The most common question I get from animal meat & dairy eaters is probably “Where do vegans get their protein from?”. The short answer is grains, nuts, vegetables & fruit…plus a little help from some of our processed favorites from time to time. I’ve heard from many people asking how I can live without meat or dairy and resolved to doing it vicariously through me because it seems nearly impossible to some of them. In order to properly put this topic “to bed”, I thought it would be best to share a more factual and historical perspective on the topic. Many Americans (even me in my pre-vegan life) are accustomed to the need to fill their plates with meat and even vegetarians feeling the need to add animal milk or cheese in order to feel “full”. Growing up in Ohio, my diet used to consist of the same nutrition my family had which looked like a single animal-based meat source, about 1-2 vegetable sides, and a carbohydrate like a dinner roll or pasta noodles to “balance it out” for dinner. As I got older and wanted to reach for more vegetables and less carbs, I slowly started to understand the value plants really bring to the table and started becoming less interested in meat and dairy. This is because I had a serious interest in nutrition and the role it can play in my health, but also because something in my heart didn’t feel right or natural about consuming flesh or animal by-products anymore.
I’ll go more into the full scope ethical consequences of consuming animal products in a separate post, but will stick mainly to the topic of why plant-based protein is a healthier option in this article because it is such a controversial topic. While the general consensus is that we should all incorporate more plants into our diets in order to lead healthier lives, the idea of completely removing animal protein sources has become so taboo. So, why is that? Let’s break it down from one animal to the next…
Marketing & Misleading Health Claims
After first going vegan in 2018, I was met with wide scrutiny by many nutrition shops I visited shortly after, who didn’t believe plants were as effective as mainstream products containing dairy (and other animal-based elements like gelatin…more on that later). I had wondered was still so strongly believed after the research I had done on my own. But, I specifically remember seeing posters of athletes and models in school proudly brandishing their “milk mustache” with the famous “Got Milk” slogan. What I didn’t know at the time was that this marketing campaign was created in 1993 (coincidentally the year I was born), by the Goodby Silverstein & Partners ad agency on behalf of the California Milk Processor Board. This campaign would later be licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers all across the US. Ads compared the benefits of milk to sugary processed drinks like pop and were to make dairy a high-interest item instead of a “staple” in their lives. However, the campaign started to fizzle out after many consumers in the 90s and 2000s stopped purchasing milk as much and dairy companies realized their marketing wasn’t working (Source).
It’s not surprising when you think about the changes that happened during this time. There were more national anti-smoking laws passed and campaigns to reduce public smoking (Source). Consequently, the US nation became increasingly more concerned about the health effects tied to products including food and beverages. As more Americans became concerned about the risks of consuming antibiotics and hormones through cow’s milk and even meats, big dairy companies started to switch gears and recommend “organic” brands which coincidentally came at a higher price than previous versions claiming zero hormones, antibiotics and (most outrageously) humane “free range” farming practices. What’s not commonly known about the dairy industry though is that 65% of the world’s adult population is unable to break lactose which results in a condition known as lactose intolerance. It can lead to more acne and has been linked to higher risks of developing cancer, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, and even weaker bones (despite the campaign that shamelessly states “milk builds strong bones” (Source).
Another notable drop in the 90s was the consumption of eggs per average consumer in America. This is because more individuals became concerned about their dietary cholesterol intake and potential Salmonella Enteritidis risk. At its core, men were still supporting the egg industry as a source of “protein” much like full-fat dairy milk and bread. However, more women were making the distinction consuming more skim milk, chicken, vegetables & fruits (Source). In the 2002, the United Egg Producers (UEP) launched their own guidelines on hen care in conventional cage housing. UEP launched cage-free guidelines in 2006 as consumer interest in “organic” and more “humane” practices continued to rise. After the fright of avian influenza affected several Midwestern farms in 2015, brought on more questions from consumers to this industry forcing farmers to answer more questions about the quality life of hens under their care and attention (Source).
As the years went on, more substantial studies came out linking the fat & cholesterol found in eggs being high contributors to heart disease. In fact, one study found that the group of people who ate the most eggs had 80% higher coronary artery calcium scores (a measure of heart disease risk) compared with those who ate the fewest eggs. Eating a diet high in fat can also contribute to insulin resistance with one study linking them to a 39% higher risk of developing diabetes if they eat them just 2-3 times per week. Contrary to what many major health organizations pitch about them being a beneficial food during pregnancy, eating eggs increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes. Egg consumption has also been connected to developing colon, rectal & prostate cancer (Source).
In 1992, the “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner” campaign was launched with funding from Beef Checkoff, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). The ads much like the “Got Milk” campaign, featured famous celebrity voice overs and the iconic “Hoe-Down” music from Rodeo. Companies like Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s used provocative ads to entice consumers to eat more meat. The idea was that if they could sexualize the meat industry, more men would opt to buy-in. It wasn’t until 2017, that Carl’s Jr. finally stopped using that marketing tactic after more men were concerned about the source of the beef than women in bikinis (Source). Hence, marketing of Angus beef came about from CJ and other companies including Burger King to give consumers more variety and a generalized answers about their sourcing although the term “Angus” does not imply that the beef is organic, natural or of any higher grade than any other type of beef. It’s simply another “brand” of animal based meat (Source).
Eventually, the rise of more grass-fed, “organic” animal meats became the next marketing phase much like the dairy industry to convince consumers that eating meat is still healthy and can be done humanely. The hard truth is that grass-fed cows’ diets actually contain more cellulose fibre compared to grain fed, requiring more fermentation to break down the grass, causing two to four times more methane to be released from the cows directly (no matter how they are raised & slaughtered, the process is going to produce extreme amounts of methane)… It is also not as humane as you might think because in the US, grass-fed cows don’t need to graze and may remain locked in a feedlot & fed on grass pellets. You can read more about this and the negative effects of grass-fed cow’s meat production here. What’s even worse is that multiple studies show evidence that eating red meat regularly may shorten your lifespan. An accumulation of research has linked it to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and various types of cancer much like other animal protein sources (Source).
America also has a long-winded love/hate relationship with chicken meat. The formerly subtly named National Broiler Council (NBC) rebranded as the National Chicken Council (NCC) after the industry seemed to fall into a slump in the 1950s to help promote chicken consumption. Soon after, they started launching national programs, sharing “comfort food” dishes (i.e. fried chicken, biscuits, gravy) to push consumers to rely on their animal based product to “complete the meal”. They then partnered with brand-name companies using dairy, like Bisquick and eventually landed on “National Chicken Month”. When that sales influx started to die down, in the 60s, it was finally branded as a “high-protein, low-calorie” option for consumers in comparison to other animal based meats to sound like the lesser of the other evils. Not too long before this, they created a government liaison committee to help them stay on top of “developments in Washington” that could affect their marketing and sales…. However, to their surprise, in the 70s the Johnson administration went after them asking for more regulation and they eventually fought Nixon’s administration on price controls imposed. The solution to the shortages created by wage & price controls was to drown, gass, or suffocate millions of baby chicks at the time because they were “no longer profitable” (Source). Ironically, soon after EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) were formed, the industry shifted its focus on contests like the National Chicken Cooking Contest to gain more positive public reputation. As more brand names came into the market, they took over the major advertising for chicken consumption although they continue to promote it in “general”. The programs they run are now sponsored by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.
Most recently, you’ve probably heard of “Chicken Wars” with companies like KFC, Popeyes, & Wendy’s giving consumers the idea that they should be proud in their decision to consume a better “protein”. It seemed to help further the normalization while truly ignoring the health repercussions their products came with. Afterall, they are fast food companies and many unknowing consumers don’t seem to care… However, more shameful tactics came long before this in the 90s when “Eat Mor Chikin” first appeared on an Atlanta, GA billboard sparking the trend that still continues on today. The basis of this campaign was to shift consumers (once again) away from consuming cow’s beef and towards chicken meat. They shamelessly used cows in their marketing, ironically humanizing them to drive more consumers to think it was more ethical to support a company sacrificing chickens for a quick meal. They even took it a step further by creating Cow Appreciation day, celebrating customers who show up in cow costume “showing their spots”, by offering a free sandwich… They just celebrated the 20 year anniversary and it’s still hard to believe they are dissing the beef industry with their own hypocrisy, misleading consumers all along the way. Contrary to what the public has been largely told, poultry can have the same impact on cholesterol as red meat (Source). What’s more is that tests conducted on raw chicken purchased across the U.S. have found that 97% of tested chicken breast samples contained bacteria including E. coli, Enterococcus, and Salmonella regardless of the brand or system in which they are raised (Source). The FDA has even admitted and it has been thoroughly proven by scientific professionals that chicken meat is filled with arsenic, a highly poisonous chemical that is 4x more toxic than mercury (Source). They continue to convince the public that it is still safe, but experts have issued an official warning about arsenic and fetal damage (Source). The smoking gun here really comes from the fact that once again, the terms “free-range” & “organic” may come at a higher price than you think… contamination and a greater risk of contracting Salmonella (Source).
Fish have been consumed for ages, even dating back to prehistory, as humans discovered how to exploit aquatic resources. Initially, the impacts were minimal until technology became more sophisticated causing a severe depletion of wild fish populations. Over the years, the focus was moved from basic necessity to scaling profits (Source). Many people have been led to believe that fish are a “healthier” option because of their high omega-3s, low fat & calorie content. However, consuming fish also poses its own unique risks. In fact, seafood is the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States (Source). It can cause extreme discomfort, kidney/nervous system damage, and can even be fatal to some. This can be from a number of issues including polluted waters, contamination at processing/transportation/retail/vendor (i.e. schools or restaurants)… or even your own home. It’s important to remember that your food is to be handled by someone before it makes its way to you, and fish is the most sensitive of all animal meats due to its demands for proper preservation & temperature leaving much up to question in between processing and your plate (Source).
Aside from food handling & seafood poisoning, the most common concern with seafood comes with mercury. Mercury is a naturally occurring element found in soil, water, and consequently in many of the products we consume today. In large amounts, consuming this toxic metal can be poisonous to humans. Methylmercury (organic mercury) poisoning is most widely linked to eating seafood because of their aquatic nature. All types of fish are known to contain some amount of mercury. Think of it this way…the larger the fish you consume, the more mercury is is likely to contain (i.e. sharks, Bigeye tuna, marlin & king mackerel are basically “the motherload” of toxins). Pregnant & nursing women are advised not to eat large amounts of fish because the exposure can be fatal (Source). Fish also contain some of the highest levels of dioxins contrary to plants, water, & air. Short term exposure to high levels can result in skin lesions (i.e. patchy darkening of the skin) and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to compromisation of the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system & reproductive functions (Source). If you’re still wondering if shellfish are safe, there’s a reason the rule of thumb for many people is to only consume wild oysters & other shellfish during summer months because warm water fuels blooms of phytoplankton that contain toxins. Those substances cannot be broken down rapidly or eliminated from the body, so they become concentrated in tissue as shellfish filter feed on microorganisms suspended in water. Shellfish also carry the risk of consuming saxitoxin, a natural substance produced by certain types of plankton (dinoflagellates & diatoms). Paralysis is then caused by the toxin blocking the mechanism by which neural impulses are generated in our nerve fibers (axons) and consequently halters sodium channels in neuronal membranes from functioning. In short, the consumption of these types of foods poses a risk to our nervous system with the potential of brain damage (Source).
The Bottom Line
If you’ve read this far, you might have started to see a trend that the companies launching these campaigns and regulations were in response to lack of consumer trust. They are directly funded by the individuals who benefit from the profits. Each time Americans seemed to catch onto what they were really doing, they formed larger coalitions with more farmers with the same goal: to sell more product. What individuals need to understand about this is that these campaigns ignored the effects of their products long-term that were directly linked to health disorders like obesity, high cholesterol & blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer…(remind you of anyone?…perhaps the tobacco industry?). What’s worse is that corporate giants in the dairy industry cover their tracks by largely fund associations like the American Heart Association (Source) who in turn, heavily promote the use of their products. You won’t find their biggest sponsors listed on their site, so you’ll have to do digging to see what other large scale health organizations are misleading consumers.
Fortunately, leaders inspired to shine light on the truth like filmmaker, Kip Anderson, are producing documentaries like “What The Health” and “Cowspiracy” are exposing more instances of this contradictory “pay-to-play” system. The most damning information shared was that although numerous studies have been published on the links between animal-based meat consumption and cancer, the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association still promote their use in recipes. For someone who has personally been touched by cancer through a number of family members, including breast cancer, it’s disturbing to find that the Susan G. Komen foundation has no warning about dairy products, while still being one of the most widely known campaigns against the disease itself. Even before this, I had long doubted the campaign… finding little progress from their organization although the number of “Think Pink” items became more popular to purchase regardless of their own health effects (i.e. “Promise Me” perfume containing unlisted chemicals labeled as toxic & hazardous) (Source).
I’ve spoken to a lot of skeptics who thought it was a “good idea” to try veganism for a short time, but not very practical to keep up in their daily lives, especially in regard to regulating their protein consumption. Some even did a hybrid model of a diet that consisted of vegan 75% of the time, but supplemented with meats like fish or dairy products the rest of the time to get their protein. I even met a girl who labeled herself as “vegan” but ate chicken… The concept of being a part-time vegan wasn’t it for me because I was in doing it for the animals. However, I was still on the search to see why it was so difficult to let go of this concept that we needed to consume animals in order to get adequate amounts of protein even after the overwhelming source of information available showed that incorporating more natural sources from plants showed significant health improvements. I realized that the information was quickly dismissed as “background noise” because most of the nation is not living vegan. Unless you have an interest in this topic, you likely haven’t conducted enough research to see why it’s important to step back and make unpopular decisions for yourself when it comes to your health. Many of the myths related to vegan protein sources can easily be debunked, the hard part is looking past the culture you were raised in to find the benefits for yourself.
Myth #1: Vegan Athletes Cannot Perform Well Without Animal Based Protein
Many people have told me, “If [insert famous athlete] can be so healthy, why would I want to change?”. What might surprise you is that some of the most successful athletes in the world are proud vegans including: American tennis player Venus Williams who earned 5 Wimbledon titles and 4 Olympics Golds, NFL player Tony Gonzalez who played for a total of 17 seasons and is still relevant as ever starring as an analyst on Fox NFL’s pregame show, British Boxer David Haye who earned world titles in 2 weight categories and has won 3/4 major boxing world titles at cruiserweight making him one of the successful vegan athletes of his time, UFC Fighter Nate Diaz who reportedly can go in the ring for 25 minutes without showing fatigue making him the most successful vegan athlete to step into the ring…even stopping Connor McGregor in UFC 196 with a rear-naked choke in the second round, World Skier Heather Mills who is known as “the fastest disabled woman on the plant” eating a WFPB (Whole Foods Plant Based) diet, American Weightlifter Kendrick Farris who finishing 11th in his weight class at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, American Long Distance Runner Scott Jurek who won 16 prestigious ultramarathon titles and is one of the first vegan athletes known to the public (since ’97, baby!), England’s Beloved Footballer Jermain Defoe who gained fame for his score rate of over 150 Premier League Goals, (my personal favorite) World Famous German Bodybuilder Patrick Baboumian who earned the title of “Strongest Man of Germany” and broke the world record for the yoke walk by carrying 550kg for a distance of 10 meters (only to break his own record again in 2015 by carrying 560kg!!) and even Formula 1 Driver Lewis Hamilton who is a four-time world champion and made the switch in 2017 making him relatively new, but another successful vegan athletes (Source).
Myth #2: Finding Plant Based Proteins Is Difficult & Meals Take Longer
Another common misconception is that eating only plant based proteins is difficult or more time consuming to prepare. In fact, grocery trips are more simple when you are focusing only on plant based protein sources including fruits, nuts & vegetables. It helps you take out the guesswork on common questions like: “How much fat does this item have?”, is this “organic”, “How long will this stay good in my fridge…or should I freeze it?”. Items in the produce section are clearly marked, so it’s easy to tell what it’ll take to come up with a healthy meal. Of course, this requires some research beforehand to learn what plant based items carry the highest amounts of protein…but it’s easy to balance your macros when you know what you’re looking for. You can even consume many natural plant based protein sources raw, saving you time in the kitchen, and giving you unstripped nutrients straight from the source (Source). While you should always be worried about food safety, your cooking time is greatly reduced when preparing vegetables because you aren’t focusing on internal temperatures to reduce the risk of food poisoning that comes with undercooked animal meats. You simply cook to taste or whatever texture the recipe calls for. Generally, it takes about 5-15 minutes to cook up individual plant based proteins on average. Another nice thing to know is that you no longer have to worry about taking time out of your day to de-thaw animal based meats whether you use the old fridge method or an alternative like warm water or the dreaded microwave…frozen veggies saute up quite nicely eliminating the need to dethaw. The only time I find myself in that situation is if I’m choosing a plant based alternative that’s close to the texture of animal meat and comes from the freezer section such as Tofurk’y or Beyond Grounds. There are also plenty of ready-to-eat meals on the market that are 100% vegan and can help you with the proper breakdown of macros if you’re on a tighter schedule, don’t like to cook, or are just getting started on a plant based diet.
Myth #3: Relying Only On Plant Based Proteins Is More Expensive
The last thing to put to bed about using plants as your main source of protein is that it is an expensive ordeal. Eating “healthier” in general is more expensive so it all depends on the cost you want to put on your health (buying organic, opting for processed/junk foods, or sticking to mostly fruits & veggies). The good news is that many vegans save on grocery trips because the cost per pound on most plants can’t hold a candle to the price of your average pound of animal based protein which sits at a minimum of $2.70 to upwards of $8.48 (Source). What’s even better is that when you are eating out, plant based dishes usually come with a little price deduction because the ingredients are easier to store, cook, and purchase. Of course, if you are looking for chicken’s egg/cow’s milk replacements or vegan ‘cheeze’, guac, it might cost you a little extra…especially if the place is new to the concept of plant based options. But overall, your bill will usually be a lot cheaper than choosing a Maine lobster or sirloin steak. If you haven’t noticed, prices usually drop under the vegan section at sushi restaurants too, so your avocado roll will run you a lot less than the “surf n’ turf”! When cooking at home, aside from fresh veggies, grains and beans usually come at a very low price…especially if you like to buy in bulk. You can also buy canned foods like chickpeas, black beans, jackfruit, and artichoke to incorporate into your dishes to be your main source of protein in a dish (think shredded chickpea sandwiches, burrito bowls, street tacos, & pizzas).
Myth #4: A Plant Based Protein Diet Is Unsafe
The last thing to people are under the assumption that relying only on plant based proteins is unsafe due to potential nutrient deficiency. It’s important to remember that this can happen under any type of diet you’re on whether it be vegan, meat-based, keto, and even intermittent fasting plans. However, preparing meals that focus on a balanced diet and foods that help you feel full, you are able to look at the “bigger picture” and a plant based diet can actually help you avoid overconsumption of protein…yes, that really happens! (Source) The recommended intake for a healthy adult is 46 grams of protein per day for women and 56 grams for men. However, Americans are getting more than enough in their daily diets…adding up to a whopping 100 grams which is roughly twice those recommendations. It’s easy to hyperfocus on protein consumption and think “more is better than not enough” on any type of diet… Because most individuals in the US aren’t predominately vegan or vegetarian, it’s important to remember that while you consume animal based proteins, you are still getting plant based protein sources in your sides & daily snacks without realizing it (potatoes, peanut butter, breads, etc.). Because excess protein is stored as fat while the surplus of amino acids is excreted in the digestion process, this can lead to weight gain over time. It can also lead to bad breath and constipation if you are restricting your carbohydrate intake (i.e. 2/3 of your plate is made up of protein). On the flipside, if you are consuming too much dairy or processed food, it can lead to diarrhea. Other side effects of an unhealthy amount of protein consumption can lead to dehydration, kidney damage, increased cancer risk, heart disease, and a calcium deficiency (Source). Plant based proteins provide a wider variety of nutrients than animal sources without many of the side effects. In fact, some studies show that a plant based diet can aid in the reversal of chronic illnesses (Source). When you are getting proper nutrition, the results will follow you in your everyday life and improve over time. If you are just getting started on a plant based journey, I would recommend tracking your food intake daily for the first few weeks to ensure you are consuming enough calories, protein, carbs, and fat. Every person’s needs are different depending on sex, age, and activity level.
Natural Plant Based Protein Sources
Now that you understand common the marketing history of animal-based sources and common misconceptions, it’s time to share some natural plant based protein sources you can reach for. You’ll also find a handy list of processed sources you can use for healthier swaps in your diet. Protein levels vary based on the type of foods you choose in each category under natural sources. Each item is measured by the closest ounce (28g) to help you understand the relative amount in each food by comparison. Foods like vegetables, beans & grains are typically consumed in 1/2 to 1 cup amounts, so their values will be significantly higher than what is listed below. Processed sources are as close to realistic serving amounts as listed on their packages, so you can take them as is.
For a quick reference, 1 cup is equal to 8 oz. This means if you want to calculate the amount for a 1/2 cup serving, you can multiply the protein amount listed below by 4 and multiply by 8 for a 1 cup serving (i.e. 1 cup of wild rice provides 32g protein, 1/2 cup of kidney beans equals 28g of protein and 1/2 cup of almonds or cashews serves up a whopping 20 g of protein).
Fun fact: Broccoli contains more protein per calorie than steak and spinach is actually equal to chicken or fish sources (Source).
- Nuts – almonds (5g protein per 28g) , peanuts (7g protein per 28.4g) , walnuts (4.3g protein per 28.4g) , cashews (5g protein per 28.4g) , pistachios (6g protein per 28.4g), pecans (2g protein per 28.4g), hazelnuts (4.2g protein per 28.4g), brazil nuts (4.1g protein per 28.4g), pine nuts (3.9g protein per 28.4g) , chestnuts (.6g protein per 28.4g), macadamia nuts (2.2g protein per 28.4g)
- Seeds – pepitas (5g protein per 28.g) , chia seeds (4.7g protein per 28.4g), hemp seeds (9.47g protein per 30g) , flax seeds (5.2g for 28.3g), sesame seeds (5g protein per 28.3g), sunflower seeds (6g protein per 28.3g)
- Beans – chickpeas (5.4g protein per 28.3g), edamame (3g protein per 28.3g), black beans (2.5g protein per 28g) , pinto beans (6.1g protein per 28.3g), kidney beans (7g protein per 28.3g), green peas (1.5g per 28.3g), soy beans (10g protein per 28.3g), butter beans (2.2g per 28.3g), fava beans (2g protein per 28.3g), lima beans (2.2g protein per 28.3g), green beans (.5g protein per 28.3g)
- Lentils – brown lentils (6g protein per 28g), red (2.25g protein per 28g), green lentils (6g protein per 28g), yellow lentils (2.25g protein per 28g), black beluga lentils (3g protein per 28g), French or puy lentils(6.5g protein per 28g)
- Grains – quinoa (3.71g protein per 28g), brown rice (.7g protein per 28g), white rice (.5g protein per 28g), wild rice (4g protein per 28g), oats (1.3g protein per 28g), couscous (.75g protein per 28g) amaranth (.6g protein per 28g), millet (1g protein per 28g), buckwheat (3.76g protein per 28g), barley (4g protein per 28g) bulgur (3g protein per 28g), spelt (4g protein per 28g), teff (1.2g protein per 28g), cornmeal (.5g protein per 28g)
- Vegetables – potatoes (.7g protein per 28g), broccoli (.8g protein per 28g), kale (.94g per 28g), collard greens (.9g protein per 28g), spinach (.81g) mushrooms (.9g protein per 28.3g), brussels sprouts (1g protein per 28.3g), green peas (2g protein per 28.3g), white sweet corn (.9g protein per 28.3g), sweet potato (.4g protein per 28.3g), russet potatoes (.6g protein per 28g.3g), asparagus (.7g protein per 28.3g), avocado (.6g protein per 28.3g), artichokes (.9g protein per 28.3g), carrots (.26g protein per 28.3g), swiss chard (.5g protein per 28.3g)
- Fruits– guava (.7g protein per 28.3g), jackfruit (.42g protein per 28.3g), kiwi (.3g protein per 28.3g), apricot (.4g protein per 28.3g), blackberries (.4g protein per 28.3g), raspberries (.3g protein per 28.3g), grapes (.2g protein per 28.3g), oranges (.3g protein per 28.3g), bananas (.3g protein per 28.3g), cantaloupe (.2g protein per 28.3g), peaches (.3g protein per 28.3g), apples (.1g protein per 28.3g), goji berries dried (3.9g protein per 28.3g), tamarinds (.79g protein per 28.3g), pomegranates (.5g protein per 28.3g), cherries (.3g protein per 28.3g), mango (.2g protein per 28.3g), plantains (.4g protein per 28.3g), grapefruit (.2g protein per 28.3g), mulberries (.4g protein per 28.3g), shredded coconut (.8g protein per 28.3g), plums (.2g protein per 28.3g), dried figs (.94g protein per 28.3g), nectarines (.3g protein per 28.3g), rhubarb (.3g protein per 28.3g), strawberries (.2g protein per 28.3g), blueberries (.2g protein per 28.3g), elderberries (.19g protein per 28.3g)
Processed Plant Based Protein Sources
While it is easy to find a surplus of natural sources, it’s fun to try the processed alternatives from time to time. To be clear, these items are made to supplement and not be the main source of your protein as a vegan. They are simply made to make life easier, because we can still eat ‘burgers, ‘cheeze’ and ‘soyrizo’ from time to time without feeling the same health effects as meat/dairy eaters. Heavy consumption of processed foods can lead to weight gain and sometimes even digestive issues.
- Tofu– made from soy beans containing 10g of protein per .5 cups consumed
- Tempeh– Indonesian fermented soybeans containing 31g of protein per 1 cup consumed
- Seitan– wheat gluten containing 75g of protein per 1 cup consumed
- Mycoprotein– single-cell protein known as fungal protein containing 11g of protein per 1 cup consumed
- Soyrizo– soy-based sausage alternative containing an average of 7g of protein per 4 tbsp consumed
- Beyond Meat– pea-protein based beef alternative containing 20g of protein per patty or 1 cup consumed
- Impossible Meat – wheat based protein containing 27 g of protein per patty or 1 cup consumed
- Vegan ‘Cheeze’ – made of nuts, soy, seeds, and root vegetables (average is 1-2g protein per slice and protein varies based on form/brand)
- Textured Vegetable Protein – dehydrated soy based protein used as a substitute for minced beef/chicken containing 51.5g of protein per 1 cup consumed
- Plant Based Milk Alternatives– unsweetened soy (7g per cup), oat milk (4g per cup), hemp milk (4g per cup), coconut milk (5g per cup), cashew milk (5g protein per cup), peanut milk (8g protein per cup), macadamia nut milk (1g protein per cup), hazelnut milk (1.2g protein per cup)
- Grains– whole wheat pasta (.8g protein per 28g), Ezekiel bread (4g protein per slice), pita bread (5g protein per pita), whole wheat bread (3.6g protein per slice), whole grain tortillas (4g per tortilla), sprouted grain bread (15g protein per slice), whole wheat flour (16g protein per cup), coconut flour (20g protein per cup)
- Supplemental Sources – Spirulina (4g protein per 1 tbsp), nutritional yeast (8g protein per 2 tbsp), vegetable based protein powders (15-20g protein per scoop varies based on brand & protein source)
Now that you have a full scope of what types of plant based proteins you can choose from, do you recognize a lot of these items already in your diet? Were there any that surprised you? Whether you’re cooking, baking or snacking… protein sources are all around and easily accessible to those on any type of budget. There are also many benefits to choosing plant based protein such as heart healthy grains, vitamin C rich fruits like kiwis & oranges, as well as vitamin K producing avocado & leafy greens.
Probably my favorite part of choosing plant based proteins over animals (aside from the lack of cruelty, of course), is with the exception of grains and beans, you can typically consume more calories per meal with fruits and vegetables leaving you fuller for longer periods of time. The extra perk to this is that your protein doesn’t come with the extra risk of diseases like high cholesterol, diabetes, and cancer. That has been the peace of mind I’ve enjoyed for my health since 2018 and you can too… even if just for a single meal! Stay tuned for more Vegan 101 facts and tips for those that are new to veganism. Have a topic you’d like to see covered? Leave it in the comments section below!
As always, thanks for your love & support.
‘Til next time!
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