14 Best Vegan Protein Sources – Plant-Based Protein Sources – Women’s Health
With delicious meat alternatives cropping up on grocery shelves and menus, eating a meat-free diet has never been easier—or more delicious.
But is sticking to a vegan diet jeopardizing your ability to meet your protein goals? According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, that’s a definite “no.” While no two veggie-based diets are alike (we all have that one vegan friend with an affinity for French fries and only French fries), it’s 100% possible to get enough protein, while enjoying a host of other benefits like a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. (FYI: You can calculate the exact amount of protein you need here.)
And you don’t need to rely on bowls full of tofu to satisfy your protein needs. There’s a wonderful world of vegan protein sources to choose from. Ready to get cooking?
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1 Pistachios: 6 g
A serving of 49 nuts offers six grams of protein, fiber, and antioxidants in addition to nutritional benefits, including improved gut health. “They’re easy to add to almost any meal or dish, including yogurts, overnight oats, and even cookies,” she adds.
Per 1-ounce serving (about two tbsps): 159 calories, 13 g fat (1 g saturated), 8 g carbs, 0 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein
2 Quinoa: 8 g
“Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids,” says Michalczyk, which makes its protein more easy used by your body.
“In addition to being loaded with protein, this tasty ancient grain is packed with fiber, magnesium, iron, potassium, B vitamins, and zinc,” she adds.
Quinoa basically belongs in any dish, but she specifically recommends swapping out rice in your go-to recipes with quinoa or roasting some seasonal veggies and serving them over the gluten-free grain for a nutrient-packed meal.
Per 1-cup serving: 222 calories, 3.5 g fat (1 g saturated), 39 g carbs, 13 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 5 g fiber, 8 g protein
3 Hemp Seeds: 10 g
Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, magnesium, fiber, iron, zinc, and phosphorous, according to Michalczyk.
The seeds (or hearts) are a great way to add a delicious nutty flavor to a range of meals and snacks.
Marisa Moore, RD, recommends sprinkling them over roasted vegetables or salads and using them in smoothies in place of protein powder. At 10 grams for three tablespoons, they truly pack a punch.
Per 3 tbsp serving: 180 calories, 16 g fat (1 g saturated), 2 g carbs, 0 mg sodium, 2 g sugar, 1 g fiber, 10 g protein
4 Kidney Beans: 14 g
Who needs ground beef when vegan chili loaded with kidney beans gets the job done just fine?
“These tasty little guys have many healthy benefits, including reducing cholesterol and lowering blood-sugar levels,” says Michalczyk.
Per 1-cup serving: 222 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 42 g carbs, 619 mg sodium, 6 g sugar, 16 g fiber, 14 g protein
5 Chickpeas: 15 g
Packed with both protein and fiber, chickpeas will keep you full for hours, and they’re easy to disguise in any dish.
“Roast chickpeas and add them to tacos and salads for a fun way to jazz up your meal and add new flavor to the mix,” says Michalczyk. And, of course, slather a dollop of hummus onto everything—replace mayo with it on your sandwiches, or use it as a dip for baby carrots.
Per 1-cup serving: 269 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 45 g carbs, 11 mg sodium, 8 g sugar, 13 g fiber, 15 g protein
6 Chia Seeds: 5 g
This small-yet-mighty seed is bursting with nutrients. Plus, they contain heaps of protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium, according to Michalczyk.
“Toss them in your overnight oats or yogurt for a protein power boost,” she says.
Per 1-ounce serving: 138 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated), 12 g carbs, 5 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 10 g fiber, 5 g protein
7 Pumpkin Seeds: 9 g
You don’t need to wait for PSL season to enjoy the benefits of pumpkin. Michalczyk’s favorite year-round seed contains a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and 12 grams of protein per one-cup serving.
She recommends sprinkling them on your salad or quinoa bowl for a delicious, nutty crunch.
Per 1-ounce serving: 158 calories, 14 g fat (3 g saturated), 3 g carbs, 2 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 9 g protein
8 Green Peas: 8 g
Michalczyk cites legumes as one of the most protein-rich foods you can eat, and green peas are no exception.
Their protein content is particularly surprising given that we normally group them in with lower-protein vegetables, like carrots and corn. But hey, given how tasty they are topped on everything from pasta to mashed potatoes, I’m not complaining.
Per 1-cup serving: 117 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 21 g carbs, 7 mg sodium, 8 g sugar, 8 g fiber, 8 g protein
9 Lentils: 18 g
Lentils cook quicker than other pulses, making them ideal for soups and stews, according to Moore.
“I love to season lentils with coconut milk, vegetable broth, garlic, and ginger,” she says. “Toss firmer ones like black beluga lentils with your favorite vinaigrette and greens for a simple salad.”
Per 1-cup serving: 230 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 40 g carbs, 4 mg sodium, 4 g sugar, 16 g fiber, 18 g protein
10 Nutritional Yeast: 8 g
Nutritional yeast is a nutritional powerhouse since it contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as B vitamins and antioxidants.
“It has a cheesy, nutty flavor, so it’s especially great for vegans who want to get that cheese-like taste on their food, and make sure they’re getting enough protein, too,” says Michalczyk.
Next movie night, try it on popcorn for a healthy faux-cheddar taste.
Per 1/4-cup serving: 60 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 5 g carbs, 25 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 3 g fiber, 8 g protein
11 Spelt: 11 g
One cup of this ancient grain, which is similar to wheat, contains a little over 10 grams of protein, making it a good plant-based option for vegans,” says Michalczyk.
“In addition to the protein, it contains fiber, too, which will help to keep you fuller for longer,” she says.
Per 1-cup serving: 246 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 51 g carbs, 10 mg sodium, 0 g sugar, 8 g fiber, 11 g protein
12 Oats: 5 g
Eggs used to be a morning go-to, but if animal byproducts are a no-go, overnight oats are your BFF.
“Consider them a good choice as your morning meal because, in addition to their protein content they contain fiber, specifically a fiber called beta-glucan, that has been shown to lower cholesterol,” says Michalczyk.
Per 1-cup serving: 150 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 0 mg sodium, 1 g sugar, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein
13 Tempeh: 11 g
It’s tough to find a vegetarian protein source that’s considered a complete protein source, but tempeh fits the bill.
“This fermented soy food is packed with flavor and may lend a probiotic boost,” says Moore. For a flavorful and satiating stir fry, she suggests marinating sliced tempeh in a mix of grated ginger and soy sauce, then searing it in a wok with peppers, onions, and broccoli.
Per 6-slice serving: 140 calories, 3.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 40 g carbs, 4 mg sodium, 4 g sugar, 16 g fiber, 11 g protein
14 Edamame: 18 g
Who knew your fave sushi joint appetizer packs a heckuvalot of protein?
“I keep frozen, shelled edamame in the freezer to add protein to stir-fry dishes and salads,” says Moore. “The ones in the pod also make a great snack simply tossed with coarse salt and pepper.”
For a quick satisfying snack, eat them straight from the pod or roast them with a dash of sea salt.
Per 1-cup serving: 188 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated), 14 g carbs, 9 mg sodium, 3 g sugar, 8 g fiber, 18 g protein
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