The Vegan diet is becoming a popular way to improve overall health and eliminate many foods that have been proven to cause allergies, are difficult for the human body to process, or go against personal convictions regarding the consumprion of animal products or by-products. Changing one’s diet, however, means payin special attention of one’s intake of necessary nutrients and vitamins. While ridding our bodies of the things they don’tneed, it is imperative that we make certain they continue to receive the things theydo need, such as protein.
The most common argument against a Vegan diet is that it causes protein deficiencies in the body due to it’s lack of red meats. But there are actually several foods that are abundant in protein which fit perfectly into the Vegan way of eating:
This seedy grain is one of the very best sources of protein for a Vegan, or for anyone for that matter. Native to South America, quinoa is a popular substitute for regular wheat. It is cnsidered to be one of the world’s Superfoods due to it’s high protein and calcium content, and because of it’s versatility. Quinoa can be served as a side dish, in salads, or used to make pasta dishes, breads, or even pastries.
Nuts pack a hefty serving of protein without bulk. They can be eaten any time as a convenient snack or added into other dishes such as salads, desserts, oatmeal, yogurt, etc. The four nut varities containing the highest levels of protein are:
• Almonds = 21.2g of protein per 100g serving
• Pistachios = 21gof protein per 100g serving
• Brazil Nuts = 14.3gof protein per 100g serving
• Peanuts = 24.4gof protein per 100g serving
3. PUMPKIN SEEDS
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of protein, zinc, iron, and magnesium. They are especially delicious when lightly seasoned with sea salt and toasted. They can then be eaten as a snack on their own or added to salads, used as a dessert topping, stirred into yogurt, or tossed into the blender with your favorite smoothie ingredients.
4. BEANS AND LEGUMES
With so many tasty varieties to choose from, one can never get tired of eating beans and legumes in one form or another! Black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans – take your pick and enjoy. Peas, which many people mistakenly believe to be a vegetable, are actually an especially delicious member of the legume family.
Below is a breakdown of the protein content of some of the most popular and most flavorful beans and legumes:
• Cannellini (White) beans = 9.7gof protein per 100g serving
• Black beans = 8.9gof protein per 100g serving
• Garbanzo beans = 8.9gof protein per 100g serving
• Peas = 3gof protein per 100g serving
• White Northern beans = 8.3gof protein per 100g serving
• Lentils = 9gof protein per 100g serving
Many vegetables are also very high in protein. They include broccoli, avacado, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, beets, watercress, romaine lettuce, and cabbage. As with any food and the nutrients it contains, preparation is an important part of maintaining the level and effectiveness of the nutrients and vitamins. Try to eat as many raw or lightly steamed foods as you possibly can, as they contain the highest levels of “the good stuff”.
6. HEMP SEEDS
Hemp seeds contain a whopping 10g of protein in a 2 Tbsp. serving (even though hemp seeds are generally associated with marijuana, eating them will not have the same effect on you that marijuana would!). Hemp seeds also contain significant amounts of all 9 essential amino acids along with an impressive supply of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. They are a great source of fatty acids, like Omega-3s. Mix them into salad dressings, sprinkle them over pastas or shake them onto popcorn.
Buckwheat is not, as is commonly thought, a type of wheat. It is actually a member of the rhubarb family. It is often ground into flour to make delicious buckwheat pancakes or turned into versatile, nutritioussoba noodles. Along with providing 6g of protein per one cup serving, buckwheat has been shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure, improving circulation, and keeping blood glucose levels under control.
Seitan was created over a thousand years ago by the Chinese Buddhist Monks as a meat substitute. Seitan is a combination of gluten mixed with flavorful herbs and spices, mixed with water or vegetable stock, and simmered. It is recommended that Seitan be cooked in a vegetable broth with just a bit of soy sauce added to replace the gluten’s missing amino acid, called lysine. Seitan contains an impressive 21g of protein per 1/3 cup serving.
A Vegan diet is actually healthier than most “mainstream” diet plans being touted today as the next “wonder diet”, concerned only with helping consumers lose weight int he area of their wallets and bank accounts, and nothing more.
The Vegan way of eating, once shunned and discouraged for it’s lack of nutritional value, has gotten a face-lift with all the new and up-to-date information regarding foods that can provide proper nutrition without involving foods from animals. We now know that a Vegan diet, when properly maintained, can be highly beneficial to the body in many ways. Lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the ability to easily maintain a healthy weight, more energy, even improved instances of depression and anxiety, all a result of simply paying attention to what we fuel out bodies with. Not to mention its benefits to the animal kingdom with which we share our planet. How wonderful and responsible to be concerned for other living creatures in the world, and to show them kindness and respect!
By Anna Hunt