Vegan Question: Where Do You Get Protein?

Feb 29, 2012 12:01 pm

Answers from a real vegan on real protein sources

vegan protein
Photo: little blue hen on Flickr
Get to know your vegan proteins with this handy list.
 

When you decided to become vegan, the concern level of your protein goes to Defcon negative 3. It literally becomes the topic of every conversation with every non-vegan you meet. The vegan “fake meat” idea is supposed to be there for you to consume it like some primitive being who can only think about food in wing and drumstick shapes. But you marched right past the Paleo diet and chose veganism, and you know the real treasure of being vegan is discovering all the awesome plant-based proteins.

I agree with you. What is the point of becoming vegan only to have a placebo diet of highly processed soy (soy protein isolate) and gluten that may be GMO? You decide to be vegan because you know you’re in for some new experiences. You’re in it for the adventure, the food as well as your belief system. So if you're confused about the whole vegan protein thing, here's your official introduction to your new besties.

Tempeh:
A protein made from slightly cooked and fermented soybeans, tempeh has an almost equal protein value to fish or chicken, but with advantages. It’s a lot higher in iron, has tons more calcium and is cholesterol-free. Some go as far as to call it a superfood. See my Tempeh Picatta recipe here.

Tofu:
Probably the most notorious of the vegan proteins, tofu is also high in protein and has a dramatically lower calorie percentage than beef or cheese. It is very versatile. As a chef you can do a ton with it, but let’s face it — tofu has a bad reputation. This is most likely because it’s frequently prepared poorly. I recommend you try it yourself and practice cooking with it. Pan-frying is a good place to start. 

Nuts:
These are the snacker’s protein on the go. Peanuts are often used in famine relief after earthquakes and tsunamis, so they can certainly cure a 2 p.m. snack attack. A 2-ounce bag of nuts and/or dried fruit can be great to get you over the midday hunger pangs.

Quinoa:
This superfood is popping up on menus everywhere. It is a very old seed grain that is a complex carbohydrate and is great to alkalize your diet. Check out my loaded quinoa nachos.

Beans:
A super-easy way to go vegan at lunch time is ordering the veggie burrito at the McDonald's, er...I mean Chipotle. I get it with extra black beans (pinto beans are cooked in pork). Legumes are packed with protein, and the great thing is, a lot of cultures make them well. Try falafel made from chickpeas, or the ever-popular hummus.

Remember: the difference with these plant-based proteins is that they process differently in the body As a result, you feel satisfied without feeling full and lethargic. Take the time to tune in to your body and its reactions. Remember, it’s a journey.


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