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Vegan Protein: does a plant-based diet provide sufficient protein?

One of the common concerns people pose with a vegan diet is whether it provides sufficient sources of protein. Many argue that meat and dairy products are better sources than plant-based food. However, studies show a balanced and varied vegan diet that can meet all the nutritional needs of the body.

Importance of protein

Why is protein so important for our body? Should we be concerned about its adequate intake? YES. Especially if you are new to veganism. As a vegan, you replace the animal food, which was the main part of a meal with the plant-based healthy side dishes, like beans, grains, green leafy vegetables and lentils. When you are not aware of the appropriate plant-based foods to replace the animal products with, you could be at risk of insufficient protein in your body. Even though this condition isn’t life-threatening, protein deficiency affects the quality of life as it may lead to depression, chronic fatigue and muscle loss.

Protein is one of the most important components of our body. Our muscles, bones, and every other tissue have proteins in the form of amino acids. It helps in the growth and maintenance of tissues, fighting infection and providing the cells and tissues with proper structure. 9 of these amino acids called “essential amino acids” can be obtained only through food. Now you can understand why dieticians emphasise on having adequate proteins among other nutrients.

What is a complete protein?

A source of food that contains an adequate proportion of each of the 9 essential amino acids is a complete protein. When you switch to a vegan diet, most people argue about the fact that plant-based foods do not have complete proteins. That’s not true. For instance,  soy and its by-products like tofu, tempeh and edamame are excellent sources of complete protein. Whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat are fantastic too. The interesting thing to note is you do not need to stress over eating only complete proteins in every meal. As long as you are eating various protein-containing plant-based foods in adequate amounts, you would meet the protein requirements of the body.

Vegan protein

A significant part of following a successful vegan lifestyle is to plan your diet ahead with excellent and varied plant-based foods. A good source of plant protein could also provide other nutrients like antioxidants, fibres and vitamins. The amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements, in other words, Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA),  for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This is typical for many countries, including the US and Canada. For a 77 kg/170lb person, this would mean about 62 grams.

Do you need vegan protein supplements?

If you are a regular person, or a non-athlete, your body’s protein requirements would be easily met by consuming various plant-based protein sources. However, if you are an athlete, you work-out or train regularly, your protein requirement would be higher to repair and rebuild the sore muscles and recover faster. In this case, we recommend consulting a dietician or a nutritionist before taking supplements. Nonetheless, it is important to choose a complete protein source in the supplement. For instance, one of the most popular vegan protein powder is pea protein. Even though it has a high protein content, it is low in the essential amino acids. Hence, you would need to depend on other sources of proteins like quinoa, buckwheat and legumes to meet the body’s requirements.

As you start this beautiful journey, it’s prudent to keep yourself aware of general nutrition, as veganism definitely brings you closer to understanding your body.

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The Best Plant-Based Protein

Is It Better Than Animal Protein?

Here we discuss the best sources of plant-based proteins and why it is important to choose plant-based foods over animal products if you aim for a healthier lifestyle.


Plant-based protein is a hot topic between vegans and non-vegans. People argue the best sources of protein come from animal food. It’s true that animal proteins are complete due to the presence of all 9 essential amino acids. However, meat has several other components like saturated fat that drastically increase the calories. Also, the presence of heme iron is a concern. Heme iron is a type of iron necessary for the essential functioning of the body, but if found in excess, the body promotes inflammation and DNA damage. While our body can naturally regulate the absorption of heme iron from the plant-based food, absorption of heme iron from the animal food occurs readily and is not regulated well by the body. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t have the capability to remove the excess heme iron once ingested. This comes with an associated risk of being prone to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, metabolic syndrome, etc. Plant-based food, on the other hand, not only helps in regulating the heme iron content but also has additional nutrition like fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.


1. Tofu

Tofu or bean curd is one of the outstanding plant-based proteins you could have regularly. It has a high protein and fat content but is low in calories. It is made by curdling soy milk and pressing into solid blocks before cooling it, like the process of cheese making. It is also an excellent source of amino acids, calcium, iron, and other nutrients. Tofu is a complete protein and has all 9 essential amino acids. A 100g serving of tofu contains about 8 grams of protein. This being a versatile product, tofu could be used across cuisines and preparations. Grilled tofu tossed with some fresh salad, stir-fried vegetables with tofu and vegetable pilaf with tofu is our favorite picks!

2. Quinoa

It is a seed that belongs to a group of foods commonly called pseudo-cereals. Quinoa is a complete protein, which can be an excellent gluten-free alternative to starchy grains. One cup of cooked quinoa(185 grams) provides about 8 grams of protein. It has high fiber content, contains other nutrients like iron, magnesium, and folate. It can be substituted in place of rice and couscous, but when added to salads, it imparts a nutty flavor to the dish. It could also be made into flour, to use for cooking, gluten-free pasta, and bread. Once cooked, it becomes soft and fluffy with a light crunch. However, quinoa creates a foam while cooking, which leaves a bitter taste. To prevent this it needs to be washed thoroughly before cooking.

3. Amaranth

This grain is slowly gaining attention, especially among vegans and people who are intolerant to gluten. An excellent source of protein and fibre, one cup of cooked amaranth has about 9 grams of protein content. It has an earthy and nutty flavor and can be a fantastic addition to smoothie bowls, salads, even desserts. The additional nutrients in amaranth like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron also help in keeping the inflammatory level in the body under check, which helps in bone health and aids in better digestion. Abundant in antioxidants, amaranth is delicious, nutritious and filling.

4. Buckwheat

Unlike the name suggests, this grain has no relation to wheat, it’s gluten-free! Buckwheat, like quinoa, is a pseudo cereal and could be consumed as a cereal grain. 1 cup of cooked buckwheat contains about 6 grams of protein, among other nutrients, and is rich in fibre too. This excellent gluten alternative could be added to many dishes like your morning cereal bowl, pasta, and is fantastic with some tropical fruits in puddings too! Buckwheat has many health benefits associated with it, like improved heart health, reduced blood sugar and helps in digestion as it’s an excellent dietary fiber.

5. Chia seeds

These are one of the greatest superfoods recommended by nutritionists. Despite their tiny size, chia seeds are packed with nutrients that offer benefits beyond the nutritional value. Rich in protein, chia seeds are also an excellent source for omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Two tablespoons of chia seeds (28 grams) contain 4 grams of protein and contain all 9 essential amino acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help in improving heart health, by lowering cholesterol and regulating blood pressure. They have a crunchy texture when consumed raw, you can finish your salad with a sprinkle of these on top. But once it absorbs moisture, the chia seeds become soft and thick, which makes it an excellent addition to your morning breakfast and desserts. Chia pudding with some coconut milk would your next favorite vegan dessert.