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Kris Carr

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Protein Powerhouses: Top Allergen-Friendly Vegan Foods

Hiya Gorgeous,

I am committed to a vegan lifestyle because it’s better for my health, the animals and the planet. Thankfully, there are so many amazing vegan foods out there (plus creative ways to deliciously veganize recipes), there’s zero deprivation. A win-win! But I know that many of you still have questions about vegan protein, especially if you have allergies to soy, grains, gluten, and legumes. (If you want to read more about food sensitivities, check out this blog.)

I’ve written a lot about vegan foods and protein before. (If you’re curious about protein basics like understanding what a complete protein is and you can eat soy, check out this ha​​ndy protein blog & infographic.) In this post, I want to focus on those of you who have allergies to help you make healthier, more conscious food choices.

The good news is there are plenty of plant-based foods that taste great and pack a powerful protein punch—that are also allergen-friendly! I’ve also included a selection of tasty protein-packed recipes and an example of a daily menu.

15 Soy-Free, Gluten-Free, and Legume-Free Protein-Rich Vegan Foods

Plant-based protein can be found in abundance in these amazing soy-free vegan foods:

Hemp Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Chia Seeds & Pumpkin Seeds

For all my readers with nut allergies, seeds will become your new best friends. They can be made into “seed butters” and used in place of most tree nuts in recipes. Below are a few examples.

  • Hemp Seeds: One of my favorites! Three tablespoons of hemp seeds pack in 10 grams of protein. These seeds are also high in fiber, iron, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids. Combined with a high magnesium content, these seeds have the power to boost energy and improve your mood!
  • Pumpkin Seeds: These contain 10 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
  • Sunflower Seeds: A 1/4 cup of raw sunflower seeds hold 6 grams of protein.
  • Chia Seeds: Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 6 grams of protein.

Pistachios, Walnuts & Almonds

Chopped walnuts have 4.5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup and pistachios pack even more with 6 grams. An even-better plant-based protein source are almonds with a whopping 8 grams of protein per 1/4 cup! Almond butter is also a great source of healthy fats and vitamin E.

Kale, Spinach & Broccoli

Some of my favorite veggies are packed with protein too!

  • Kale is a leafy green that holds 4 grams of protein per two cups.
  • Spinach is another delicious green that is over 50% protein, with a high protein density of approximately 5 grams per one cup. This veggie is also a wonderful source of folate, iron, and vitamin C (and easy to add to a green smoothie!).
  • Broccoli is another super-green with one cup containing 5 grams of protein.

Spirulina

Another excellent source of complete protein is spirulina with just 1 tablespoon of dried spirulina packing a whopping 4 grams. Spirulina also contains B vitamins, protein, iron, and other trace minerals. It can even help reduce inflammation (unlike animal-based proteins).

Quinoa

While it’s touted as a gluten-free grain, did you know that quinoa is actually a seed? One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein.

Avocado

Avocado isn’t just a great source of healthy fats, it’s also a wonderful source of protein. One avocado provides 7 grams of protein. Adding avocado to your diet can also help lower cholesterol!

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast isn’t just a great cheese alternative but is also a decent source of protein, containing approximately 4 grams of protein in two tablespoons.

Tahini

Hummus fans, rejoice! Two tablespoons of Tahini has 5 grams of protein.

Other Soy-Free Protein Sources

These are all non-soy protein sources that may not be allergy-friendly but are completely fine on a vegan diet.

  • Seitan: Seitan is soy-free but contains wheat gluten. So, if you have Celiac Disease, this protein must be avoided.
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, and kidney beans are all great protein options.
  • Jackfruit: Jackfruit is a fruit whose texture is well-known for its ability to mimic meat and can be used in many recipes. It doesn’t have a high protein content, but it contains some protein and is packed full of fiber.

Bonus tip: If you’re looking for a great soy-free condiment to replace soy sauce, consider coconut aminos. They offer a similar umami taste and saltiness without the soy.

 

High-Protein, Allergen-Friendly Vegan Food Recipes

Here are six great soy-free recipes full of plant-based protein and completely void of animal products!

Quinoa Quickie

You can use quinoa instead of rice, pasta, and oatmeal. You can even form it into burgers. Yum! Try this high-protein recipe that tastes great: Sweet Potato and Quinoa Bowl with Walnuts

Magnificent Milks

For milk alternatives, try hemp milk, flax milk, or almond milk. They can be homemade or found in your local natural foods store. You can also try making my favorite Basic Nut/Seed Milk recipe!

Delicious Dips

Snack on nuts and dunk veggies in dips made out of avocados, nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters. Some of my favorites are in Crazy Sexy Kitchen. Or you can give my Artichoke Aioli recipe a try!

Scrumptious Smoothies

Start your day with a scrumptious protein-rich smoothie. You can blend almond milk, kale, frozen fruit, hemp hearts, and spirulina for a nice dose of protein in this Body Builder recipe. You can also add a plant-based protein powder for an extra kick.

Seeds-A-Go-Go

Sprinkle pumpkin or sunflower seeds on salads and soups for extra crunch and protein pow or top your pasta or salad with a nut/seed-based sauce. Try out my Dill Hemp Seed Pesto!

Be A Chia Champ

Whether you’re looking for a high-protein breakfast or dessert, give this Strawberry Chia Pudding a try. 

Sample Menu: How to Get Enough Vegan Protein in Your Day

To help all you soy-gluten-grain-legume sensitive guys and gals (that’s a mouthful!), below is a sample menu for a protein-full day. This will help you see how it’s possible to avoid these foods and still meet your protein needs—without sacrificing variety and tastiness in your diet.

Here’s how a moderately active adult who weighs 140 pounds could meet their protein needs without soy, grains, gluten or legumes (50 grams per day):

TOTAL = 55 grams protein

Other Nutrients to Consider in Vegan Foods

Now that we’ve talked about meeting your protein requirements, let’s also address overall nutrient needs. Whenever you remove large food groups from your diet, it’s a good idea to look at your diet as a whole and identify anything that might need a boost.

Here are some things to be mindful of to make sure you’re still enjoying a nourishing plant-based menu:

  • Lysine is one of the essential amino acids responsible for turning fat into energy. It’s the one amino acid that’s less easy to come by in a plant-based diet. But have no fear. Although many vegetarians get tons of lysine from legumes, it’s also found in quinoa, almonds, and pistachios. Plus, complete proteins like spirulina, hemp, chia, and flax seeds are also great sources of lysine.
  • Calcium is found in abundance in kale, chia seeds, collard greens, and tahini (more info about ditching dairy in my blog here).
  • Vitamin D can best be obtained from the sun and supplements (check my interview with Kenneth Bock, MD for details here).
  • Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods and fortified foods. I recommend that vegans take a B-complex vitamin or multivitamin daily that includes B12.
  • Zinc is another important nutrient and can be found in pumpkin seeds and any common multivitamin.

I know that navigating the grocery store and your kitchen can be tricky when you have food sensitivities, but I hope that these recipes, tips and info will remove the stress and replace it with mouth-watering, plant-based, nourishing vegan meals.

Your turn: What are your plant-based suggestions and tips for navigating food sensitivities?

Peace & plant love,

 
 
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