Protein is an essential nutrient that our bodies needs to function properly. For vegans and vegetarians, making sure that your diet has enough protein can be challenging since the main sources of protein come from meat and dairy.
Below we explore some of the top vegan and vegetarian sources of protein. And by incorporating them into the diet, it’s easy to be able to get the required daily protein requirements even if you don’t include meat and dairy in your diet.
Complete and Incomplete Proteins
Included in the food list are some complete proteins and others which are incomplete proteins.
Complete proteins contain all the essential amino acids that the body needs. Complete proteins usually come from animal sources like eggs, red meat, seafood and chicken.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, some non-animal complete protein sources include quinoa and soybeans.
Incomplete proteins meanwhile have some of the essential amino acids in each of them but not all. To get all the essential amino acids combining two or more incomplete sources of protein during the day is the goal.
Nuts, beans and seeds are some examples of incomplete proteins. As such, if you’re going meatless combining rice and beans for example, or beans with nuts makes them complete when eaten together.
9 Great Plant Based Protein Sources for Vegetarians and Vegans
Among the highest non-animal sources of protein is tempeh. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans that are deep fried. They are firm and chewy, are low in calories (only 160 calories in ½ a cup) but pack a big protein punch. A 4 oz. cup of tempeh yields around 15 grams of protein.
Other nutrients included in a half cup serving of tempeh 3.5 grams of fiber, 10% of our daily Vitamin B6 needs, 12.5% of our daily iron requirements and 16% of the magnesium we need daily.
Beans are one of the most common sources of protein for non meat eaters. With beans you get a large variety to choose from ranging from chickpeas (garbanzo beans) to kidney beans.
With beans and their protein content however, you don’t get the same amount. Different beans contain different amounts of this nutrient.
For example, soybeans, which is used for many vegetarian recipes like tofu and even tempeh has the highest protein content at 30 grams per cup.
Most beans on the other hand contain around 8 to 9 grams of protein per cup, including white beans, pink beans, kidney beans, black and pinto beans.
Those who are into healthy eating will be familiar with quinoa. Quinoa is a low fat grain alternative that’s often classified as a grain but is really a seed.
The plant based protein source is loaded with nutrients, among which is 24 grams of protein in a single cup.
One cup of quinoa also offers 12 grams of fiber, close to a day’s worth of magnesium and nearly half the day’s requirements for iron. It is also loaded with Vitamin B6 and Potassium.
While technically a bean, we’ve seperated Edamame because most people don’t view it as one probably because of its appearance in a pod.
Edamame come from South East Asia and is very common with the Japanese. They are actually immature soybeans that are in their pods. Often steamed or boiled then served, they offer 17 grams of protein in each cup serving.
Edamame are high in fiber, and contain vitamin C.
5. Brown Rice
In many parts of the world, rice is a part of every meal. A healthier alternative to white rice, brown rice is a good vegetarian source of protein if you’re looking for a food that will give you energy and carbohydrates.
Brown rice can be partnered with just about any main dish, except maybe noodles or pasta. They also help fill us up when we’re hungry and want to eat something that leaves our stomachs satiated.
One cup of brown rice contains 15 grams of protein. It also includes 6 grams of dietary fiber and 413 mg of potassium.
This food is also an excellent source of both vitamin B6 and magnesium.
6. Peanut Butter
Who doesn’t love peanut butter?
It’s one of the cheapest sources of protein around and delicious too. I can sit all day and eat peanut butter though that wouldn’t be a good idea.
Often slathered on bread, peanut butter is made from peanuts which contain a good amount of protein. With each 2 tablespoon serving of peanut butter we get 8 grams of protein. It also contains good fats in the form of monounsaturated fat which is healthy for the heart.
With peanut butter, moderation is key, since it also includes some unhealthy saturated fats. Because it is so tasty and delicious it is often easy to go overboard with peanut butter.
You can get your pick of smooth or chunky, but remember, not all peanut butter are alike. If possible go for the natural blends and do check the amount of sugar that’s included in the jar because different brands use different amounts of sugar.
They’re delicious and nutritious making it a good reason to add nuts to your daily routine.
Research has shown that eating nuts daily adds years our life. The research was a large scale study that included 118,000 participants and published in the new New England Journal of Medicine.
Those who ate an ounce of nuts every day of the week had 20% lower risk of dying during a 30 year period. This was because nuts helped lower the risk of cancer death by 11%, 24% less from dying from respiratory illness and 29% less from heart issues.
We’ve already seen the protein power of peanuts in peanut butter. But if you’re looking for healthier nuts, try walnuts, almonds and pistachios.
On average 1 ounce of nuts offers between 4 to 8 grams of protein.
Seeds are often overlooked sources on plant proteins. Many don’t even consider seeds as food. But if you’re looking for something that packs a big punch that comes in a small package these are it.
Seeds are probably among the easiest to incorporate into food. Sprinkling them over salad, rice or bread is probably the easiest way to do it. You can also mix them in with your favorite drink or smoothie.
Among the seeds that carry a lot of protein are flaxseed, hemp seeeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. With seeds all you need is a tablespoon to get the protein benefits.
9. Whole Wheat Pasta & Soba Noodles
If you like pasta and noodles you’re in luck.
You will have to choose properly though since not all are good protein sources.
When it comes to pasta, choosing whole wheat pasta, whether it’s spaghetti or some other style will help your protein intake. A cup of whole wheat spaghetti contains 7.5 grams of protein.
As far as noodles are concerned go for soba noodles which are made from buckwheat. One cup of soba noodles have 6 grams of protein.
Another type of noodles, egg noodles, also have 7 grams of protein in them though they do use eggs as an ingredient so they’re likely out for vegans.