Just about every vegetarian and vegan on Earth has been asked where they get their protein by friends, family, and even strangers. While this is often a well-meaning question, it is often met with rolled eyes as the person in question prepares to list (yet again) some of the foods through which he/she obtains protein. If you are a spouse, friend or family member of a vegan, or you just recently met a vegetarian or vegan through chance and are curious about how protein can be consumed, you may be surprised by some of the plants and foods that contain a large amount of protein. The myth that protein can only be consumed through animal products has long been established and supported throughout the U.S. Due to the lobbying done on behalf of meat and dairy farmers across the country, their products have seen consistent maintenance and marketing campaigns to remain on consumer shelves as the pinnacle source of suitable protein. Thousands of consumers undoubtedly feel as though they would not know where to turn if they could not purchase any animal-related products to satisfy their protein needs. Some might take the first steps towards peanut butter for protein, but beyond this, many would likely not know what to do. Many Americans, however, might be pleasantly surprised to learn certain plant foods actually provide more protein than many meats and animal byproducts. Soybeans provide anywhere from 9.6 to 13.3 grams of protein per 100 calories a serving, depending on the soy’s given form. Edamame, or young, green soybeans, can certainly be eaten raw or by themselves.
Most of the time, though, vegans and vegetarians enjoy veggie burgers, veggie dogs, vegan burritos or even vegan gyros with “meat” made out of something called “seitan.” Seitan is the Japanese name for wheat gluten, which boasts a whopping 21 grams of protein per 100 calorie serving. Wheat gluten is created by taking the dough of wheat bread and washing it with water, until all of the starch granules are separated from the dough. This process leaves pure gluten, which is essentially pure protein.
Black beans are also quite high on the scale of vegetarian and vegan proteins, charting at seven grams of protein per 140 calorie serving. Besides these three heavy hitters, other vegan foods that contain protein are: oats, lentils, spaghetti, bread, potatoes, spinach, rice and avocados. A lot of traditional American sources of protein, such as steak and burgers, still have protein, but are usually not combined with more than some bread or a slice of cheese. Leveraging the variety of vegan protein sources makes way for dozens more variations of recipes, and far fewer boring or mundane meals. Protein is truly more ubiquitous in the plant world than it seems. To the average eater, a ham sandwich or regular cheeseburger will do just fine; but for the food curious or those who have already subscribed to a meat-free diet, protein is of far less a concern than many people realize. The USDA reports the average adult man only needs about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average adult woman only needs about 46 grams per day. When taking into consideration even a few of the examples listed above, it is easy to include protein in one’s diet without the slaughter of animals.