January is a time of new beginnings. New Year’s resolutions made, but not so often kept. Two of the most popular being an overhaul of our diets, health and fitness. If, like many others, you have decided to go vegan for Veganuary, you might also have signed up to a brand spanking new gym membership, you’ll be wanting to get the most of your vegan diet.
Most of the time, when someone finds out I’m vegan, they suddenly become concerned that I get enough protein from my diet. No one seems to worry about your protein intake before you become a veggie or vegan!
And I must admit, pre-veganism, I also thought the best types of protein was in lean meats & eggs. So to help out all you new vegans, I’ve pulled together what I hope is a helpful list of specific types of vegan protein, and what they are good for. Eat away…
Pumpkin Seeds are a great source of healthy fats, fiber and protein to keep you feeling full, whilst the magnesium, phosphorus and zinc contained in them provide additional energy, great as a pre-workout snack.
Tempeh is less likely than tofu to add on the lbs as it is made from soy beans, rather than soy milk. This makes it more of a whole food and retains more protein, around 50% more than tofu!
Spinach wasn’t Popeye’s favourite for nothing! Not only a great source of protein, but also high in vitamins A and C, antioxidants and calsium. Strangely enough spinach is one of the veggies that is best served steamed rather than raw, as it becomes easier for you body to digest and absord the calcium. And did you know that there is almost as much protein in one cup of spinach, as there is in a hard-boiled egg?! Superfood or what?
Guava was an odd one to stumble upon for me, but it is the highest-protein fruit, whilst also containing 600% of your daily vitamin C requirement per cup.
Chia Seeds are great for vegans and veggies; not only are they protein rich, but they also contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, something we can often be lacking while others can easily get it from eating oily fish.
Spirulina is not a favourite of mine, I find it leaves a chalky residue in anything I had it to, but its protein content can’t be denied. Made up of 60% protein, like Quinoa it’s complete which means our bodies can directly convert it to muscle! It also contains 50% of your daily vitamin B12 requirement, something some veggies and vegans find themself deficient in when they stop consuming red meat.
Dubbed the ‘food of the Gods’ in America, cacao is full of antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, minerals like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, iron, zinc, potassium and Vitamins E and B. Full of fiber to help digestion and keep you fuller for the longer, this really is a superfood, the benefits of which have been rounded up very nicely here by The SuperFoods.
Peanut Butter is an absolute favourite of mine, and a teaspoon of a 100% nut butter, with no added salt, sugar or oil, is great as an after dinner treat, when you’re craving something naughty. Watch out though as it is high in calories, but 2 tablespoons added to a post workout smoothie, provide a great dose of muscle-building protein and healthy fats. Peanuts are also good for your heart, and studies have shown they can prevent both cardivasular and coronary atery disease.
Another nut packing a healthy dose of protein is the almond. Consume before your workout and studies have shown that these little nuts can actually help you burn more fat and carbs.
A superfood high up on my list of protein packed favourites, is the avocado. Full of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, more potasium than a banana, loads of fiber, vitamins & minerals in abundance, a regular sized avocado will contain around 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats.
Popular with those trying to lose weight, mushrooms contain very little carbs or fat. The protein in mushrooms is only small, but is unique and it’s been thought to have anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
1 cup of chickpeas contains 12g of protein, around 24% of your daily requirement. The protein in chickpeas is not complete, so combine with wholegrains such as wholegrain cous cous, or make up a batch of hummus and enjoy it on wholegrain bread or toast to get a complete protein.
Not only are beans high in fiber and antioxidants, they aid with weight loss, and in turn disease prevention too! Comparable to meat when it comes to calories, beans are full of fiber and water, helping you to feel fuller for longer; meaning you should be able to cut calories, without feeling deprived. By losing weight you decrease your chances of developing serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. So nutritious are these little legumes in fact, that it’s recommended we tripple our weekly intake from 1 to 3 cups.
Black Rice, also known as Forbidden Rice, has similar nutrient levels to brown rice, but with higher quanities of antioxidants. It is also a great source of fiber and minerals, including iron. A 100g serving of black rice has 8.5g of protein, 3.5mg of iron and 4.9g of fiber. Compared to white, brown and red rices, black rice has the highest amount of protein and double the fiber of brown rice.
Pistachios are one of the lowest calorie nuts, at only 4kcal per average sized nut, you can enjoy around 40 of these delicious nuts for a healthy 160 kcal snack – I also find the process of cracking & eating quite theraputic! They are great sources of protein (around 20g for every 100g consumed), healthy fats, antoixidants, vitamins and minerals; a great all rounder and easy to carry in your bag for an on the go energy source.
So there you have it, a thorough but not exhaustive list of veggie and vegan proteins to help you get the most out of your month of Veganuary! Now off to the gym…
All images courtesy of Getty Images.