Fortunately for those who don’t consume meat, there are many protein sources for vegans and vegetarians that will boost their protein intake.
Protein deficiency is the most common criticism of vegan diets. The experts, however, say it is possible to get all the nutrients you need from a vegan diet if properly planned.
Protein is an essential macronutrient of our diet that helps our immune system to make antibodies. These antibodies help our body to fight infections, regulate blood sugar, digest food, etc.
The amino acids in proteins help build muscles, tissues and lose weight. For optimum nutrition as a vegan, it is important to include different amino acids in the diet.
Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of vegetables and beans will help you get enough protein.
One also needs to note that processed food like vegan cheese provides few health benefits.
20 Protein Sources For Vegans
There are many delicious ways to enjoy vegan sources of protein ranging from plants, seeds, and beans. Here are 20 protein sources for vegans:
Made from wheat gluten, seitan is one of the most popular vegan protein sources. Seitan looks and feels very similar to cooked meat, so it is popularly recognized as wheat meat.
Craig Salmon from Premier Global NASM says wheat gluten contains about 24-26 grams of proteins per 100 grams. As a result, it is among the richest plant protein sources.
It has a good quantity of selenium as well as calcium, iron, and phosphorus in small amounts.
Most health food stores carry this meat substitute in their refrigerated section. Seitan is available in slabs, precut slices, and cubes.
The variations help in incorporating Seitan in recipes as one can pan-fry, grill, and sauté it.
The versatility of Seitan makes it a popular choice among plant-based proteins.
Also known as bean curds, tofu is prepared from soymilk. Soymilk pressed together creates solid slabs, which in the process is similar to making cheese.
Even though tofu is bland, it can be flavored by combining it with other ingredients. As tofu is prepared in various ways such as baking, stir-frying, etc., it is considered versatile.
Tofu contains around 12 grams of protein.
In addition to being one of the top protein sources for vegans, lentils are versatile and can be used in a plethora of dishes. These dishes range from fresh salads, spice-infused dals, and hearty soups.
Cooked lentils provide 16-18 grams of protein per cup.
A cup of lentils contains about 50% of the recommended daily amount of fiber intake. Additionally, lentils contain a large quantity of slow-digestible carbohydrates.
Lentils are low-fat and affordable source of protein. The nutritional content of lentils is rich in manganese, folate, and iron.
Additionally, they comprise antioxidants and other plant compounds that are beneficial to health.
4. Teff And Spelt
Teff is derived from an annual grass, making it gluten-free. Spelt, however, is a variety of wheat that contains gluten.
Cooked teff and spelt provide protein of 9–12 grams per cup.
They both belong to a category known as ancient grains and contain several beneficial nutrients.
You can use these two grains instead of wheat and rice.
Chickpeas, also identified as garbanzo beans, are a legume that is high in protein content.
They are a staple legume in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.
Cooked chickpeas contain about 13-16 grams of protein per cup.
One can easily add chickpeas to their diet by cooking a tasty bowl of hummus, a bowl of homemade chili, etc.
Quinoa is one of the superfoods. It contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the few plant-based proteins that do so.
Quinoa is classified as a gluten-free or ancient grain. You can prepare them or grind them into flour similar to more common grains.
When cooked like rice, quinoa can take on other flavors for a tasty side dish or be used to make burgers or fritters.
7. Green Peas
One cup of cooked green peas contains about 10 grams of protein, which is a little more than one mug of milk.
More importantly, peas provide over 23% of the daily recommended values for fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, thiamine, and folate.
Peas are used in soups, rice dishes, stews, etc.
Vitamins, minerals, and protein are plentiful in them, so they do much more than simply serve as a side dish.
8. Soy Milk
For those desiring a dairy alternative, soybean milk fortified with vitamins and minerals is a good choice.
In addition to providing 6-8 grams of protein per cup, it is a good source of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.
Most supermarkets offer soy milk. The product is extremely versatile and can be used either on its own or in preparing a variety of dishes and desserts.
A delicious and easy method to add protein to a diet is oats.
In a half-cup of dry oats, one can find about 5-7 grams of protein.
The protein in oats doesn’t seem complete, but it is of higher quality than that in other common grains, such as wheat and rice.
Various recipes are made using oats like oatmeal, vegetable burger, etc. You can also grind them into flour for baking.
10. Chia Seeds
Despite the small size, chia seeds pack a nutritional punch.
Chia seeds provide almost 2 grams of protein per tablespoon.
As soon as you combine chia seeds with liquids, their outer coating expands, creating a thickening effect.
Their flavor is neutral, and they have a jelly-like texture with a crunch.
You can eat them as a healthy dessert, sprinkle them over salads, or use them as a breakfast product.
11. Nuts And Nut Butters
Any nut you can think of, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, or walnuts are all nutrient-dense sources of vegan protein.
You can eat nuts as a snack or with meals to ensure you have adequate protein and energy throughout the day.
According to the variety, one ounce of nuts or seeds contains 5–7 grams of protein.
Amaranth, a native Peruvian grain, is gluten-free and protein-rich. The fiber in Amaranth aids digestion, and calcium promotes bone health.
It provides 8–9 grams of protein per cooked cup.
It is good for porridge, puddings, and one can substitute it for rice or other grains in baked goods.
13. Protein-Rich Fruit and Vegetable
There is protein in almost every fruit and vegetable, albeit in small amounts.
The amount varies from one another.
Protein-rich vegetables include sweet potatoes, artichokes, potatoes, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
The protein content per cooked vegetable cup is approximately 4–5 grams. The protein content of fresh fruits is generally lower than that of vegetables.
The most protein-rich fruits are mulberries, blackberries, guava, cherimoyas, bananas, and nectarines. A cup of these contains about 3-5 grams of protein.
14. Flax seeds
These glorious tiny seeds are full of fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and particularly alpha-linolenic acid.
You can buy them whole or ground. The milled seeds are capable of thickening.
Flax “eggs” are grounded flax seeds mixed with water, which can substitute eggs when baking goods require structure.
Using seeds in any beverage, sweet, or snack is an excellent way to boost its nutritional value.
15. Wild Rice
The amount of protein in wild rice is approximately 1.5 times that of brown rice and basmati rice.
Bran is not removed from wild rice like it is from white rice. Nutritionally, this is wonderful, since bran is rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
However, rice crops cultivated in polluted areas can accumulate arsenic in their brans, which can cause health concerns.
By cooking and rinsing wild rice thoroughly before eating, you can reduce the amount of arsenic it contains by up to 57%.
The blue or green algae Spirulina contains roughly 7-9 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons.
Additionally, it is a good source of iron, vitamin B, and manganese.
Besides riboflavin and potassium, spirulina contains small quantities of many other nutrients your body needs, such as essential fatty acids.
The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties of phycocyanin, a pigment found naturally in spirulina, are impressive.
You can mix it into water, smoothies, or fruit juices. You can also sprinkle Spirulina on salads or snacks to boost the protein content.
17. Nutritional Yeast
Its high protein content makes nutritional yeast one of the most preferred protein sources for vegans and vegetarians all over the world.
Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, copper, and zinc.
Since it can be found in the stores as a yellow powder or flakes, nutritional yeast can be used to flavor your food.
Because of its cheesy flavor, it’s great to add to your mashed potatoes, pasta, or even over your popcorn for extra taste.
This seed is abundant in minerals and omega 3 fatty acids, besides having a higher content of protein than flaxseeds and chia seeds.
And if you want to alleviate your PMS or menopause symptoms, sprinkle some hemp seeds over your morning smoothie.
It also helps fight inflammation and treat symptoms of certain skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis.
19. Ezekiel Bread
Ezekiel bread is a great protein source compared to the more traditional bread. It’s made from sprouted legumes and whole grains, all organic.
This makes Ezekiel bread your go-to source of quality proteins and amino acids.
Besides being a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, tempeh is also rich in probiotics, B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Because it has a nutty flavor, tempeh can be used in a majority of recipes, from tacos and spaghetti to soups and salads.
Thanks for taking the time to read this vegan protein source guide!
The list of top protein sources for vegans above shows a number of ways you can make a variety of plant-based vegan foods a part of your daily diet.