On Tuesday, when I shared my new recipe for hemp hummus, my reader Hannah made a good observation:
It sort of annoys me that so much of the media touts hummus as a high protein “food,” when it really has only 2 grams per 2 T serving, but this? This is this is the real deal.
This is so true! At least with regard to commercial hummus, which usually only has about 2-3 grams of protein per serving. Protein needs can go up or down with activity level, whether or not one is healing from wounds, chronic disease states, and more, but the recommendation of 0.8-1 gram per kilogram body weight is agreed upon by lots of dietitians. One kilogram is about 2.2 lbs, so if we were to translate that recommendation into pounds, it would be about half of one’s body weight in grams protein, per day (that’s on the generous side).
So the question becomes, what protein sources can vegans rely on that will give them all of the protein they need? This post contains more detailed information. But as far as sources go, they include, but aren’t limited to:
- Edamame, tofu, and tempeh
- Beans and lentils
- Nutritional Yeast
- Dark, leafy greens
- Protein powders (hemp, brown rice, yellow pea)
- Quinoa, rice, millet, oats, oat bran, and other grains
- Nuts and seeds
You’ll want to exercise a little caution with that last category, since it’s hard to get a really good serving of protein (say, 10 grams or higher) from nuts or seeds without also eating quite a bit of fat. (To give you some context, 2 tablespoons of almond butter has 16-18 grams fat and 4-8 grams of protein; 1 oz cashews has 5 grams of protein but 12 grams of fat.)
But enough talk. The best way to show anyone how easy it is to get a good amount of protein as a vegan is to share easy and unexpectedly high protein recipes. Take my wall of green soup for example: one serving packs in a solid 20 grams. Eating a portion of my hemp hummus with two slices of Ezekiel toast would yield almost 19 grams. And even a single cup of my hemp milk would contribute 9 grams of protein to a smoothie.
If none of those options appeal, you might give this quinoa protein bowl a try. This recipe came together two weeks ago, for the same client I made my hemp hummus recipe for. As soon as I tasted it, I was thrilled, and I plan to repeat it often. It’s a quick, easy weekday dinner, and it’s remarkably nutrient dense. Just see for yourself!
Quinoa Protein Bowl
- 1/2 cup dry quinoa (2 cups cooked)
- 1 cup water
- Dash salt
- 1/2 cup frozen, shelled edamame
- 1 cup non-dairy milk of choice
- 2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash, seeded and chopped (substitute sweet potato)
- 2 cups stemmed and finely chopped kale
- Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Rinse the quinoa through a fine sieve, then add it to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the quinoa for 10 minutes. Add the frozen edamame to the pot and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the quinoa and edamame from heat.
- In the meantime, steam or microwave the squash till cooked through (about 5 minutes on high in the microwave, or 10 minutes of steaming). This can be done 1-3 days in advance.
- To make the sauce, place the milk, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, mustard, turmeric, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a high speed blender and blend till smooth and creamy.
- Add the squash and kale to the cooked quinoa and edamame. Pour in the sauce. Bring the pot back to a simmer and cook until the kale is gently wilted and more tender (about 3-5 minutes). Taste the mixture and add extra salt, pepper, lemon, and nutritional yeast as desired. Serve.
It goes beautifully with big salad. But then, what doesn’t?
Hopefully this post gives you a sense of how I feel about protein, as I’m often asked to comment on it. Protein is important, and readers who are worried about meeting their protein needs on a vegan diet shouldn’t be made to feel embarrassed about their concerns.
They should, however, take comfort in the fact that it’s not a tremendous challenge to get all of the protein you need on a vegan diet, just so long as you work to combine protein-rich plant foods in your meals. If you need a little help with the process, Power Plates has plenty of ideas 😉 . And this lovely, filling meal has about 24 grams.
Back tomorrow with my new favorite salad recipe. Happy Sunday!