If you’re thinking about following a strictly vegan or vegetarian diet, you will undoubtedly be in good company. According to an article published by Sentient Media, a California-based nonprofit organization committed to creating transparency around industrial agriculture and the impact it has on humans, between 1 and 2 percent of Americans are vegan. Another study published by Statista, a German online portal for statistics, about 5 percent of Americans are vegetarians.
It is worth noting that the rationale behind wanting to limit or forgo consuming meat entirely varies from one person to the next. For example, some people might adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet as their way of protesting against the ill-treatment of animals. Others might choose to follow one of these two diets as a way to improve their health. In some cases, it is a combination of both. Whatever the rationale is for following these diets, individuals who do so are generally healthier. But many complain that these diets do not provide them with enough protein, an essential nutrient for the human body.
What Health Benefits Are Associated With Following a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet?
Before discussing how vegans and vegetarians can go about increasing their protein intake, let’s take a moment to highlight some of the health benefits associated with both diets. Studies show that individuals who follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. They also find it easier to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. That aside, we should probably now address the elephant in the room, which is that following either of these diets can potentially lead to a protein deficiency. For reference, protein is a macro-nutrient, which means that the body needs a large supply of it to function optimally. In short, protein helps the body in the following ways:
- Supporting healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin
- Repairing and builds tissue
- Circulating oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
- Supporting digestive health
- Balancing hormones levels in the body
What You Should Know About Getting Enough Protein While Following a Plant-Based Diet
Whether an individual chooses to go vegan or vegetarian, consuming plenty of plant-based protein foods can reduce the risk of a protein deficiency. That said, doing so doesn’t have to mean sacrificing taste for good health. Some of the plant-based foods that are high in protein, praised by vegans and vegetarians, and actually taste pretty good include tofu, tempeh, lentils, nuts, seeds, and quinoa. What’s more, these foods contain as much calcium, iron, and vitamin B-12 as meat-based protein foods. Beyond that, they each have fewer calories compared to most meat-protein foods of the same serving size. Lastly, from a cost perspective, plant-based protein foods are more cost-effective, making them perfect for those who want to eat healthily but are on a budget.
Best Recipes for Those Following a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet
Having already detailed some of the many benefits that come with following a vegan or vegetarian diet, let’s turn our attention to a few recipes that you can prepare either for yourself or your family from the convenience of your very own kitchen:
Vegan scrambled eggs – Breakfast is, arguably, the most important meal of the day, and for most people, this means a plate of scrambled eggs and a few slices of toast. However, vegans and vegetarians can enjoy this delicious breakfast dish as well, albeit with a slight twist. Here is a quick vegan scrambled egg recipe you can try first thing in the morning for yourself or your family:
- White onions
- Coconut or olive oil
- Extra-firm tofu
- Lemon juice
- Black salt
- Nutritional yeast
Once you have assembled all of your ingredients, here is how you will make this delicious, protein-packed breakfast:
Step one – Heat a small amount of coconut or olive oil in a pan and then add in a handful of finely chopped onions and garlic. Saute them for 2 to 3 minutes or until they become translucent.
Step two – Wash and drain a handful or more of tofu and crumble it into bite-size pieces. From there, combine and thoroughly mix the tofu with the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and black salt.
Step three – Add the mixture of tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and black salt to the pan of finely chopped onions and garlic. Lastly, scramble them until there is no more water left in the pan.
The nutritional yeast in this recipe gives vegan scrambled eggs its yellow coloring and cheesy flavor. To make this dish even healthier, consider pairing adding toast made from Ezekiel bread. The total prep and cook time for this breakfast is about 10 to 15 minutes.
Vegan macaroni and cheese – This dish, despite its name, is a favorite among vegetarians and vegans alike. That said, here is an easy-to-follow recipe that you can try today:
- 1 cup cashews
- 1/3 cup of oil
- 4 ounces roasted red peppers
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ tsp garlic powder
- 1⅓ cups water
- 4 ounces roasted red peppers
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- One 8-ounce pack of uncooked elbow macaroni
Once you have assembled all of your ingredients, here is how you will make this delicious protein-packed meal for lunch or dinner:
- Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package.
- Using a blender, mix the water, cashews, lemon juice, and salt until all the ingredients are smooth. From there, slowly add in the nutritional yeast, roasted red peppers, garlic powder, and onion powder and continue blending until the entire mixture has a smooth consistency.
- Pour the mixture into a strainer or colander until it completely covers the elbow macaroni. From there, slowly stir the macaroni and sauce mixture until everything thickens. Lastly, allow the dish to cool for a few minutes and then enjoy.
The meal prep and cook time for this dish is about 25 minutes.
In summary, there are many food choices, beyond meat, that vegans and vegetarians can choose from to meet the recommended daily intake for protein. Best of all, they can be prepared in minutes and taste surprisingly good
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