Blog

Best Plant-Based Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

September 29, 2023

One of the most common questions every vegan or vegetarian gets asked is, ‘where do you get your protein from?’

As you don’t want to become protein-deficient, plant-based protein sources such as Tofu, chickpeas, lentils, and others in your diet can fill the protein requirements.

So, if you’re thinking of going vegan or vegetarian, fortunately, there are plenty of tasty and nutritious plant-based protein sources that you can enjoy – and get enough nutrients.

Here is a quick look at the best plant-based protein sources we’ll explore for everyday use.

  1. Chickpeas
  2. Tofu
  3. Lentils
  4. Hemp seeds
  5. Nuts
  6. Peanut butter
  7. Quinoa
  8. Nutritional yeast
  9. Tempeh
  10. Black beans

What are the Benefits and Risks Associated with Vegan Diet?

From farm to table, plants with the most protein help you stand to reap a bounty of health benefits. A well-balanced vegan diet can provide many health benefits, such as:

  • Lowers high blood pressure or hypertension
  • Plant-based foods keep your heart healthy
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • It decreases obesity and helps you lose weight
  • Lowers the risk of liver malfunctioning
  • Protective nutrients reduce the risk of cancer
  • Keeps your brain strong and healthy

Even though the benefits outweigh the risks associated with a vegan diet, still there are some potential risks, such as:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid imbalance
  • Potential for inadequate calorie intake
  • Zinc and iodine deficiency
  • It is not recommended for people with certain health conditions
  • Vegan diet appears to be low in calcium and Vitamin D

Swapping animal protein for plant-based protein can do much for your health, but you must consider the consequences depending on your health condition.

Plant vs. Animal Based Protein: What is the difference?

Eating enough protein is beneficial for your health.

Whether you consume plants rich in protein or animal-based protein, they help in the growth and repair of muscle tissue and the functioning of various anabolic processes in the body.

Plant-based protein comes from plant sources, such as legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. In comparison, animal-based proteins are derived from animal sources, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.

So, what’s the difference?

No single plant-based protein contains all 20 amino acids; to get them all, you need to consume more than one type, while animal protein consists of all 20 amino acids and is considered a complete protein.

Best Plant-Based Protein Sources

A common concern for vegans and vegetarians is that they may need more protein as they consume plant-based proteins, considered incomplete proteins.

Therefore, you must know the best sources of plant-based protein to ensure you get enough protein, calcium, and Vitamin B-12, similar to what an animal-based protein diet provides.

Here’s a list of plant-based proteins you can include in your everyday vegan and vegetarian diet.

1. Chickpeas: The Protein-Packed Pantry Staple

chickpeas are a perfect source of plant protein

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are legumes packed with essential nutrients. They are a good source of protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and healthy fatty acids. According to the USDA, a ½ cup serving of chickpeas contains approximately 7.5 grams of protein.

The global chickpea market is expected to reach a market valuation of US$ 165.1 million by the end of 2023. With consumers gaining more awareness regarding the benefits of chickpea protein, the market is gaining traction.

Chickpeas can be enjoyed in various ways, such as roasted chickpeas for a crispy snack or incorporating them into hummus for making a healthy dip. Or, you can toss chickpeas with whole grains and add them to salads for a plant-based protein boost.

2. Tofu: Protein-Rich to Elevate Your Plant-Based Diet

tofu is made from soybeans

As we look into other good plant protein sources, Tofu contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. According to the USDA, Tofu, a soy-based product, is a recommended meat substitute that provides 9 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving.

Contrary to some misconceptions, soy products are considered safe for consumption by experts and do not appear to be linked to breast cancer, as suggested by the American Cancer Society.

It can be easily integrated into multiple food products, including soy milk, edamame, miso, tempeh, soy nuts, and Tofu. Soy also contains potassium and iron. They can be added to dishes like stir-fries or roasted alongside colorful vegetables.

3. Lentils: The Protein Powerhouse for Plant-Based Diets

lentils are rich in fiber and protein

Legumes are another best plant-based protein form that includes lentils, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds, offering a rich array of nutrients. According to USDA, lentils provide 19 grams of protein per 35g serving, equivalent to ½ cup of cooked legumes.

Legumes are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They contain antioxidant-rich polyphenols with various health benefits, including anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetes properties.

Legumes can be incorporated into meals, such as using lentils as the protein in a vegetable-packed soup or featuring them in veggie burgers.

4. Hemp Seeds: A Plant-Based Protein Superfood

hemp seeds are great source of plant protein

Hemp seeds, or hemp hearts, are a healthy plant protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. According to USDA, a 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds provides approximately 10 grams of protein.

They have a subtle nutty flavor and provide a pleasant crunch. Hemp seeds can be enjoyed in various ways, including sprinkling them on salads, soups, and yogurt or adding them to nut-buttered toast.

5. Nuts: Your Tasty Protein Fix in a Nutshell

high protein nuts

Nuts are the healthiest snack option and best to use in halal food recipes. Nuts are excellent protein sources, and according to USDA, nuts contain 30.3 grams of protein in 1 cup weighing 143 grams.

Almonds are noted as the top protein source among nuts, with pistachios being a close second. It is mentioned that pistachios are considered a complete protein. In addition to protein, nuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fats. These unsaturated fats have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels, contributing to better heart health.

Nuts come in various types, such as almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, and hazelnuts.

6. Peanut Butter: A Delicious Protein Source

peanut butter is nutrient dense plant based protein

Peanut butter is one of the world’s most popular spreads, a delicious and healthy plant-based protein source. Peanut butter is a tasty and high-quality plant-based protein source. According to USDA, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of peanut butter contains 22 grams of carbs, 22.5 grams of protein, and 51 grams of fat.

Savor each bite and savor the nutrients but with mindful consumption. Pairing it with apple slices for a satisfying snack or crafting a classic PB&J on whole-wheat bread with low-sugar jelly will surely enhance your taste buds and health benefits.

7. Quinoa: Vegan-friendly Meal Ingredient

vegan meals with quinoa

Quinoa is an edible seed in various colors, including black, red, yellow, and white. Quinoa is a nutrient-dense and healthiest plant protein that plays an essential role in helping you feel full.

According to USDA, one cup of cooked quinoa (185 grams) contains 8 grams of protein, 39 grams of carbs, and 3.55 grams of fat.

Elevate the flavor of quinoa by simmering it in vegetable or chicken broth instead of using plain water. This broth infusion imparts a delightful taste to the grains, creating a delectable base for various culinary creations.

8. Nutritional Yeast: A Flavour Enhancer for Vegans

nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast, often called “nooch,” is a popular plant-based protein source known for its distinct flavor and numerous nutritional benefits. Nutritional Yeasts are plant-based protein alternatives that have been deactivated and dried.

It is a versatile ingredient that not only boosts the flavor of your dishes but also provides essential nutrients, especially for those following vegan and vegetarian diets.

It is a critical ingredient in vegan cheese sauces. It can make creamy, cheesy sauces for pasta, nachos, or vegetable dishes. Use it as a topping for salads, adding a nutty and cheesy flavor.

9. Tempeh: A Plant-Based Protein Powerhouse

tempeh is a protein packed powerhouse

If you’re looking for a healthy and tasty alternative to meat, tempeh is the answer.

You can prepare plant-based high-protein foods from tempeh, as they are made from chunks of whole beans softened through the fermentation process. Tempeh has a texture and a dense mouthfeel that contrasts with Tofu. For example, tempeh can be made from Mung, garbanzo, and black beans.

Tempeh can easily be used as a replacement for paneer or Tofu in most recipes. It can also be marinated with wholesome spices and toasted to make a great snack. They can be added to salad bowls, sandwiches, and instant ramen bowls for a protein boost.

10. Black Beans: Delicious, Inexpensive and Versatile

protein from black beans

Black beans, also classified as legumes, have a complex shell-like appearance. Full of plant-based protein, dietary fiber, and antioxidants, these vegan-based protein options contribute to building and maintaining bone structure. It’s essential to either soak or boil them before consumption.

One-half cup (86 grams) of cooked black beans contains approximately 7.62 grams of protein, 0.46 grams of fat, and 20.39 grams of healthy carbs.

You can add black beans to burritos or make a black bean soup by blending cooked black beans with onions and tomatoes and adding them to your salad bowls. Another great way to consume black beans is to make a simple taco salad by mixing beans, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sharp cheddar cheese, and salsa.

How Much Protein Does a Human Body Need?

The amount of protein you need depends on many factors, such as age, muscle mass, and activity level. A human body needs relatively large quantities to function correctly.

Following are the protein dietary guidelines according to USDA:

AgeProtein Requirement
Children aged 1-318 g
Children aged 4-819 g
Children aged 9-1334 g
Female teens aged 14-1846 g
Male teens aged 14-1852 g
Female adults aged 19+46 g
Male adult aged 19+56 g

The recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To calculate your daily protein goal in grams, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36.

The common perception is that meals should revolve around a large serving of animal protein, leading to an overemphasis on protein intake. Protein should make up between 10 and 35 percent of your daily calorie intake.

However, the idea is challenged, emphasizing that meals can include high-quality plant protein sources to meet protein needs, such as beans in salads or grilled Tofu in sandwiches.

How Vegan Diets Impact Weight, Blood Pressure, and Heart Health

Vegans and vegetarians typically have lower body mass indexes (BMI) than non-vegans. Vegan plant-based protein diets can be valuable for those looking to manage their weight, lower blood pressure, and promote heart health.

Recently, researchers from the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Australia and Brescia University in Italy analyzed 20 randomized controlled trials involving 1,878 participants with a mean age of 28–64 years who either had cardiovascular disease or were at a high risk of cardiovascular disease.

It was found that consuming a vegan diet for six months was linked to improved measures of cholesterol, blood sugar, and body weight among those at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, vegan diets may reduce pain associated with arthritis and lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline.

The Importance of Thoughtful Nutritional Planning in Vegan Eating

Consuming high-protein plant-based foods requires thoughtful nutritional planning. Not all vegan diets are equally beneficial, and their impact on health can vary. Well-planned vegan diets composed of minimally processed foods benefit all life stages.

Here are some foods and nutrients you need to consider while planning a vegan diet:

  • Protein-rich foods: Soybeans, lentils, peas, nutritional yeast, spirulina, soy milk, cashew milk, nuts, and seeds provide rich proteins.
  • Healthy fats: Olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, soybean, corn, chia seeds, flaxseed, and food containing alpha-linolenic acid that can convert into essential omega-3 fats.
  • Calcium enriched: Tofu, calcium-enriched fruit juice, cooked Chinese cabbage, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, or fortified plant milk (soy, almond, cashew) will provide calcium supplements.
  • Vitamin B12: Fortified foods and supplements such as plant milk (soy, almond, cashew), meat alternatives cereals, and nutritional yeast.
  • Iodine: For vegans, iodized salt or seaweed provides the right level of iodine required for the diet.

Furthermore, vegans can use techniques like sprouting, fermenting, and cooking with cast-iron cookware to improve nutrient absorption from plant foods.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the best source of plant-based protein?

The best source of plant-based protein includes:

  • Legumes (e.g., lentils, chickpeas, black beans)
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts and seeds (e.g., almonds, chia seeds)
  • Seitan
  • Edamame
  • Green peas
  • Spirulina
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Hemp seeds

What are 3 good sources of plant-based protein?

Three good sources of plant-based protein include:

  • Lentils
  • Tofu
  • Beans

Is plant-based protein better?

Plant-based proteins are lower in saturated fats, cholesterol-free, and more sustainable than animal protein. However, choosing between plant-based and animal-based protein depends on individual preferences and nutritional needs.

Also, plant-based foods contain essential antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that benefit overall health.

Conclusion

Despite the common misconceptions, there are so many vegan options to boost your health with plant-based protein sources. Therefore, vegan and vegetarian diet followers don’t need to struggle to find the best source of protein.

To sum up, we must get enough proteins for a healthy life. Planning and understanding the best plant-based protein sources can help you prepare a well-balanced diet as a vegan or vegetarian.

This site is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC’s registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Go to Top