Vegetarian Protein Sources (PDF)
A common concern about vegan and vegetarian diets is lacking adequate protein.
However, many experts concur that a well-designed meatless diet can offer all the nutrients required by the human body, including protein.
That said, specific plant foods comprise considerably more protein than others. In addition, new and older research indicates that high protein regimens promote fullness and weight loss.
How Much Protein Does the Human Body Need?
Protein is the key building block of the human body; it plays a crucial role in making muscles, skin tissues, and tendons. What’s more, it helps the body generate antibodies to fight diseases.
Ideally, a healthy adult should receive about 0.013 ounces of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. This translates to about 2 ounces or so for a 150-pound adult.
However, this is just a starting point; if you’re breastfeeding, expectant, or an athlete, you’ll need more.
It depends on several factors such as individual activity level, muscle mass, etc. For most people, it’s not vital to meticulously track daily protein intake.
If you feel tired or weak often, or you find yourself feeling hungry shortly after meals, these could be signs that you’re not getting adequate protein.
A registered nutritionist can help you tweak your diet to ensure you’re adequately fueling your body.
Best Sources of Plant-Based Protein
Amaranth and Quinoa
Although amaranth and quinoa are commonly referred to as ancient grains, they don’t come from grasses as other cereal grains do. For this reason, these two are pseudo-grains.
However, similarly to more popular grains, they can be cooked or ground into flour.
Amaranth and quinoa offer 5-6 grams of protein per 100-gram serving and are whole protein sources which is rare among cereal grains and pseudocereals.
Moreover, amaranth and quinoa are rich in complex carbs, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Black, kidney, pinto, and other bean varieties have massive amounts of protein per serving. Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are another bean variety with high protein content.
Most types of beans have about 9 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. They are also great sources of complex carbohydrates, fiber, folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and a couple of beneficial plant compounds.
Several studies indicate that a regimen rich in beans and other legumes can help reduce belly fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels as well as manage blood sugar.
Chia seeds come from the Salvia hispanica crop, which is native to Guatemala and Mexico.
Chia seeds offer about 10 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein per ounce, meaning they rank top on the list of plant-based proteins.
These small seeds are also rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, and selenium, as well as antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and other helpful plant-based compounds.
Chia seeds are very flexible thanks to their mild flavor and ability to draw water and form a gel-like substance.
This feature makes them a simple addition to various recipes such as baked goods, pudding, and smoothies.
Edamame, Tempeh and Tofu
Edamame, Tempeh, and tofu all come from soybeans. Soybeans ate widely regarded as a whole protein source, meaning they offer the body all the vital amino acids it needs.
Edamame is green (unripe) soybeans with a sweet and grassy taste. You need to boil or steam them before consuming them.
Then, you can enjoy them plain or add them to salads or soups.
On the other hand, Tempeh is made by preparing and slightly fermenting fully grown soybeans and then pressing them into a block.
Meanwhile, tofu comes from soybean curd pressed together in a procedure similar to cheese making.
Tempeh has a typical nutty taste. Similarly, tofu doesn’t have much flavor on its own, but it easily draws flavor from the ingredients it’s prepared with.
As a result, both Tempeh and tofu are used in a host of recipes ranging from burgers and chilies to salads and soups.
All these soy-based proteins have 12-20 grams of protein per 100-gram portion, as well as calcium and iron.
In addition, Edamame contains fiber, folate, and vitamin K, which help support digestion and regularity.
On the other hand, Tempeh comprises B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and probiotics.
Ezekiel Bread and Other Sprouted Whole Grain Breads
Ezekiel bread comes from organic, sprouted legumes and whole grains. These include barley, lentils, millet, soybeans, spelt, and wheat.
Two slices of Ezekiel bread offer about 8 grams of protein which is more than what you get from other kinds of bread.
Legumes and sprouting whole grains boost the number of nutrients in Ezekiel bread, and they limit their antinutrients composition.
Antinutrients are compounds that affect the body’s ability to absorb various minerals and vitamins.
In addition, research indicates that sprouting boosts the content of certain amino acids, such as lysine, which can help enhance their general protein quality.
Similarly, mixing legumes with whole grains can boost the bread’s amino acid profile further.
Sprouting also increases the beta carotene, folate, soluble fiber, and vitamin (C and E) content.
It can also trivially reduce gluten, enhancing digestion among individuals suffering from gluten-related conditions.
Green peas comprise nearly 9 grams of protein per 150-gram serving which is slightly more than a cup of dairy milk.
In addition, a portion of green peas offers more than 25% of the recommended fiber, folate, manganese thiamine, and vitamin A, C and K daily intake.
Green peas are also great sources of B vitamins, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. You can use peas for meals such as pea-and-avocado guacamole, Thai pea soup, etc.
Hemp seeds are drawn from the Cannabis sativa crop, which is the same species as cannabis (marijuana) but different species.
However, hemp seeds only have small amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for the psychedelic effects of cannabis.
Although hemp seeds aren’t as common as other seeds, they offer up to 9 grams of protein per 30-gram serving.
Moreover, hemp seeds are rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Hemp seeds are also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Interestingly research indicates some of the fats present in hemp seeds can help decrease inflammation and alleviate symptoms of menopause, premenstrual syndrome, and specific skin conditions.
Lentils are a great source of protein, offering up to 9 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. Lentils can be used in various dishes such as fresh salads, hearty soups, and spice-infused dahls.
Lentils are also an impressive source of fiber, offering over half of the prescribed daily fiber intake in a single serving.
Moreover, the kind of fiber in lentils has been proven to feed bacteria in the colon, thereby promoting a healthy gut.
Lentils also decrease the chances of diabetes, excess body weight, heart disease, and specific kinds of cancer.
Moreover, lentils have high amounts of folate, iron, and manganese. They also have high amounts of antioxidants and other health-advancing plant compounds.
Dietary yeast is a neutralized strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast that can be bought as yellow flakes or powder.
Dietary yeast has a cheese taste, making it a common ingredient in dishes such as mashed potatoes and scrambled tofu.
Dietary yeast can also be used as a garnish for pasta or enjoyed as a topping on popcorn. 16 grams of this plant protein offers 3 grams and 8 grams of fiber and protein, respectively.
Fortified dietary yeast is also a great source of B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
However, bear in mind that not all kinds of dietary yeast are fortified with minerals, so ensure that you check the labels carefully.
Nuts, seeds, and their resultant products are rich plant-based protein sources. Depending on the type of nuts, a 28-gram serving comprises 5-7 grams of protein.
Nuts and seeds are also rich in fiber and healthy fats as well as B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin E.
Likewise, nuts and seeds are rich in antioxidants and other useful plant-based compounds.
When selecting which nuts and seeds to purchase, remember that roasting them can destroy their nutrients.
As a result, it’s best to eat them raw and unblanched whenever possible. Also, opt for natural nut butter to avoid the oil, salt, and sugar found in processed varieties.
Oats and Oatmeal
Taking oats is an easy and sumptuous way to add protein to your diet. A 100-gram serving of dry oats offers approximately 12 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. Oats are also rich in folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Although oats aren’t considered whole proteins, they have higher protein quantities than other grains such as rice and wheat. You can use oats in various recipes or grind them into flour.
Seitan is a common protein source for a lot of vegans and vegetarians. It’s made from gluten, the key protein found in wheat. Unlike most soy-based pseudo meats, seitan virtually looks and feels like meat when prepared.
Also called wheat gluten or meat, seitan offers 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, making it one of the richest plant-based protein sources out there.
In addition, seitan is a good source of selenium, and it comprises trace amounts of calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
You can find this pseudo meat in the frozen section of most grocery stores. However, you can also make your seitan at home with wheat gluten.
Soy milk comes from soybeans and is fortified with minerals and vitamins. Soy milk can be a great alternative for people who don’t take dairy milk.
Not only does it offer 6 grams of protein per serving, but it’s also rich in B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D.
You can find soy milk in most grocery stores and supermarkets. It’s a very flexible product that you can take on it’s own or add to various baking or cooking recipes.
However, note that soybeans and soymilk do not naturally have B vitamins, so it’s recommended you buy the fortified type.
In addition, some varieties of soymilk may have sweeteners, so it’s best to go for the unsweetened types whenever possible.
Spelt and Teff
Spelt and teff are in a category known as ancient grains. Other examples of ancient grains include barley, einkorn, farro, and sorghum. Spelt is a variety of wheat with gluten, while teff comes from an annual grass, meaning that it’s gluten-free.
Spelt and teff offer 4-5 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, making them higher plant-based protein sources compared to other ancient grains.
Both spelt and teff are great sources of other nutrients such as B vitamins, complex carbs, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
Spelt and teff are flexible alternatives to other whole grains such as rice and wheat, and they can be used in various meals such as baked foods and risotto.
This blue-green alga is absolutely a nutritional powerhouse. A 14-gram serving of spirulina offers 8 grams of whole protein in addition to providing 95% of the recommended copper intake and 22% of the recommended iron intake.
Spirulina also has massive amounts of magnesium, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, and trace amounts of many other nutrients needed bod the body, such as omega-3 fatty acids.
According to research, phycocyanin, a naturally-occurring pigment in spirulina, appears to contain potent anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
In addition, studies link spirulina to several well-being benefits such as enhanced blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduced blood sugar, and a robust immune system.
However, there is a long way to go before conclusions can be drawn with regard to spirulina’s health claims.
Wild rice has approximately 1.5 times as much protein as other long-grain rice such as basmati and brown rice.
A 100-gram serving of wild rice offers about 5 grams of protein in addition to massive amounts of B vitamins, copper, fiber, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Unlike white rice, wild rice isn’t stripped of bran. This is great from a dietary perspective because bran is rich in plenty of minerals and vitamins.
However, this raises concerns about arsenic which can accrue in bran from rice grown in polluted areas.
Arsenic is a harmful compound linked to various health conditions, particularly when ingested over long periods.
Washing wild rice prior to preparing it and using a lot of water to boil it can considerably decrease the arsenic amounts as well as other heavy metals such as cadmium and lead.
Protein shortages among vegans and vegetarians are rare, particularly for those who stick to a healthy and well-designed diet.
However, vegetarians who want to boost their protein intake should consider all the foods illustrated above for proteins and other beneficial nutrients.
Printable Vegetarian Protein Sources (PDF)
|Vegetarian Protein Sources|
|Amaranth and Quinoa|
|Edamame, Tempeh and Tofu|
|Ezekiel Bread and Other Sprouted Whole Grain Breads|
|Oats and Oatmeal|
|Spelt and Teff|