“But where do you get your protein?!”
The phrase that is guaranteed to make most plant-based folks groan.
Many folks think that protein is some mythical substance that only exists in animal products. False. Protein exists in almost everything, even broccoli! Although you can get adequate protein from a variety of sources, I like to think of legumes, soy, and seitan as the ‘protein trifecta’ if you will.
[Black bean patties]
Lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, chickpeas…the list of legumes goes on and on. Not only do legumes have protein, they are also loaded with fiber and other goodies such as folate, niacin, and thiamin. Not surprisingly, legumes have been associated with positive health outcomes, such as lowering cholesterol and reducing heart disease. Another benefit of legumes? They are really budget-friendly! Especially if you buy dry versus canned…a topic for a future post.
Tofu/Tempeh/Other Soy Products
Soy is a protein power house. Tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk, soy yogurt…there are a ton of soy products on the market these days. Studies have shown that soy may be associated with decreased cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, menopause symptoms, and arthritis, among others. If you have been following health and nutrition headlines in recent years no doubt you have heard about the ‘soy controversy’ going on. Most of this hype is just that…hype. A topic I plan on addressing in an upcoming post.
Seitan, or ‘wheat meat’ as it is sometimes called, is made from wheat gluten. Gluten is the protein that is found in wheat. The old school way of making seitan is to wash wheat flour over and over to separate the gluten, but it is much easier just to go to the store and buy vital wheat gluten. In most stores, vital wheat gluten can be found in the baking section, as it is sometimes used as an ingredient in bread-making. Seitan is used to make faux meats (as in the picture above). I plan on writing up a seitan tutorial sometime soon. In the meantime, although seitan is jam-packed with protein, I should point out that it is somewhat low in the amino acid lysine, so I wouldn’t make this your only protein source.
Are these the only plant-based protein sources? Absolutely not. There are many other foods that are valuable sources of protein, such as quinoa and nuts, as well as various plant-based protein powders.