Vegan Protein Source from Green Leafy Veggies
Stop overthinking what is the optimal vegan protein source. Use this guide to meet your plant-based protein needs from a mix of greens, veggies & more
Updated February 22, 2019 - 5 Min Read
The world is constantly changing and the change is dynamic. This is also true for health and nutrition. Because of the widespread consumption of fast food, excess meat & dairy, and processed products over the past few decades, more people have searched for the solution to the problems caused by this way of eating. The answer – a whole food plant-based diet!
A vegan diet done right is the practice of taking in a variety of whole plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Because of its organic nature, health enthusiasts who have adopted the vegan meal plan believe in the power of protein as an active essential nutrient for optimizing health and performance. So, what is vegan protein? And where can we find the best Vegan Protein Source?
Meet and Greet: Vegan Protein Source
From the name itself, Vegan protein is a macronutrient that comes from green leafy veggies. One of the most common places to get protein that most people don't realize is through vegetables. Yes, you read that right...there is protein in vegetables! However, vegan sources of protein are not limited to ‘green’ and ‘leafy’ vegetables. Most people are not aware that plant-based protein source of protein also includes nuts and seeds, legumes, algae, mushrooms and others. Thus, it doesn’t have to be ‘green’ all the time. Before talking about the food sources to get this kind of protein, let's first talk about Vegan protein and the benefits to our body.
Vegan proteins are our inner body’s foundation. Since cells are the building blocks of the human body, vegan proteins support the amino acids that make up the core structure of what we're made out of. To better understand its functions, here is a list of its benefits:
Top Seven Roles of Plant Protein in the Body
• Improves digestion because, unlike animal protein, plant proteins are high in fiber
• Improves heart health since it has low cholesterol levels and low saturated fats
• Avoids additional hormones and antibiotics compared to animal-based protein
• Boosts metabolism because of protein and fiber combination
• Supports growth and development
• Increases energy levels
• Repairs damaged tissues and muscles
As you can see, protein plays an integral role in many of our bodily functions. Due to the positive benefits that vegan protein has on the body, it's no wonder why this macronutrient get so much attention. These benefits only prove how badly our body needs protein to continue living and to be functional. Now that we've demonstrated why protein is so important, let's discuss where to look for it as a vegetable protein source.
Most Popular Vegan Protein Source
You don’t need to look for vegetables from far-flung places around the globe to find a high-quality vegan protein source that supports your health and fitness goals. If you have a garden, some of the best protein may already be lying on the ground in your own backyard. Protein is EVERYWHERE but most the sources of protein get overlooked by consumers because of the marketing and advertising of big dairy and meat that has led us to believe that animal products are the only way to get our protein.
Here is a list of the most popular Vegan Protein sources available in the market:
Nuts and Seeds - These are heart-healthy snacks, proven to reduce cholesterol levels. Moreover, these are also an exceptional protein source. Almonds, hemp seeds, peanuts, sesame seeds are all great vegan sources high in protein.
Whole grains – Though these consist of “incomplete proteins”, combining ancient grains like quinoa and couscous with other vegan foods will produce great complementary proteins.
Legumes – Also known as “edible seed pods”, legumes are a type of veggie that splits into halves. This includes lentils, peanuts, and beans. Due to their high-protein content and being rich in iron, legumes are one of the most popular plant-based sources of protein to replace animal-based proteins.
Nutritional Yeast – It is a yeast similar to that used in baking with a cheesy flavor that undergoes heating and drying to create yummy yellow flakes that add a ton of flavor to vegan dishes. Nutritional yeast is both gluten-free and dairy-free and contains no sugar, making it a clean high-protein source that will also satisfy your cheese craving.
Green Leafy Vegetables – You might not know it, but if you're following mom's advice to eat your veggies, you are already consuming foods rich in protein. Some of the vegan protein source might be filling your refrigerator as well. Take for example broccoli, yellow sweet corn, potato, asparagus, artichokes, avocado, cauliflower, turnip greens, okra, mushrooms, etc. All of these contain some amount of protein with varied amino acid profiles.
In search of high-protein sources, green leafy veggies are a great choice for those that are always on the go because they can be consumed raw, cooked, or easily added into smoothies. Simply adding more greens to your diet is an excellent way to up your intake of vegan protein and reduce dependence on animal-based sources. But the journey doesn’t stop there, one must understand the protein weight of each source to gain what your body needs. As we addressed in our article about getting the best plant-based protein, it isn't just about how much protein you get but about finding the highest quality sources that will give you enough for your personal needs.
Related Article: Getting the Best Plant Based Protein and Its Food Sources
The Scale: Total Protein per Vegan Protein Source
Health experts emphasize that our body does not need an abundance of protein per day, it only needs enough to sustain the amino acids of our body, in order for us to function well. Let us take a look at the total protein available in different vegan protein source.
• Nuts and seeds - 8-18% DV of protein per 1oz handful
• Whole Grains – 6.27 to 8.34 grams
• Legumes – 15 to 28 grams per cup
• Nutritional Yeast – 9 grams per two tablespoons
• Green Leafy Vegetables – 1.93 to 18 grams per cup or serving
Each source is unique not only in taste, but also in the protein scaling. Thus, it is up to you on what green leafy ingredient would you like to explore in your next recipe.
Enjoy going plant-based with these top vegan protein source ideas!
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Read Next: How to choose the right plant-based diet for your health.
Written by Chris Manderino
Co-Founder of LYFE Fuel in Newport Beach, CA. Chris was an NFL fullback for the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs before embarking on a journey to pursue his passion for health & nutrition. Chris is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and earned a completion certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Course in Plant-Based Nutrition.