Not so long ago if you were a vegan or vegetarian the only options you had when looking in the food aisles of supermarkets were cans of lentils, Linda McCartney veggie sausages and a ready-made nut roast. Now supermarkets are stocked to the rafters with exciting offers such as Wicked Kitchen’s Naked Burrito, M&S’s Cashew Mac, Waitrose Vegan Sweet Potato Katsu Curry and So Delicious Oatmilk Peanut Butter & Raspberry frozen desert.
With so many more delicious options available to shoppers going meat-free to celebrate Veganuary this month is not a particular hardship. However, it’s important to plan ahead if you are going to follow a plant-based diet to ensure you are getting enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron and vitamin B-12 which people on an omnivorous diet get from animal products.
Some plant products, such as soy beans and quinoa, are complete proteins which means they contain all nine essential amino acids that humans need.
Here are some of the best sources of pant-based proteins:
Soy products such as tofu, edamame beans and tempeh are among the richest sources of protein in a plant-based diet. The protein content varies with how the soy is prepared:
- firm tofu (soybean curds) contains about 10 g of protein per ½ cup
- edamame beans (immature soybeans) contain 8.5 g of protein per ½ cup
- tempeh contains about 15 g of protein per ½ cup
These soy products also contain good levels of calcium and iron, which makes them healthful substitutes for dairy products.
Lentils are a great source of protein to add to a lunch or dinner routine. They can be added to stews, curries, salads, or rice to give an extra portion of protein. They also contain fibre and key nutrients including iron and potassium.
Chickpeas can be eaten hot or cold, and are highly versatile. They can be added to stews and curries, or spiced with paprika and roasted in the oven for a snack or as warm salad topping.
In the form of hummous it can replace butter as a health protein rich alternative.
Spelt & Teff
Spelt is a type of wheat and contains gluten, while teff originates from an annual grass, which means it’s gluten-free.
Both Spelt and teff are high in proteins. Both are excellent sources of various nutrients, including complex carbs, fibre, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. They also contain good amounts of B vitamins, zinc and selenium.
Spelt and teff are versatile alternatives to common grains, such as wheat and rice, and can be used in many recipes including polenta and risotto.
Green peas are high in protein and a serving covers more than 25% of your daily fibre, vitamin A, C, K, thiamine, folate and manganese requirements.
Green peas are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and several other B vitamins.
Peas can be used in a variety of receipes such as pea and basil risotto; Thai-inspired pea soup or pea and avocado guacamole.
Chia seeds are a versatile source of plant protein. They also contain a good amount of iron, calcium, selenium and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and various other beneficial plant compounds.
Chia seeds have a neutral taste and are able to absorb water, turning into a gel-like substance. Try adding chia seeds to a smoothie, sprinkling them on top of a plant-based yogurt, or soaking them in water or almond milk to make a pudding.
This blue-green algae is a nutritional powerhouse. Two tablespoons provide you with 8 grams of complete protein, in addition to covering 22% of your daily requirements of iron and thiamin and 42% of your daily copper needs. Spirulina also contains magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium and small amounts of most of the other nutrients your body needs, including essential fatty acids. Studies link consuming spirulina to health benefits ranging from a stronger immune system and reduced blood pressure to improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels
Quinoa has about twice the protein of other grains, fewer carbohydrates, and more healthful fats. It’s also a complete protein: like meat, eggs, and dairy products, it contains all eight essential amino acids. This supergrain is gluten-free and rich in iron, calcium, potassium, fibre, magnesium, and lignans.
Wild rice contains approximately 1.5 times as much protein as other long-grain rice varieties, including brown rice and basmati.
One cooked cup (240 ml) provides 7 grams of protein, in addition to a good amount of fibre, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and B vitamins
Unlike white rice, wild rice is not stripped of its bran. This is great from a nutritional perspective, as bran contains fibre and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Although not as well-known as other seeds, hempseed contains around 50% more easily digestible protein per ounce than chia seeds and flaxseeds. This versatile little seed also contains a good amount of magnesium iron, calcium, zinc and selenium. It’s also it’s a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ratio considered optimal for human health.
Studies also suggest that the type of fats found in hempseed may help reduce inflammation, as well as diminish symptoms of PMS, menopause and certain skin conditions such as acne.
Add hempseed to your diet by sprinkling it in your smoothie or morning muesli. It can also be used in homemade salad dressings or protein bars.
If you are planning on following a vegan or vegetarian diet and would like more guidance a consultation with our celebrity-endorsed Head of Nutrition Dominique Ludwig can help you create an eating plan that is both manageable and healthy.