Protein is important for building muscle, but protein from animal sources can be difficult to digest. Muscle building is about the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat overall, not just an excess of one or two nutrients. So in that regard, vegans have no special requirements to make up for. However, when you think about how you eat a vegan diet vs a non-vegan diet, it’s important to understand what foods are most likely to be nutrient-dense and protein-rich for vegans, and why.
#1 protein sources for vegans: legumes [and peanuts] (protein and fiber)
Some top protein sources for people eating plant protein are legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and beans. Beans in particular are very protein-dense, at about 25g protein per cup! It is quite easy to hit protein recommendations for vegans when eating a diet based on protein-rich foods like beans or legumes. A single cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein (about half the protein in a chicken breast) and is packed with vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. A single cup of chickpeas contains 15 grams of protein! You can’t go wrong with protein-rich foods like lentils, beans, and peas for muscle building as a vegan or anyone else.
#2 protein sources for vegans: Seitan [and protein powders] (protein)
Although it’s not a whole protein by itself, Seitan has become quite popular as a high protein meat substitute. It also goes great with vegetables and is a healthy addition to vegan diets for protein. There are many brands of protein powder on the market, so make sure you check the nutrition facts and ingredients before buying. Many protein powders are made from protein sources like soy, rice, or pea protein, which aren’t as protein-rich as the foods we’ll talk about next.
#3 protein sources for vegans: hemp seeds (protein)
Hemp is another non-legume plant protein that’s very easy to add to your diet. Hemp protein powder makes an excellent protein-rich smoothie ingredient or protein-packed addition to vegan protein pancakes, oatmeal, and more!
#4 protein sources for vegans: nuts (protein and fiber)
Nuts are high in protein as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They can be a protein-rich snack to eat between meals or can be used in protein cookies, protein bars, protein balls, or protein muffins. Nuts are high in fat, so make sure you keep an eye on serving sizes to avoid calorie overload. A single ounce of almonds contains 6 grams of protein, and the same amount of walnuts has 5 grams of protein. They’re also high in fat, though, so it’s best to eat protein-rich foods like nuts as a snack or protein source rather than a meal.
#5 protein sources for vegans: broccoli, kale, and other dark leafy greens (protein)
There are many protein-rich vegetables you can add to your vegan protein diet, but one of the best protein sources is dark leafy greens. One half-cup serving (about 1 cup raw) of cooked kale has 2.8 grams of protein! It’s also high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C and A. Dark leafy greens are great for bodybuilding protein because they’re very easy to add to protein smoothies or protein shakes on their own.
Legumes are a great source of protein for vegans
Beans and legumes are some of the best protein sources for people eating a vegan diet. Soy foods like tofu can be used as meat substitutes in many dishes, making it an easy protein source when you’re looking to add protein to your diet. Legumes are one of the easiest protein sources for vegans to include in their diet since they’re also an excellent source of fiber; protein and fiber help create a feeling of fullness that helps you stay away from unhealthy protein-rich foods like snacks and junk food. We can’t make generalizations about health with numbers since every single person is different, but the numbers are interesting regardless. A research study found that people who eat a plant-based diet tend to have less chronic inflammation than those who eat meat. A correlation between chronic inflammation and heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses means it makes sense to continue eating a vegan diet even if you’re not looking to optimize for performance or weight loss. Share the link to this page with your social media profiles (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)