If you grew up like me, I was told all my life that I needed protein. I also had acute anemia beginning at the age of 2, so people told me I had to eat liver and meat for the iron. I was told that meat, chicken, fish, dairy and eggs were a good source of the “best” protein. But contrary to what people had told me, I have found over the last 30 years that, in fact, plant-based, vegan protein is the healthiest protein for me. In this article, I’m going to expand on the best sources of protein for a vegan or vegetarian diet and then I provide you with some of my favorite recipes!
There are several myths about vegan or vegetarian protein.
For instance, in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé wrote that plants contained “incomplete proteins” with inadequate amounts of specific essential amino acids for them to meet the dietary needs of people. She emphasized the need to combine vegetable-based foods to obtain the complete amino acid complexes needed for optimum health when choosing not to consume animal protein.
However, according to more modern research by Dr. John McDougall, Lappé did not understand the scientific research on human protein needs and the sufficiency of plant-based foods. Dr. McDougall says that plant combining “is unnecessary and implies that it is difficult to obtain ‘complete’ proteins from vegetables without detailed nutritional knowledge. Because of her complicated and incorrect ideas, people are frightened away from vegetable-based diets.”
Thankfully such myths are slowly but surely being dismissed as untrue. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) revised its position statement on vegetarian diets and now agrees that well-planned vegetarian diets are “a healthy, nutritionally adequate dietary practice for all stages of life.”
In addition to this, according to Mladen Golubic, MD, PhD of the Cleveland Heart Clinic: A national (US) dietary survey was completed with over 6,000 people between the ages of 50 and 65 years old. It was found that those who reported high protein intake (example: eggs, dairy, fowl, pork, cows, lamb, etc.), increased their risk of death by any disease by 75 percent.
The study showed a quadruple increase of cancer death during the following 18 years and a quintuple increase of death from diabetes. The participants with a moderate intake of protein had a triple increase in their risk of death due to cancer when compared with the low protein intake group. if the ingested proteins were “plant-derived,” Dr. Golubic says.
Plant-based foods are extremely high in complex amino acids, and can provide quality protein, as well as other nutrients.
I can’t tell you how many people I have met who have told me they used to be vegetarian or vegan, but they had to go back to eating meat because they didn’t feel healthy or were hungry all the time.
In actuality, it can be quite easy to get all of the nutrients you need if you just know what nutrients your body requires and where to get them.
Best Sources Of Protein For A Vegan Or Vegetarian Diet
The health benefits of legumes, which most of us know as beans, peas, or lentils, are that they are high in fiber, amino acids (which are the chemicals that combine to create protein), folate (Vitamin B9), zinc, iron, and magnesium.
- Beans: When beans are rich in color, then they are high in antioxidants as well, because the antioxidants are in the color pigment. Black beans have the highest number of antioxidants. Beans also help prevent blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal, making beans a good food choice for people with diabetes or hypoglycemia.
- Lentils: Lentils are edible seeds — they come in black, red, brown, green and orange varieties — that belong to the legume family. They can help improve digestion, contribute to heart health, help control diabetes and contribute to weight loss. Plus, they’re one of the oldest known sources of food, dating back more than 9,000 years. Lentils have an incredible amount of protein for a plant-based food and contain up to 35 percent of the complex amino acids (the building blocks of protein) your body needs — which is comparable to beef, poultry, fish and dairy.
- Nuts: Nuts are perfect foods because they are a combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. However, nuts contain delicate polyunsaturated fatty acids that can become rancid shortly after being shelled, so store them in a tightly sealed container (preferably glass) in the refrigerator. Almost all nuts contain enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, which can prevent the body from absorbing some nutrients. To help diminish the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, and to make them more digestible, place them in a glass or steel bowl and soak them for 12–18 hours. When buying nuts and seeds, look for products that are sprouted or have been soaked.
Try these recipes using the best sources of protein for a vegan or vegetarian diet, below to incorporate more of them into your diet:
1. Sprouted Beans
The optional seaweed in this recipe adds nutrients and helps make the beans more digestible. Serve them on top of a salad for a light lunch.
- 1 lb. dried beans (any variety)
- Water, plus more for soaking and cooking
- 1 tsp. pure coconut oil
- 2-inch piece seaweed (optional)
- unrefined sea salt to taste
1. Check beans and discard any that are shriveled or discolored. Also, make sure there are no little stones or foreign matter mixed in with the beans.
2. Sprout the beans, so they are more digestible. Beans have phytic acid that prevents them from being digested easily. Sprouting the beans makes them more nutritious as well as easier to digest.
Soak beans overnight or for a couple of days (Depending on the size of the bean, large beans need to soak at least 2 or 3 days to sprout) in pure water. Make sure the dish is large enough for beans to double or triple in size and can hold enough water to cover them by at least two inches. Check them each day and add more water as needed. When you see a tiny split or sprout, they are ready to cook.
3. Discard the water the beans were sprouted in.
4. Put the sprouted beans in a large pot and fill with enough new, purified water to cover the beans by about two inches. Add salt, coconut oil and seaweed, if using. Bring water to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook beans until tender, 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of beans. Larger beans will take longer. Add more water if it gets too low and the tops of beans are showing.
6. Remove from heat, and they are ready to eat.
Variation: Add a little extra virgin or pure coconut oil for additional richness.
2. Nutty Sweet Rice with Lentils
I also add some coconut oil for the savoriness it adds to the recipe. In addition to making the dish taste more satisfying, coconut oil increases energy levels, improves skin health, helps in stress reduction, increases good cholesterol, can aid in preventing liver disease, eases asthma symptoms, and can help control blood sugar.
- 2 c. whole-grain, medium, sprouted brown rice
- 1⁄4 c. sprouted lentils (To sprout lentils, soak them overnight in pure water and then drain off the water before cooking in fresh water. This removes the phytic acid.)
- 1⁄4 tsp. unrefined sea salt
- 6 c. non-chlorinated water
- 1–2 vegetable bouillon cubes
- 1 T. extra virgin, pure, organic coconut oil
- 1⁄2 c. pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
- 1⁄2 c. raisins
- 1⁄4 c. raw coconut flakes
1. Rinse rice and lentils in a small-weave sieve until they run clean.
2. Dissolve bouillon cube in 6 c. water in a large pot.
3. Add rice, lentils, sea salt, coconut oil, and half of the nuts and raisins.
4. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer.
5. Cover the pot and do not disturb for 35–40 minutes. Do not stir.
6. When it looks as if all the water is absorbed, rice and lentils are ready.
7. Add ghee, if using, to rice and lentil mixture and gently toss.
8. Gently scoop out rice and lentils, and add coconut and remaining nuts and raisins.
Variation: Add a little sauteed onion after cooking for a richer flavor.
I wish you true health on your vegan journey!
I use this one:Lotus Foods Stainless Steel Rice Cooker and Steamer, 12 Cup Capacity by Lotus Foods $77.52
I have used it a couple of years and it makes my life very easy. I cook rice, beans, lentils, qunoa, etc. in this cooker. it cooks it, then keeps it warm until I need it.
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This content was originally published here.