“So do you just eat a lot of tofu?”
Anyone following a plant-based diet has undoubtedly heard that question more times than they can count. As a bodybuilder and bikini athlete, I consume anywhere between 120 and 150 grams of vegan protein each day and, I promise, it isn’t all tofu.
I am very passionate about educating people on the wide variety of plant-based protein sources. In my experience, the lack of understanding surrounding protein sources is a huge factor in preventing people from switching to (or even trying) a vegan diet and I want to help change that by talking about the abundance of vegan protein options available.
I will walk through several of my favorite staple protein sources and hopefully everyone, both seasoned vegans and omnivores alike, can learn something. Some of these foods you will know, or at least recognize, but my hope is that I can introduce you to some new items as well!
First, let me just touch base on the one item most people know: tofu.
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks which is the form most commonly seen. Tofu is available in many different forms from silken, or very soft, to firm and extra firm. Tofu has a very mild flavor and can be used in both savory and even sweet dishes. Tofu is widely available, very low in calories and high in protein which is why it has always been a staple in any vegan’s diet.
A close second to the familiarity of tofu is another soy-based protein source: Tempeh.
Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a dense block or patty. Some varieties will have other added grains, such as barley. While tempeh, like tofu, is made from soy, it has a much stronger and unique, almost nutty, flavor all on its own. It is even higher in protein than tofu, and can be crumbled and used as a great meat-substitute because of its consistency and texture. Tempeh is not quite as common as tofu, but it is growing in popularity as a versatile plant-based protein source.
Now I want to discuss two of my personal favorite vegan protein sources and are not as common as tofu and tempeh, and one of which you may have never even heard of but I can guarantee you will want to try by the time you finish this article.
First up: Seitan.
Pronounced ‘say-tan’, and commonly referred to as “wheat meat” this is one of the most protein-rich plant-based foods you will ever come across. It is also extremely easy, and very inexpensive, to make at home and can be flavored and utilized as a meat-substitute in everything from stir-frys to sandwiches. Seitan can be diced, sliced, and even grilled. It will keep in the refrigerator for over a week or you can freeze it and have it at your disposal for months! Here is a great seitan recipe that boasts over 24g of protein per serving and will undoubtedly become a favorite, and very versatile, plant-based protein source.
Next: Bean Pastas.
Bean pastas? Yes, indeed.
I recently discovered the line of bean pastas produced by Explore Asian a couple months ago and was blown away but the 20+ grams of protein per 2oz serving. They come in 4 varieties (soy bean, black bean, adzuki bean, & edamame/mung bean) and each has a slightly different flavor and all lend themselves very well to any sauces and ingredients. These pastas were a game-changer for me because they allow me to have a simple pasta dish while also providing my body with a great deal of protein. As more people are learning of these pastas, I have been finding them in more and more local grocery stores allowing easier access for people to try, and ultimately include, in their diets.
There are far more than just these 4 sources of plant-based protein, but these are 4 that I both highly recommend and also include in my own diet on a consistent basis. These 4 protein-rich foods allow me to have a great variety in my daily diet while easily fulfilling my body’s high protein needs.