15 Complete Proteins Vegetarians And Vegans Need To Know
I didn’t intentionally choose the vegetarian life… but the vegetarian life chose me.
I was only a kid when I first felt that eating meat wasn't for me. I made the switch to a vegetarian diet in college.
Years later, I was happily and hungrily walking about the street markets of Bangkok, Thailand searching for a healthy and tasty lunch.
And that’s when I saw it. ALL OF IT.
Fish that were still alive flopping off the trays into the aisles. I then took a few more steps to witness pieces of dead animals getting hastily hacked apart. NOPE. NO. NOOOOOOO.
It was a FAR cry from the neat and tidy packages of meat in US grocery stores.
I felt more grateful than ever that I was already a vegetarian. And I gotta say, I LOVE IT and feel incredible. There is such an incredible variety of food to choose from and enjoy - EVEN when you don’t eat meat! And I’m still alive and thriving so YES, vegetarians DO get enough protein. Here is how (you will find out my top favorite vegan complete protein sources soon!)...
What Is A Complete Protein?
The term “complete protein” refers to the building blocks of protein - AMINO ACIDS!
- There are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein
- There are 9 amino acids the body can’t produce on its own, called essential amino acids
- You must EAT them in order to get them because you can’t make them yourself
In order for a protein to be considered “complete,” it MUST contain all nine essential amino acids in equal amounts (approximately).
According to the FDA, the daily value of protein is 50 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Protein can be found in a variety of sources, including vegan complete protein sources:
- Beans and peas
- Dairy products
- Grains and vegetables
- Meats and poultry
- Nuts and seeds
- Seafood (fish and shellfish)
- Soy products
Even the FDA lists beans and peas on the top of the protein list. You don't see meat, poultry and seafood until the second part of the list. Yet, many people are worried about vegetarians and vegans meeting their protein needs from vegan complete protein sources.
The most common question vegans and vegetarians get is "how do you get your protein?" This is not surprising, especially considering that most of us grow up thinking that meat and fish are the best protein sources. Mainstream media and the animal industry reinforces this idea that vegan protein sources are not enough. Vegans don't even eat eggs and dairy and other ways that vegetarians get some of their protein needs met. Newby vegans and vegetarians may also need to do some research to meet all their protein needs.
Fortunately, plant-based diets contain a wide variety of amino acids. Research shows that vegetarians and vegans can meet their protein needs through vegan protein sources easily. Therefore, if you are vegan or vegetarian, you are HIGHLY likely to get your fill of amino acids super easily - especially if you are eating these foods! Let's put this debate to rest and check out some delicious vegan protein sources for vegan complete protein.
15 Complete Proteins Vegetarians And Vegans Need To Know
1. Buckwheat - A Go-To Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 6 grams per 1 cup, cooked.
- It is NOT a type of wheat - comes from the rhubarb family.
- Can help improve circulation and lower blood cholesterol.
- Must try ideas: use buckwheat as a protein in your favorite chili recipe.
2. Quinoa - The Best Tasting Vegan Complete Protein Source
- Protein content: 8 grams per 1 cup, cooked.
- Full of fiber, magnesium, iron and manganese.
- A fantastic substitute for rice.
- We included quinoa protein in our Organifi Complete Protein powder.
- Must try ideas: use quinoa as a filling for a breakfast burrito.
3. Rice & Beans - The Most Simple And Most Affordable Vegan Complete Protein Sources
- Protein content: 7 grams per 1 cup.
- When combined, have a protein content on par with meat.
- Great way to fill up after an intense workout.
- Must try ideas: use rice and beans as a filling during next taco night.
4. Ezekial Bread - Vegan Protein Source For Bread Lovers
- Protein content: 8 grams per 2 slices.
- Made from sprouted grains: wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt
- High fiber and vitamin content.
- Must try ideas: use Ezekiel bread as a base for a mini pizza.
5. Seitan - The Meat Substitute For Vegan Complete Protein
- Protein content: 21 grams per 1/3 cup.
- Historically, seitan has been used by Buddhist monks as a vegan protein source.
- Cook it in a soy sauce-rich broth to add gluten’s missing amino acid (lysine) for a chewy, very meat-like food.
- Must try ideas: try seitan fajitas and stir-fry.
6. Pita And Hummus - A Quick Lunch For Vegan Complete Protein
- Protein content: 7 grams in one pita and 2 tbsp of hummus.
- Who doesn't love hummus? This Middle-Eastern favorite has been popular in the Western world for decades.
- It is an easy lunch, but works as a snack, breakfast, or dinner as well as a vegan protein-filled meal.
- Must try ideas: add your favorite veggies to the pita. Add some seitan, tofu, beans, or other vegan protein sources for more protein.
7. Peanut Butter Sandwich - Everyone's Favorite Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 15 grams in one sandwich.
- This is a great idea even children will love. They won't even notice that they are meeting their protein through a vegan protein source.
- Make sure to use natural and organic peanut butter for the healthier vegan complete protein.
- Must try ideas: make peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Try different nut butters for variety. Add peanut butter and nut butter to lettuce wraps and tortillas to get creative with your vegan complete protein.
8. Tofu - Versatile Vegan Complete Protein
- Protein content: 10 g of protein per ½ cup.
- Tofu is a super versatile vegan protein source. You can use it as a meat substitute, however, it is great for baking. You can make a vegan cheesecake for vegan complete protein!
- Must try ideas: try tofu scrambles for breakfast and baked tofu with your favorite side for lunch. Add tofu to your stir-fries and Asian-inspired dishes.
9. Lentils - Tiny But Mighty Vegan Complete Protein
- Protein content: 8.84 g of protein per ½ cup.
- Lentils are versatile vegan protein sources. They are also great if you are not feeling like beans.
- Must try ideas: try lentil soup. Add it to stews, curries, salads, or rice.
10. Almonds - Snack For Vegan Complete Protein
- Protein content: 16.5 g of protein per ½ cup.
- Almonds are not only great for your eyes and skin, but also help you meet your protein needs in a vegan way.
- They are the best snack.
- Must try ideas: eat them as they are. Add them to granola, cereal, fruit salads, green salads and vegetable dishes. Make almond butter.
10. Hemp Seeds - Fun Little Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 5 g of protein per tablespoon
- Hemp seeds are great to add a sweet and nutty taste to salads, smoothies and meals.
- Must try ideas: Add it to your salads, fruits salads, smoothies and granola.
11. Potatoes - Everyone's Favorite Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 8 g of protein per serving.
- Who would've thought that this staple and versatile food is such a great vegan protein source?
- Must try ideas: your options are endless. You can make baked, steamed, boiled and mashed potatoes, add them to soups and casseroles.
12. Broccoli - A Green Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 4 g of protein.
- Though it is not enough alone, adding broccoli to your life can boost your vegan protein for the day!
- Must try ideas: broccoli is delicious in stir-fries and in salads. Add the stalk to your smoothies for more vegan protein.
13. Mycoprotein - An Unusual Vegan Complete Protein
- Protein content: 13 g of protein per ½ cup serving.
- It's a fungus-based protein used in meat substitutes.
- Must try ideas: use it as a meat substitute for any dish.
14. Chickpeas - A Delicious Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 7.25 g per ½ cup.
- Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a delicious and versatile vegan protein source. You can use them in many ways like you would beans. And of course, you can make hummus out of it.
- Must try ideas: add them to stews and curries, or spiced with paprika and roast them in the oven. Make hummus or even add them to soups.
15. Spirulina ** - The Superfood Vegan Protein Source
- Protein content: 4 grams per 1 tablespoon
- Spirulina is part of the algae family and technically not a COMPLETE protein (it lacks methionine and cysteine)
**Easily turn it into a complete protein by adding nuts, oats, grains, or seeds.
- Must try ideas: add a spoonful to your favorite smoothie with a scoop of almond butter.
What is your FAVORITE vegan or vegetarian protein? How do you prepare it?
Please SHARE with the Organifi community below!
And remember, we are in this together.
Organifi Complete Protein is our very own VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE, ORGANIC protein powder that doubles as a multivitamin! It’s creamy and delicious. Getting enough daily protein has been shown to help support weight loss, muscle tone, improve immunity and boost energy. Get your bottle here.
About The Author
Kat Gál is a professional holistic health writer who helps health, wellness and nutrition businesses to market their products and services through quality online content. She is also a Certified Holistic Health & Life Coach. Kat is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. Reach out if you are looking for amazing blog content at firstname.lastname@example.org or at katgalwriter.com.
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