By Heather Nicholds
Vegan protein options are normally easy to come by - beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and even vegetables and fruit have all the protein you need to be healthy.
It's important to get a variety of different sources of protein, though, because they all have different levels of the essential amino acids. They also give you more variety in all the other nutrients you need.
You don't need to combine them in a single meal (your body will be able to put together amino acids from different foods as long as you eat them within 48 hours), but you do need to get those different foods.
While traveling, Phil and I are still conscious of getting that variety, and here in Peru it's been easy for the most part. We've cooked lots of quinoa, and have rolled grains for breakfast that are super easy to cook or just soak.
I found some ground flax, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, cashews and peanuts - all of which we've used in meals and just snacked on.
Vegetables and fruit haven't been a problem, there are always markets or grocery stores with lots of good stuff. Dark green leafy vegetables, like broccoli and spinach, tend to be highest in protein.
The one food that's been a bit trickier has been the beans and legumes. When we have a kitchen, it's not a huge deal, but they are a bit of a pain to soak and then cook - especially when all we have is a little gas cooker and if we move around too quickly we don't have time to prep them.
Canned beans are great (just be sure to bring a can opener, or sometimes I'm lucky to find a can with a pull tab), but all the cans I've seen here have had pork in them.
So one find that was really exciting for me was some toasted pea flour and fava bean flour. Having them toasted and ground means that they cook really quickly.
So I stocked up on those when I found them, and we've been making nice thick creamy soups and stews with them. I also filmed a recipe for making a fava bean dip with the flour, which is nice when it's hot because we can put it on a salad.
When we don't have a kitchen at all, things get more challenging...
When there are restaurants in the area that serve vegetarian meals, we've been set because they always have some kind of bean or lentil stew on the plate, along with veggies and rice.
Peanuts are technically a legume, so they're a good back up. Peanut butter is always a travel staple for us, and I've found it in a few places here, although it's never as popular in other continents as it is in North America.
We found some toasted fava beans here, as snacks, which have come in very handy. In Turkey, we also found toasted chick peas that served the same function. The only trouble is that they're really dry, so I like eating them with cucumber slices or something moist.
Phil's been reading up on Ginny Messina's blog lately (The Vegan RD, which is an awesome site for a well-researched and balanced look at nutrition for vegans), and is very pro-bean.
My latest find was a soy powder, which Phil's been mixing in to his porridge to get a bit of a boost on the protein percentage. Soy gives me gas (not just embarrassing, it gets to painful levels) so I've been sticking to the other legume sources.
We get that protein question too annoyingly often. It's always tempting to say that all foods have protein and it's pretty much impossible to not get enough, but we do need to get the right amounts of all those essential amino acids.
It's very easy to get enough protein entirely from plants, but it's important for vegans to make sure we're getting the right variety of vegan protein options so that we can answer with confidence that we get enough protein from a vegan diet.
What are your go-to vegan protein options? Share your thoughts know below.