Over the last few years the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled and it’s predicted that 25% of us will either be vegetarian or vegan by 2025.
But going vegan doesn’t automatically make you healthier. When you remove meat and animal products from your diet, it’s important to focus on getting the nutrients you previously got from these foods from plant-based sources.
The most common concern when going vegan is where to get you’re going to get your protein from — and this can be a big enough worry to stop some people, especially bodybuilders, athletes and regular exercisers, from going vegan altogether (even if they feel it is the right thing to do for ethical, environmental and health reasons). But, there are plenty of cheap, easy-to-cook, plant-based protein sources you can add to meals and snacks to make sure you’re eating enough protein to fuel your workouts and keep you feeling energised.
If you’re not sure how much protein you need then aim for around 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight (you can read more about how much protein you need in a day here.
Top 5 Sources of Protein for Vegans
Rice and Beans
This is one of the easiest, cheapest, healthiest vegan meals you can eat. The combination of amino acids found in rice and beans makes the meal a source of complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for health. There are loads of recipes you can play around with too — from black bean chilli's served with wholegrain rice and lentil curries served with pilau rice, to broad bean risottos and kidney bean paellas, the options are endless!
Tempeh, Tofu and Edamame
Soy is a complete protein and is a great option if you want to cook some of your favourite meals but with an alternative to meat. Go for tempeh (fermented soy), tofu (the curd of pressed soybeans) or edamame (soy) beans themselves over processed, fake-meat products and make sure you choose an organic, GMO-free version. Tofu is great on the BBQ and in stir-fries, tempeh is delicious sliced and fried in a little sesame oil, and roasted edamame beans are great to snack on.
Quinoa is a great alternative to rice or couscous and contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It’s delicious added to salads and soups and its slightly nutty flavour means is makes a great side dish for stews. You can also use it instead of oats in your favourite porridge recipe.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of plant-based protein as well as healthy fats. Per 25g serving, almonds contain about 6g of protein peanuts around 7g, sunflower seeds have around 5g, and walnuts contain around 4g. Chopped nuts are great to add to salads, nut and seed butters are delicious on toast and drizzled over porridge, and trail mixes of nuts, seeds and dried fruits are great to snack on.
Plant-based Protein Powders
If you’re struggling to meet your protein needs from food alone or live an active life and feel that having more protein in your diet would help you reach your health and fitness goals, there are some great plant-based proteins out there to supplement your diet. Look for a product that uses a blend of protein sources such as pea and rice and contains all essential amino acids. The Reflex Plant Based Protein uses a blend of pea, rice and sunflower seed protein for a complete amino acid profile, contains B12 (as this is the most common deficiency for vegans) and comes in Cacao and Caramel, Vanilla Bean, and Wild Berry — perfect for shakes and smoothies.