg is the healthiest way to live. But it’s also important to keep track of one’s nutrition as well. It’s time to pay attention to just how much vitamins and minerals you get every day.

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