In case you don’t already know, protein is an essential part of your diet that you need to make sure you get enough of. Protein is necessary for many functions in your body including:
- Maintain good metabolism
- Muscle building and repair
- Any and every other tissue building and repair, especially after injury
- Maintaining consistent energy levels
- Aiding concentration
- Maintaining steady blood sugar levels
- Aiding the immune system
And tons more. Point is, you need it. And as I’m sure you know because you chose to read this post – as a vegetarian or vegan it can be tough to get enough protein, or to know different ways to get it so you don’t get bean boredom.
I’m going to hit you with my top 5 – some you might not have heard of or have in your diet right now but you’ll be able to get hold of them no worries. They’ll give you more variety, more taste, and in some cases – more protein.
This is a plant based food often found in Japanese dishes as a meat substitute. Out of all the protein sources on this list it has the highest protein content relatively to calorie content at a massive 70%. So for example if you had 1/2 a cup of seitan you’d be getting 31.5 grams of protein and 180 calories. Pretty solid numbers right there.
You’ll be able to get seitan at your nearest asian-foods supermarket. If you don’t know where that might be just get on Google or ask your friends on Facebook.
One thing to bear in mind with seitan is that it’s made from wheat gluten so if you’re celiac or gluten intolerant – this isn’t going to be an option for you.
Also on the note of it coming from gluten: gluten can create a lot of issues within your gut and immune system so I’d advise limiting how frequently you use seitan in your meals.
For ages I pronounced this is “temp-ehh” until I looked it up just now. What a fool. Anyways tempeh is another great planet based protein source derived from soy. So this time if you have an issue with soy – tempeh is out for you.
If you don’t – winner! Tempeh has 46% of it’s calories coming from protein so for 1/2 a cup you’ll be getting 16 grams of protein.
Pretty sure you know how to say this one. There are all kinds of lentils – brown, red, green… and they all come in with 31% of calories coming from protein. That means 1/2 a cup is 9 grams of protein. Lentils are also super versatile to cook with – more on that later.
Hemp is a crazy little plant with all kinds of uses. Hemp can be used in everything from food, to self-care products to cars. Yeah, cars.
Let’s stick with the food for now. Hemp has a protein content of 25% which means for every 1 oz serving of hemp, you get 10 grams of protein. Yes mate.
Buckwheat is one of those things you see a lot in green smoothies and “health shots” but nobody tends to know what it is. It’s what’s called a ‘pseudocereal’, and it’s related to rhubarb. It’s a complex carbohydrate to it’s good for steady blood sugar levels. AND despite it’s misleading name, it doesn’t contain any gluten. So celiacs – you may pass go and collect 200g of buckwheat!
Protein content for buckwheat is 13%. So a little lower relatively speaking. In half a cup you’ll get 9.5 grams of protein, but a little higher on the calories at 284.
Complete Mix Up
One thing to bear in mind with these and every plant based protein is that they’re not what’s known as “complete proteins”. A complete protein is one that provides your body with all the amino acids needed for good function in a well balanced amount.
Some plant based proteins have higher levels of certain amino acids than others. So as long as you mix them up and keep it varied you’ll be sweet.
One amino acid in particular to be aware of is lysine. This is higher in tempeh, tofu, and legumes (beans). So make sure you get plenty of those.
What To Do With Them
If you’re super excited about all these new protein options but aren’t sure what you’re going to do with them, check out Elana’s Pantry and Clean & Delicious. They both have tons of recipes for these foods and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Have fun!