Protein comes up often for vegetarians and more so for vegans. I’ve written before about getting your vegan protein so this post is not likely to be very long. Today we’ll look at natural protein sources for vegetarians or vegans.
Now I don’t eat Clif Bars or Builder’s Bars for protein per se but rather as convenient snacks. As a vegan I am not that concerned about my protein intake and neither should you be as a vegetarian or vegan.
If you want to know more about why vegan is an overrated issue you can read my previous post about getting vegan protein. But suffice it say that most of us in North America, Europe, Australia etc, are getting too much protein and specifically too much protein from animal foods. Here is a short 3 minute video about the protein myth.
But I think the thrust of this question is about finding natural sources of vegetarian protein. There are plenty of ways to add protein to your diet as a veg*n. An example of this is the Clif Bars or other granola bars or specifically vegan protein bars that have added proteins usually in the form soy protein.
Many vegetarian and specifically vegan bodybuilders use protein supplements to increase the protein in their diets. Pea, hemp, rice, oat and soy are some of the vegetable proteins that you can get in powdered form as supplements for shakes and other uses.
But these are not what I would consider natural protein sources in as much as they are no longer in there natural state. So to alleviate some concerns, as I believe the question comes from a place of concern in finding enough protein in the vegan or vegetarian diet, let me offer you up some of the heavy weights in the natural vegan foods selection.
Natural protein sources and their percentage of calories from protein:
Many of us when we think of beans think of protein and this is correct in that beans do have quite a lot of protein. Let’s look at some common beans we eat.
Tofu = 43% calories from protein
Lentils = 29%
Kidney beans = 26%
Garbanzo (chickpea) beans = 23%
Grains also contain more than sufficient protein for our needs. Take a look at this list.
Rye = 18%
Wheat = 17%
Oats = 15%
Rice = 8%
Vegetables also contain more than enough protein for us from natural sources on a vegan diet.
Spinach = 49%
Kale and broccoli = 45%
Mushrooms = 38%
Lettuce = 34%
Cucumbers = 24%
Cabbage = 22%
Tomatoes = 18%
Onions = 16%
Potatoes = 11%
Sweet potatoes = 8%
A diet centred around fruits can be deficient in protein if not carefully managed. I don’t recommend an all fruit vegan diet for long periods of time.
Lemons = 16%
Honeydew melon = 10%
Oranges, blackberries, cherries, grapes and watermelon = 8%
Papaya, peaches = 6%
Banana, grapefruit, avocado = 5%
Apple = 1%
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in fat and as such they are calorically dense, but they are also high in plant protein too.
Pumpkin seeds = 21%
Peanuts = 18%
Walnuts = 13%
Almonds and cashews = 12%
Brazil nuts = 9%
As you can see, a vegan diet centred around starches and including generous servings of vegetables with the addition of fruits and small quantities of seeds is more than sufficient to meet your calorie requirements from these natural protein sources.
As long as you eat enough calories and you eat a varied plant based diet, then protein is not a concern at all. Centring your diet on fruits might make it more difficult to obtain sufficient protein, though adding vegetables would help. Of course, centring your diet around vegetables will provide plenty of protein but it can be difficult to obtain sufficient calories if your diet is so high in raw vegetables.
As you can see, there are a ton of natural protein sources for vegetarians. Protein should not be a concern if you eat enough calories from a variety of plant sources.