A vegan diet does not include any animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy foods or eggs. A common question for vegans is where they get protein if they do not have meat or fish. It is easy for vegans to meet all of their protein requirements as long as they take in an adequate number of calories and eat a variety of foods.
A Bevy of Beans
Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and lentils are all rich sources of protein. One cup of each cooked bean contains 15 grams of protein (18 grams for lentils). With a variety of beans to choose from and numerous way to cook them, beans are a hearty alternative to meat and an important part of a vegan diet.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts such as almonds and cashews will meet much of your daily protein needs. Almonds contain 8 grams per a quarter-cup serving, while cashews provide 5 grams per quarter-cup serving. There are several seeds that are high in protein as well. Chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving. Hemp seeds provide 6 grams per 1-ounce serving. Add nuts and seeds to salads, cereal, breads and casseroles to pack in some protein.
Whole grains such as quinoa, bulgur, brown rice, whole wheat and oats can pack more protein into your diet. Quinoa provides 8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. One cup of bulgur or brown rice, or 3/4-cup of oatmeal, all provide between 4 and 5 grams of protein. And two slices of whole wheat bread have 7 grams of protein.
Vegetables are the foundation of the vegan diet because they not only provide much-needed vitamins, minerals and complex carbohydrates but also protein. For example, 1 cup of peas provides 8 grams of protein. One cup of cooked spinach has 5 grams of protein, and a cup of cooked broccoli has 4 grams of protein. One medium baked potato provides 3 grams of protein. Eating a variety of vegetables as part of larger meals or for snacks can ensure you're meeting your protein needs.
Daily Protein Requirements
To be sure you're getting enough protein through vegan sources, determine your daily protein requirements. The recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for both men and nonpregnant, nonbreastfeeding women over 18 is 0.66 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day. To determine your protein needs, take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to convert it to kilograms. Multiply this by 0.66 to determine your daily protein requirements.
- Food and Nutrition Board: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: The Protein Myth: The Building Blocks of Life
- The Vegetarian Resource Group: Protein in the Vegan Diet
- ABC News: 9 Super-Healthy, Vegetarian Protein Sources