A vegan diet is a strict vegetarian diet that contains no animal products at all. Since meat provides a great deal of protein, a vegan diet may provide less protein than a meat-based diet or a vegetarian diet that includes eggs or dairy products. More importantly, the quality of protein in a vegan diet may not be as high as in other diets. If you plan your meals to include a wide variety of plant foods, however, it is possible to have a relatively high-protein vegan diet.
The human body must get certain essential amino acids from the diet in order to make all the different types of protein it needs to function and stay healthy. With the exception of soybeans, individual plant foods do not contain all of the essential amino acids provided by animal products. A vegan diet that includes a wide variety of plant foods, however, should provide enough different types of amino acids for the body to build ample amounts of high-quality protein every day.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, which contribute small amounts of protein, a high-protein vegan diet includes different types of whole grain products; legumes such as beans, split peas and lentils; soybeans and soy products; and nuts and seeds. Some vegans enjoy getting their protein from meat substitutes, or meat analogs, which are products most often made from soy or wheat gluten that taste and look something like meat.
Common grains that contribute protein to a vegan diet include wheat, rice, corn, oats, rye, barley and millet. Whole grain protein comes from breads, muffins, pancakes, pastas, hot and cold cereals, side dishes and other foods made with these grains. Black beans, white beans, pink beans, pinto beans, black-eye peas, garbanzo beans or chick peas, brown lentils, green lentils, red lentils and yellow or green split peas are all good examples of legumes used in a high-protein vegan diet. Soybean products include edamame -- green soybeans, tofu, tempeh -- fermented soybeans, soy milk, soy cheeses, soy yogurt and soy nut snacks. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, nut butters, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds also contribute protein to a vegan diet.
The average, healthy, nonpregnant adult needs to consume 0.4 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. That translates to about 52 grams of protein daily for someone who weighs 130 pounds. To put that figure in perspective, note that the protein content of a 1/2-cup serving of tofu or an 8-ounce serving of soy milk is 10 grams; 1/2-cup cooked edamame is 11 grams; 1/2-cup servings of cooked dried beans such as black, kidney or garbanzo beans are 8 grams; a 1/2-cup serving of almonds is 15 grams; a 1-cup serving of cooked regular pasta is 7 grams; 2 tablespoons of wheat germ is 4 grams; and 1-cup of cooked instant oatmeal is 6 grams.
A vegetarian diet, including a well-planned vegan diet, can help control obesity and prevent and manage chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, according to a position paper released by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Academy also reported that vegetarian diets tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in certain vitamins, minerals and fiber.