Navigating Plant Based Protein Sources

"But where do you get your protein from?", the most common question asked of all vegans. Here is an introduction to some of the best and easiest plant-based protein sources.

Article by Caitlin Arnold. Caitlin is a plant-based Coach and Founder of Plant Forged Physique. She’s an Accredited Sports Nutritionist, Strength & Conditioning coach, vegan bodybuilder, and bodybuilding judge. She spends much of her time developing her knowledge and skills around sports nutrition, with a speciality for strength sports and physique transformation.

Protein is an essential nutrient that forms the building blocks of our body’s cells, tissues, and muscles. Getting an adequate amount of protein is not only achievable on a plant-based diet but also enjoyable, with a diverse array of protein-rich sources available.

But if you’re new to being vegan, these protein sources might feel foreign and new. You might not know the difference between tofu and tempeh, or think WTF when you hear TVP. Let’s delve into some of these plant-based protein sources, their nutritional benefits, and how you can incorporate them into your meals effectively.

Tofu: A Versatile Protein Powerhouse

Let’s start with tofu, a staple for many vegans. Tofu is made from soybeans in a similar process that cheese is made, and is prized for its high protein content, low-calorie profile, and versatility in cooking. One of the standout benefits of tofu is its complete amino acid profile, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own.

In addition to its protein content, tofu is also a good source of iron, calcium, and magnesium. Iron is crucial for oxygen transport in the blood, while calcium and magnesium are essential for bone health and muscle function, respectively.

The easiest tofu to use and cook with is firm or hard tofu – which can be cubed, sliced or grated. Compared to a soft or silken tofu – which is a delicate, jelly-like consistency.

Incorporating firm tofu into your meals is a breeze. You can cube it and add it to stir-fries for a protein boost, marinate and grill it for a flavorful main dish, or crumble it into a tofu scramble for a hearty breakfast option.

When cooking with firm tofu, it’s often best to combine it with bold flavours, herbs, spices and sauces. Tofu itself has a mild taste and is a versatile ‘blank slate’ for flavourful dishes.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): The “Meaty” Option

above: Vegan Stuffed Capsicums made with TVP

If you’re looking for a plant-based replacement that mimics the texture of mince, textured vegetable protein (TVP) is your go-to option. TVP is made from soy flour that has been processed and dehydrated, resulting in a product that is rich in protein and low in fat.

One of the advantages of TVP is its ability to absorb flavours, making it an excellent addition to dishes like chilli, tacos, and pasta sauces. It’s also cholesterol-free, making it a heart-healthy protein source.

Incorporating TVP into your meals is simple. Rehydrate it with hot water or broth, season it with your favourite spices and sauces, and use it as you would mince – as a filling for tacos, stuffed peppers, or casseroles. The versatility and meat-like texture of TVP make it a favourite among plant-based cooks.

Tempeh: The Fermented Protein Powerhouse

Tempeh is another soy-based protein that is made from whole soybeans and undergoes fermentation, which not only enhances its digestibility but also increases its nutritional value. Tempeh retains the whole soybean, giving it a slightly nutty flavour and a firmer texture.

One of the unique benefits of tempeh is its probiotic content, thanks to the fermentation process. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support gut health and digestion, making tempeh not just a protein source but also an extra gut-friendly food.

Tempeh can be used in a variety of dishes, from sandwiches and salads to stir-fries and curries. Because of its firm texture, it makes it ideal for grilling or pan-frying, allowing you to achieve a crispy exterior while retaining a tender interior.

Vegan Protein Powder: The Convenient Option

above: Choc Protein Blueberry Smoothie includes chocolate soy protein powder

For those looking for a quick and convenient way to boost their protein intake, plant-based protein powders are a game-changer. These powders are typically sourced from pea, rice, hemp, or a blend of these, providing a complete amino acid profile.

They can be easily incorporated into smoothies and shakes, oatmeal, stirred into plant-based yoghurt, or baked goods – like protein pancakes – for a protein-packed snack or meal replacement.

When choosing a vegan protein powder, Plant Forged Physique stocks a variety of trusted brands that use high-quality ingredients and minimal additives. You can choose from their wide variety of different flavours and experiment with your favourite way to use protein powder to suit your taste preferences best.

Soy Protein Crispies: The Crunchy Snack

Soy protein crispies are a crunchy and protein-rich snack that can add texture and flavour to your meals. They are made from soy protein isolate, have a neutral taste, and a similar texture to rice bubbles or puffed rice.

One of the advantages of soy protein crispies is their versatility. You can use them as a topping on yoghurt or smoothie bowls, a coating for tofu or tempeh before baking or frying, added on top of ice cream, added to your morning cereal or porridge for a protein kick, sprinkle them on soups or stews for added crunch, or incorporate them into homemade energy bars or granola for a satisfying snack.

Legume Pasta: The Gluten-Free Protein Source

For pasta lovers following a plant-based diet, legume-based pastas are a game-changer. These pastas are typically made from chickpeas, lentils, black beans, or a combination of these legumes, offering a gluten-free and protein-rich alternative to traditional wheat pasta.

In addition to being high in protein, legume pastas are also rich in fibre, making them a filling and nutritious choice. They come in various shapes and sizes, allowing you to enjoy your favourite pasta dishes without sacrificing protein or flavour.

High-Protein Bread and Wraps: The Sandwich Saviors

If you’re craving a hearty sandwich or wrap, high-protein (and often also low-carb) bread and wraps can be a useful tool. These plant-based options are often boosted with wheat protein, pea protein, plus nuts and seeds, offering a nutrient-dense and satisfying alternative to traditional bread products.

Use high-protein bread or wraps to support another protein – you can create sandwiches, wraps, or toast topped with your favourite plant-based proteins, veggies, and spreads.

Plant-Based Meat: The Familiar Flavours

Plant-based meat has come a long way in terms of taste, texture, and variety. From burgers and sausages to meatballs and deli slices, there’s a plant-based option for almost every meat-based dish these days.

They are typically made from ingredients like soy protein, pea protein, wheat protein, or mycoprotein (mushroom protein) and are often fortified with vitamins and minerals. They offer a familiar meaty flavour and texture while being cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable.

Plant-based meats can be fairly different depending on the brand, type and product you choose – there is a vast variety available. And you may like some specific products but not others depending on your personal taste. Experiment with different products to find the ones you like the most.

Incorporating plant-based meat into your meals is easy. Use them as a direct replacement in dishes like burgers, tacos, stir-fries, or pasta sauces. They provide a protein-rich and satisfying meal without the need for animal products.

Navigating plant-based protein sources opens up a world of delicious and nutritious possibilities. From the versatile firm tofu to the meaty goodness of tempeh and plant-based meat, there’s no shortage of protein-rich options to fuel your body and satisfy your taste buds.

Whether you prefer cooking from scratch with whole ingredients or incorporating convenient protein powders and snacks into your routine, the key is to embrace variety, experiment with flavours, and enjoy the journey of plant-based eating. With a thoughtful approach to nutrition and a dash of culinary creativity, you can thrive on a plant-based diet while reaping the benefits of diverse and sustainable protein sources.

About Plant Forged Physique

Plant Forged Physique is the one-stop hub for plant-based fitness. They’re the leading online vegan retailer for specialty plant-based supplements, gear, nutrition services, resources and more. They seek to empower individuals to achieve their health and fitness goals without compromising on quality or ethics. Powered by Plants, Inside & Out.

For more information, visit www.plantforgedphysique.com or follow them on Instagram or Facebook @PlantForgedPhysique

Plant Forged Physique is an in-kind partner of Vegan Easy.

 

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