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As one who lives a plant based lifestyle, I’m frequently asked this question:
“But…what about protein?”
Ahhh, protein. It is essential to our diet, along with fats and carbohydrates. Proteins are made of amino acids that the body breaks down to use for growth, metabolism and repairs.
How much protein do we really need though? The recommended average is 42 grams per day. However, on a typical American diet high in meat, eggs and cheese, the average person eats upwards of 80 grams of protein a day…way more than needed.
In addition, animal products are high in fats and cholesterol and contribute to some types of cancer and other diseases.
While important, we don’t need as much protein as we think we do. And it turns out, it’s not difficult to get the protein we need from plant based sources.
Top Sources of Protein for Plant Based Diet
Here’s a list of foods that are naturally high in protein and other good for the body nutrients. Adding these foods to the diet on a daily basis supplies all the protein that the body needs for health and wellness.
One cup of green peas contains 8.6 grams of protein, along with fiber, antioxidants and crucial nutrients such as vitamins C and K, and manganese. Try adding peas to soups, salads, hummus and stir fries or simply pair with a plain baked potato.
My favorite green peas recipe is Aloo Matar.
With 18 grams per cup, these little powerhouses are packed with protein and also with fiber, iron, zinc and potassium. Lentils have less than a gram of fat and no cholesterol, making them a healthier source of protein than chicken, beef and fish. Add them to soups, curries and casseroles.
I love this curry dish…Madras Curried Lentils.
Quinoa, which is actually a seed, provides 8 grams of protein per cup and all 9 essential amino acids that the body needs. Substitute quinoa in recipes that call for rice or other grains or add to salads, stir fries and veggie bowls. I recently found a chili recipe with quinoa in it, that I’m excited to try.
Hemp seeds, which come from a variety of the cannabis plant, are excellent sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Their protein…3 tablespoons equals 10 grams…is considered perfect, as it provide all 20 amino acids and also the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce.
Sprinkle hemp seeds, which cannot make you feel high, over salads, gluten free pasta bowls, veggies or smoothie bowls. My favorite way to incorporate the goodness of hemp seeds is to include a couple of teaspoons in my morning smoothie.
These health boosting seeds provide 4.7 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. They are also rich in antioxidants, omega-3, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Add to smoothies and salads or make chia pudding. Replace an egg in a recipe by combining 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of water and allow to set for 15 minutes.
Beans are an amazing source of protein. Two cups of kidney beans contains a whopping 26 grams of protein. Chickpeas offer even more, with 29.2 grams in two cups. Beans are easily prepared at home, on the stove or in a crockpot or pressure pot.
Add to rice dishes, make chilis, or try out my new Stuffed Peppers recipe, with black beans.
Gluten Free Oats
Oats “stick to the ribs”, meaning they keep us full for a while. And it’s true. Oats provide 12 grams of protein per cup and offer 8 grams of fiber. Look for gluten free oats, to receive the most health benefits. Oats are naturally gluten free however they are often processed in facilities that also process wheat. Pick up a package of gluten free oats HERE.
Try these wonderful Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.
Dark green leafy vegetables contain protein, with spinach coming in at 2.1 grams per 2 cups. Spinach is also rich in vitamins and iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. For the most nutrients, consume spinach raw. Add to smoothies, juices and salads.
And try out this delicious raw spinach soup, from Anthony William.
This green cruciferous vegetable packs 8.1 grams of protein in one cup. It’s also a great source of vitamins A, B, C, E and K. Broccoli is excellent in stir fries, veggie bowls and casseroles.
Try out this healthy macaroni and broccoli bake.
Other veggies that provide 4 – 8 grams of protein per cup include asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
And while fruits are not as high in protein, they do provide some. On the list, offering 2 – 4 grams per cup, are guava, blackberries, nectarines and bananas.
Other Healthy Sources of Protein
This list shows how easy it is to get enough protein by eating wholesome, healthy foods. I purposefully left soy products off the list, as much of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified. Like corn, GMO soy can cause inflammation in the body. Non GMO soy is a good source of protein. It is just more difficult to find.
Other excellent sources of protein include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts and nut butters. Nuts should be consumed occasionally, as they are higher in fats and calories. In nut butters, look for products that contain the nut only and sea salt. Avoid products with hyrdrogenated oils and sugar.
How do I get my protein? This is how. And I’ve never felt better.
What’s your favorite high protein food on the list?
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8 thoughts on “Top Sources of Protein for Vegans & Vegetarians”
I know many vegans and vegetarians and they always get asked this question. It’s crazy how people don’t realize how easy it is to get protein. It’s just as easy for them as it is any other diet! Great post.
This is true! I find it very easy to include enough plant based protein in my diet.
Quinoa is one of my favorite sources along with beans! I always find it funny when people say vegetarians don’t get enough protein.
Me too! I’m very intentional about including healthy plant based proteins every day.
i didn’t know about peas!! I’m vegetarian and was vegan for the better part of my pregnancy and always prioritized my protein intake. I don’t know how people consume over 80 g of protein regularly and are heavy! When I was doing it during pregnancy I was never hungry for anything, just trying to hit that number daily filled me up!
Peas are an excellent source of protein. I keep them on hand always for quick meal prep. It just shows how many animal products people are consuming, to put away that much protein!
I’m bookmarking this post and sending it to every person who says “BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR PROTEIN?!!” when they find out I’m a vegetarian. Lol. Lentils and quinoa are such huge parts of my diet. They’re so delicious!
Great idea! 😃 Yes lentils and quinoa are excellent for protein and they are very versatile too! I keep them on hand always.