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The Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

A common concern about vegetarian and vegan diets is that they might lack sufficient protein.
However, many experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can provide you with all the nutrients you need.
That said, certain plant foods contain significantly more protein than others.
And higher-protein diets can promote muscle strength, satiety and weight loss.
Here are 17 plant foods that contain a high amount of protein per serving.

Seitan

Seitan is a popular protein source for many vegetarians and vegans.

It’s made from gluten, the main protein in wheat. Unlike many soy-based mock meats, it resembles the look and texture of meat when cooked.

Also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, it contains about 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). This makes it the richest plant protein source on this list (8).

Seitan is also a good source of selenium and contains small amounts of iron, calcium and phosphorus.

You can find this meat alternative in the refrigerated section of most health food stores, or make your own version with vital wheat gluten using this recipe.

Seitan can be pan-fried, sautéed and even grilled. Therefore, it can be easily incorporated in a variety of recipes.

However, seitan should be avoided by people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Re-cap :

Seitan is a mock meat made from wheat gluten. Its high protein content, meat-like texture and versatility make it a popular plant-based protein choice among many vegetarians and vegans.

Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame

Tofu, tempeh and edamame all originate from soybeans.

Soybeans are considered a whole source of protein. This means that they provide the body with all the essential amino acids it needs.

Edamame are immature soybeans with a sweet and slightly grassy taste. They need to be steamed or boiled prior to consumption and can be eaten on their own or added to soups and salads.

Tofu is made from bean curds pressed together in a process similar to cheesemaking. Tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans prior to pressing them into a patty.

Tofu doesn’t have much taste, but easily absorbs the flavour of the ingredients it’s prepared with. Comparatively, tempeh has a characteristic nutty flavour.

Both tofu and tempeh can be used in a variety of recipes, ranging from burgers to soups and chilis.

All three contain iron, calcium and 10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

Edamame are also rich in folate, vitamin K and fibre. Tempeh contains a good amount of probiotics, B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus.

Re-cap :

Tofu, tempeh and edamame all originate from soybeans, a complete source of protein. They also contain good amounts of several other nutrients and can be used in a variety of recipes.

Lentils

At 18 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), lentils are a great source of protein (12).

They can be used in a variety of dishes, ranging from fresh salads to hearty soups and spice-infused dahls.

Lentils also contain good amounts of slowly digested carbs, and a single cup (240 ml) provides approximately 50% of your recommended daily fibre intake.

Furthermore, the type of fibre found in lentils has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon, promoting a healthy gut. Lentils may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, excess body weight and some types of cancer (13).

In addition, lentils are rich in folate, manganese and iron. They also contain a good amount of antioxidants and other health-promoting plant compounds.

Re-cap :

Lentils are nutritional powerhouses. They are rich in protein and contain good amounts of other nutrients. They may also help reduce the risk of various diseases.

Chickpeas and Most Varieties of Beans

Kidney, black, pinto and most other varieties of beans contain high amounts of protein per serving.

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are another legume with a high protein content.

Both beans and chickpeas contain about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml). They are also excellent sources of complex carbs, fibre, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and several beneficial plant compounds.

Moreover, several studies show that a diet rich in beans and other legumes can decrease cholesterol, help control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and even reduce belly fat.

Add beans to your diet by making a tasty bowl of homemade chili, or enjoy extra health benefits by sprinkling a dash of turmeric on roasted chickpeas.

Re-cap :

Beans are health-promoting, protein-packed legumes that contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, sold commercially as a yellow powder or flakes.

It has a cheesy flavour, which makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like mashed potatoes and scrambled tofu.

Nutritional yeast can also be sprinkled on top of pasta dishes or even enjoyed as a savoury topping on popcorn.

This complete source of plant protein provides the body with 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fibre per ounce (28 grams).

Fortified nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese and all the B vitamins, including B12.

However, fortification is not universal and unfortified nutritional yeast should not be relied on as a source of vitamin B12.

Re-cap :

Nutritional yeast is a popular plant-based ingredient often used to give dishes a dairy-free cheese flavour. It is high in protein, fibre and is often fortified with various nutrients, including vitamin B12.

Spelt and Teff

Spelt and Teff belong to a category known as ancient grains. Other ancient grains include einkorn, barley, sorghum and farro.

Spelt is a type of wheat and contains gluten, whereas teff originates from an annual grass, which means it’s gluten-free.

Spelt and teff provide 10–11 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), making them higher in protein than other ancient grains (23, 24).

Both are excellent sources of various nutrients, including complex carbs, fibre, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. They also contain good amounts of B vitamins, zinc and selenium.

Spelt and teff are versatile alternatives to common grains, such as wheat and rice, and can be used in many recipes ranging from baked goods to polenta and risotto.

Re-cap :

Spelt and teff are high-protein ancient grains. They’re a great source of various vitamins and minerals and an interesting alternative to more common grains.

Hemp Seed

Hemp seed comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is notorious for belonging to the same family as the marijuana plant.

Hemp Seed contains no THC, the compound that produces the marijuana high.

Although not as well-known as other seeds, hemp seed contains 10 grams of complete, easily digestible protein per ounce (28 grams). That’s 50% more than chia seeds and flaxseeds.

Hemp Seed also contains a good amount of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium. What’s more, it’s a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ratio considered optimal for human health.

Interestingly, some studies indicate that the type of fats found in hemp seed may help reduce inflammation, as well as diminish symptoms of PMS, menopause and certain skin diseases.

You can add hemp seed to your diet by sprinkling some in your smoothie or morning muesli. It can also be used in homemade salad dressings or protein bars.

Re-cap :

Hemp seed contains a good amount of complete, highly-digestible protein, as well as health-promoting essential fatty acids in a ratio optimal for human health.

Green Peas

The little green peas often served as a side dish contain 9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), which is slightly more than a cup of milk.

What’s more, a serving of green peas covers more than 25% of your daily fiber, vitamin A, C, K, thiamine, folate and manganese requirements.

Green peas are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and several other B vitamins.

You can use peas in recipes such as pea and basil stuffed ravioli, thai-inspired pea soup or pea and avocado guacamole.

Re-cap :

Green peas are high in protein, vitamins and minerals and can be used as more than just a side dish.

Spirulina

This blue-green algae is definitely a nutritional powerhouse.

Two tablespoons (30 ml) provide you with 8 grams of complete protein, in addition to covering 22% of your daily requirements of iron and thiamin and 42% of your daily copper needs (33).

Spirulina also contains decent amounts of magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium and small amounts of most of the other nutrients your body needs, including essential fatty acids.

Phycocyanin, a natural pigment found in spirulina, appears to have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Furthermore, studies link consuming spirulina to health benefits ranging from a stronger immune system and reduced blood pressure to improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Re-cap :

Spirulina is a nutritious high-protein food with many beneficial health-enhancing properties.

Amaranth and Quinoa

Although often referred to as ancient or gluten-free grains, amaranth and quinoa don’t grow from grasses like other cereal grains do.

For this reason, they’re technically considered “pseudo-cereals.”

Nevertheless, they can be prepared or ground into flours similar to more commonly known grains.

Amaranth and quinoa provide 8–9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml) and are complete sources of protein, which is rare among grains and pseudo-cereals.

Also, amaranth and quinoa are good sources of complex carbs, fibre, iron, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.

Re-cap :

Amaranth and quinoa are pseudo-cereals that provide you with a complete source of protein. They can be prepared and eaten similar to traditional grains such as wheat and rice.

Ezekiel Bread & other Breads made from Sprouted Grains

Ezekiel bread is made from organic, sprouted whole grains and legumes. These include wheat, millet, barley and spelt, as well as soybeans and lentils.

Two slices of Ezekiel bread contain approximately 8 grams of protein, which is slightly more than the average bread.

Sprouting grains and legumes increases the amount of healthy nutrients they contain and reduces the amount of anti-nutrients in them.

In addition, studies show that sprouting increases their amino acid content. Lysine is the limiting amino acid in many plants, and sprouting increases the lysine content. This helps boost the overall protein quality.

Similarly, combining grains with legumes could further improve the bread’s amino acid profile.

Sprouting also seems to increase the bread’s soluble fibre, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene content. It may also slightly reduce the gluten content, which can enhance digestion in those sensitive to gluten.

Re-cap :

Ezekiel and other breads made from sprouted grains have an enhanced protein and nutrient profile, compared to more traditional breads.

Soy Milk

Milk that’s made from soybeans and fortified with vitamins and minerals is a great alternative to cow’s milk.

Not only does it contain 7 grams of protein per cup (240 ml), but it’s also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12 (50).

However, keep in mind that soy milk and soybeans do not naturally contain vitamin B12, so picking a fortified variety is recommended.

Soy milk is found in most supermarkets. It’s an incredibly versatile product that can be consumed on its own or in a variety of cooking and baking recipes.

It is a good idea to opt for unsweetened varieties to keep the amount of added sugars to a minimum.

Re-cap :

Soy milk is a high-protein plant alternative to cow’s milk. It’s a versatile product that can be used in a variety of ways.

Oats and Oatmeal

Oats are an easy and delicious way to add protein to any diet.

Half a cup (120 ml) of dry oats provides you with approximately 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fibre. This portion also contains good amounts of magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and folate.

Although oats are not considered a complete protein, they do contain higher-quality protein than other commonly consumed grains like rice and wheat.

You can use oats in a variety of recipes ranging from oatmeal to veggie burgers. They can also be ground into flour and used for baking.

Re-cap :

Oats are not only nutritious but also an easy and delicious way to incorporate plant protein into a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Wild Rice

Wild rice contains approximately 1.5 times as much protein as other long-grain rice varieties, including brown rice and basmati.

One cooked cup (240 ml) provides 7 grams of protein, in addition to a good amount of fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and B vitamins (52).

Unlike white rice, wild rice is not stripped of its bran. This is great from a nutritional perspective, as bran contains fibre and plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Washing wild rice well before cooking and using plenty of water to boil it is a necessity.

Re-cap :

Wild rice is a tasty, nutrient-rich plant source of protein. Those relying on wild rice as a food staple should take precautions to reduce its arsenic content.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are derived from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala.

At 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fibre per 1.25 ounces (35 grams), chia seeds definitely deserve their spot on this list (58).

What’s more, these little seeds contain a good amount of iron, calcium, selenium and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and various other beneficial plant compounds (59, 60).

They’re also incredibly versatile. Chia seeds have a bland taste and are able to absorb water, turning into a gel-like substance. This makes them an easy addition to a variety of recipes, ranging from smoothies to baked goods and chia puddings.

Re-cap :

Chia seeds are a versatile source of plant protein. They also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health-promoting compounds.

Nuts, Nut Butters and Other Seeds

Nuts, seeds and their derived products are great sources of protein.

One ounce (28 grams) contains between 5–7 grams of protein, depending on the nut and seed variety.

Nuts and seeds are also great sources of fibre and healthy fats, in addition to iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin E and certain B vitamins. They also contain antioxidants, among other beneficial plant compounds.

When choosing which nuts and seeds to buy, keep in mind that blanching and roasting may damage the nutrients in nuts. So reach for raw, unblanched versions whenever possible.

Also, try opting for natural nut butters to avoid the oil, sugar and excess salt often added to many household brand varieties.

Re-cap :

Nuts, seeds and their butters are an easy way to add plant protein, vitamins and minerals to your diet. Opt to consume them raw, unblanched and with no other additives to maximize their nutrient content.

Protein-Rich Fruits and Vegetables

All fruits and vegetables contain protein, but the amounts are usually small.

However, some contain more than others.

Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

They contain about 4–5 grams of protein per cooked cup.

Although technically a grain, sweet corn is a common food that contains about as much protein as these high-protein vegetables.

Fresh fruits generally have a lower protein content than vegetables. Those containing the most include guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines and bananas, which have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup.

Re-cap :

Certain fruits and vegetables contain more protein than others. Include them in your meals to increase your daily protein intake.

In Conclusion

Protein deficiencies among vegetarians and vegans are far from being the norm.
Nonetheless, some people may be interested in increasing their plant protein intake for a variety of reasons.
This list can be used as a guide for anyone interested in incorporating more plant-based proteins into their diet.

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5 Plant Based Foods That Have More Protein than Meat

Protein gets a lot of attention, especially in a plant-based diet where the issue of complete and incomplete protein comes into play, along with protein per amount of weight, which is something else to consider. For instance, we don’t need to combine foods as we once thought to form a complete protein (such as beans and rice). That protein myth died years ago, thankfully when we found out our bodies are capable of using all sources of amino acids to form complete proteins.
Not Just Grams … What to Consider When Measuring Protein
It’s also important to consider that amounts in grams aren’t the only thing that matters when measuring protein in a food. You should also consider what percentage of total calories protein makes up in a food. For instance, beef and animal foods are high in calories and though they contain a good size amount of protein, per amount of calories, beef and animal proteins (even fish) are higher in cholesterol-forming saturated animal fats, where most of their calories come from. Plant-based foods on the other hand, have fewer calories, a variety of sources of amino acids that form complete proteins in the body and per weight, their percentage of protein in the amount of total calories is relatively high.
Some plant-based foods are higher in protein percentage than others, however, so making sure to include a variety of plant-based foods in your diet is important for achieving the amount of protein your body needs. Beef contains 7 grams of protein per ounce for about 75 calories, so let’s compare some better plant-based options that don’t come with the health risks beef and animal proteins do.
Here are five foods with more protein per gram than beef that also come with a higher percentage of protein per amount of calories:
spirulinaPer gram, Spirulina is 65% protein, the highest amount of protein percentage of all foods. In just 1 teaspoon, you’ll get 4 grams of protein, which is unheard of for all other foods. Spirulina is also a great source of iron, providing 80 % of your daily needs in just 1 teaspoon and at only 30 calories. You can add this blue green algae to your smoothies to mask the taste and know you’re getting in a nice dose of B vitamins, protein, iron and vital trace minerals. Since it’s also alkalizing, spirulina also reduces inflammation, unlike animal foods that contribute to it.
spinach
Yes, the humble Spinach contains 51 % protein (about 5 grams per cup at only 30 calories). It’s also a good source of iron and Vitamin C. This much-loved green is also a great source of folate, an important vitamin for women that contributes to strength, brain function and reproductive health. Adding a couple cups of spinach to your smoothie, salad, wrap, soup, or any other way, is an easy way to sneak in 10 grams of protein without the need for a supplement powder whatsoever.
hempseedsHemp is one of the best, easy-to-use foods that’s rich in all essential fatty acids and all 20 amino acids. Per ounce (about 2 tablespoons)  has 10 grams of protein, is high in fibre and most of its calories come from beneficial proteins and Omega fatty acids. Unlike animal-based proteins and sources of fat, hemp is very alkalizing to the body and also boosts the mood and energy thanks to high amounts of magnesium. It can also increase metabolism due to it containing 45 % of your daily iron requirements in just one ounce. You can also use hemp protein, another fantastic way to get this whole food into your diet. We enjoy it in smoothies, raw treats, but you can even stir it into oatmeal and bake with it in place of flour if you like. Although, it is better to consume hemp raw (not cooked), as heat destroys the fatty acids.
broccoli
Per calorie, broccoli has more protein than beef, which about 4.5 grams per 30 calories. Broccoli is also packed with amino acids, fibre, Vitamin B6 to improve your mood and is one of the best vegetables linked to fighting cancer.
almondsAlmonds and almond butter both provide 7 grams of protein in one ounce, along with heart-healthy fats and Vitamin E. They’re also a good source of calcium and provide high doses of beneficial magnesium.
Peanut butter is another high source of protein, with 8 grams per two tablespoons of peanut butter. While higher in calories than beef per ounce, these nut butters are rich in amino acids per ounce and also recommended as a good source of plant-based protein.
 

Plant-Based, High Protein Smoothie

Combine all these foods into a smoothie for a crazy, high-protein meal that your body will love and one that will shock you in how great it tastes! You’ll never know it contains good-for-you veggies!
greenproteinsmoothie
Servings : 1 Large or 2 Smaller
Ingredients:
1 Cup baby Spinach
4 Frozen Broccoli Florets (gives it a surprisingly great thick texture and the other ingredients hide the taste)
1/2 Cup Frozen Organic Mixed Berries or Blueberries
1 Tablespoon Cacao Powder (also a great source of protein and more iron than beef)
2-3 Tablespoons Hemptons Shelled Hemp Seeds
1 Tablespoon raw Almond Butter or Peanut Butter
1 Cup Non-Dairy Milk like Almond, Soy, Hemp or Rice Milk
Sweetener of choice – to taste (Stevia, 1/2 A Banana, A Date, A Fig, Raw Honey Or Maple Syrup)
 
Directions:
Add all the ingredients to your blender, blend together, decant and enjoy!