Protein is one of the three macronutrients alongside fat and carbs, and it’s arguably the most important one out of the three. It plays a crucial role in building and maintaining muscle, but more importantly – every part of our body, including hair, skin, hemoglobin, enzymes, etc. is also made up of protein. Each and every part of the protein is made of a specific combination of smaller building blocks known as amino acids that we get from the foods we eat, and each of them performs a different function. There are 20 amino acids that we need to consume on a regular basis, but only 9 of them are considered essential, simply because our body can’t make them by itself. The other 11 amino acids can be created by the body itself, as long as we consume the essential ones.
We need about 0.8 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight. So if you’re a healthy male who weighs 80kg, you’ll need about 63g of protein a day. However, if you’re active and want to build muscle, you’ll need even more. The AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) for protein is 10-35% of total calories, and if you consume the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 0.8g per 1kg of body weight, you’ll be meeting the lower end of the AMDR. Believe it or not, many people struggle to even get to the lower end of the RDA range, especially if they’re on a vegan diet that prohibits them of eating protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, etc. However, while it can be difficult, it’s definitely not impossible.
When eating the right foods, vegetarian and vegan diets can easily meet and exceed the recommended protein intakes. Foods like oatmeal, cup soy milk, almond butter, hemp seeds, apples, greens, black beans, almonds, soy yogurt, cooked tofu, brown rice and peanut sauce are all foods that are quite rich in protein. And if that isn’t enough to satisfy your daily needs, you can always turn to protein supplements. Protein supplements can be quite beneficial, as plant-based protein foods like legumes and beans don’t contain all of the essential amino acids. Some of the amino acids these foods miss include tryptophan, lysine, methionine and cysteine. Quinoa and soybeans are two plant-based foods that are an exception to this and contain every essential amino acids.
But things can get really complicated for people who are allergic to soy and are gluten-sensitive. These people will more often than not have to rely on gluten, soy and dairy-free protein like Ghost Vegan. Ghost Vegan is also a great solution to people who struggle with gut issues and an upset stomach after consuming conventional whey protein. Supplementing your diet with a vegan protein and amino acid supplements can go a long way in helping people reach their daily macro goals and long-term fitness goals. But if you’re sceptical about powdered supplements and don’t have any issues with consuming soy, here are three of the best sources of vegan protein.
Tofu is made when soy milk is curdled with a coagulant like magnesium chloride, nigari, magnesium sulphate or calcium sulphate, is then pressed into a block of solids and cooled. The longer the curds are pressed, the firmer the tofu will be. It’s a process that’s similar to making dairy-based cheese, and similar to cheese, you’ll find tofu in different levels of firmness. Tofu has little to no flavour, meaning you can dress it up in multiple ways, such as sauces, marinades, etc. Half a cup of tofu has about 80 calories, 11 grams of protein and 1 net gram of carbs, making it a great protein source not just for vegans, but people on a ketogenic diet as well.
Tempeh is made by soaking whole soybeans until they’ve softened, then cooking them slightly, and lastly fermenting them so they form a solid block. It’s minimally processed, unlike tofu, so the soybeans stay intact in the final product. Its texture has a white film, and it has a mild, nutty flavour, making it work well in a wide range of savoury dishes. 90g of tempeh has about 160 calories, 15g of protein, 7g fibre and 2 net grams of carbs. Just like tofu, it’s an ideal food for vegans and people on a ketogenic diet.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten by washing the wheat flavour in order to remove the starch. It has a nutty, yeasty flavour allowing it to work well in many savoury recipes. Gluten is the protein contained in wheat, and a 60g portion of seitan will have about 100 calories, 15g protein and 7g of carbs. It’s available in most stores and is often the main ingredient in many vegan burgers and sausages. It has a meaty texture, so it can be used in recipes as a stand-in for beef, pork or chicken.