The most common misconception out there is that you have to consume meat in order to get enough protein. You don’t! There may be a lot of protein in meat, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist anywhere else. In fact, vegans simply do what cows, pigs, sheep and chickens do; we go directly to the source. Green vegetables (the superstars are kale, broccoli, seaweed, and peas), beans and pulses (lentils, lima, edamame, pinto, black), grains (brown rice, pasta, quinoa, bulgur) and nuts (brazils, peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios and walnuts) are all excellent sources of protein.
Protein is needed for healthy enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and to build and repair muscles but how much of it do we need? That depends on gender, age and activity levels, and online calculators can give a precise figure for you. As an example, we’ll take a 30-year-old woman, not pregnant, who is active (defined as engaging in one hour per day of walking or jogging, or 30 minutes a day of running). Her requirement is 47 grams of protein a day. (For an active man of similar age, the requirement is 56 grams.)
If she were to eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast, one hummus and falafel wrap, and a Shepherd’s pie (made with soya mince) for dinner, she would easily exceed her required protein intake. And that’s before she adds in the dairy-free milk she puts in her tea, some bread with her soup, the green vegetables with her dinner (4g in a serving of broccoli; 5g in peas), or the soya milkshake, cereal bar or handful of nuts she has as a snack.
These are the kinds of protein levels in everyday vegan meals:
Peanut butter on toast (2 pieces) 15g
Typical cereal with soya yoghurt and a handful of nuts 13g
Porridge with a sprinkle of almonds or seeds 12g
Three bean salad wrap (2 wraps) 18g
Beans on toast (2 pieces) 17g
Hummus and falafel wrap (3 falafels, one wraps) 15g
Tofu and vegetable stir fry with brown rice 32g
Linda McCartney sausages (2), potato and peas 26g
Shepherd’s Pie, made with soya mince 20g
Other great protein-rich vegan foods to look out for are seitan (an incredible 30g of protein per serving!) and tempeh, quinoa, and cashew or almond nut butters. But there is protein in almost all everyday foods, including pasta, potatoes and vegetables, and so it is virtually impossible to go short of it. Body builders looking to increase their intake for significant muscle gain may choose one of the many vegan protein powders on the market, and incorporate it into their diets via protein shakes or protein balls.