Many people who start a vegetarian or vegan diet think that they are not getting enough protein, but that is not necessarily true.
Protein is made from chains of amino acids. Some amino acids can be made by the body and some, known as "essential" amino acids, need to be eaten since the body cannot make them.
Essential amino acids help muscle production, tissue repair, immunity, and hormone production. Animal products are complete proteins containing all the essential amino acids, whereas plant foods contain only some so are incomplete proteins.
Vegans should eat a variety of sources throughout the day to get a complete range of essential amino acids.
Great plant sources of protein are soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and soybeans. Soy is the only plant food considered to be a complete (containing all essential amino acids) protein.
Seitan, or wheat gluten, is also a good source of protein if you are able to eat gluten. Nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables all contain protein, too.
Although each of us varies with the amount of protein we need to eat, dietary guidelines recommend that 10 to 30 percent of your daily calories come from protein, or about 0.3 to 0.5 grams per pound of ideal body weight. For vegans, since plant proteins are harder to digest, the recommendation is to eat the higher end of the range.
Make sure to get enough of the essential amino acids Methionine (from soy, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and whole wheat) and Lysine (from soy, pistachios, cashews, quinoa, lentils, and whole wheat) since these are only found in small quantities in other plant foods.