Proteins make life. Protein breakdown into amino acids helps cells grow and heal. Proteins breakdown slower than carbs, making you feel fuller with fewer calories. Proteins are necessary for weight management.
Men require 56 grams of protein and women 46. Your weight and exercise level may require more.
Protein comes from meat, eggs, and dairy. However, they include saturated fat and cholesterol. Those protein sources may not aid vegetarians or vegans. Luckily, you don’t need meat or cheese to acquire enough of the crucial ingredient.
Here are 19 vegetarian and vegan protein sources and ways to include them into your diet now.
Plant Protein Benefits
Plant-based diets may improve health and the environment. Plant-based protein benefits:12
- More fiber and nutrients
- Low saturated fat, linked to heart disease.
- low sodium
- Lower stroke and heart disease risk
- Less obesity, high blood hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and some malignancies.
- reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are high-protein plant foods that may be used to salads, dressings, dips, and sauces.
Peas include plant-based protein like other legumes. Peas have 7.9 grams of protein per cup, whereas reduced-fat milk has 8.23 grams.
Elle Penner, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist, advised Health that pea pesto is a good alternative to peas as a side dish.
“I blend frozen peas, toasted pine nuts, fresh mint, and olive oil and serve over linguine,” Penner added. “I love it.”
Black, white, pinto, heritage, and more beans exist. All beans are high in protein. Two cups of red kidney beans provide 28 grams of protein, compared to 3 cups of cow’s milk’s 24.7 grams.
Christine Gerbstadt, MD, MPH, RDN, author of Doctor’s Detox Diet, stated you don’t need to cook beans to get their nutrients.
“If you want to buy them dried and soak them overnight before cooking them, that’s fine,” added Dr. Gerbstadt. “But it’s also fine and easier to buy them canned, rinse them, and heat them over the stove.”
Chickpeas are legumes and versatile plant proteins. Chickpeas are high-fiber, low-calorie, and offer 7.3 grams of protein per half-cup.
Chickpeas can be used in salads, hummus, or oven-roasted and salted snacks.
“You can make a really great meal with some whole-wheat flatbread, veggies, and homemade hummus,” said Dr. Gerbstadt. “Just toss a can of chickpeas in the blender with some herbs and tahini or walnut oil, and you’re good to go.”
Black-eyed peas, like beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas, are robust pulses. On New Year’s Day, some eat black-eyed peas for luck. Plant-based protein may be a year-round pantry staple.
12 grams of protein per cup. Black-eyed peas provide protein and these nutrients per cup:7
- 6g fiber
- B vitamin abundance
- Immune-boosting vitamin A
Add black-eyed peas to salads, soups, stews, stir fry, and most bean dishes.
These soy products can replace red meat, poultry, and fish.
Soybean-based foods have the most plant-based protein. Tempeh and tofu have 16.9 and 21.8 grams per half-cup serving.
“They’re highly nutritious, and they can really take on the taste and texture of whatever type of food you’re looking for,” said Dr. Gerbstadt. “I love that you can get a really soft tofu and mash it with a fork, or a firm one and have a really substantial product that can stand in for meat.”
If you don’t like meat alternatives, consume soybeans in their pods. Boiled, salted edamame has nine grams of protein every two-thirds cup.
Try edamame as a snack, appetizer before dinner, or in salads or pasta (without the shell).
Non-Dairy Milk and Yogurt
There are non-dairy alternatives for milk in coffee or cereal and yogurt as a snack. Additionally, the following goods are protein-rich. Some kinds even include calcium and vitamin D like dairy.
Milk replacements aren’t just for lactose-intolerant persons. Plant-based protein sources include soy, almonds, oats, and others. Plain soy milk offers six grams of protein per eight-ounce cup. Penner advised against too much sweetness and taste.
Pea milk is unusual among milk replacements. Unlike nuts, soy, and dairy, yellow split pea milk is not an allergy.
Pea milk has eight grams of protein per cup.12 Most manufacturers add calcium and vitamin D to pea milk.
Coffee, porridge, creamy soups, sauces, and other milk-based dishes can use pea milk.
Plant-based diets have boosted dairy-free choices beyond milk. Almond, cashew, pea, soy, and coconut yogurts are available. The alternatives provide the same probiotic benefits.
Some non-dairy yogurts are potent. Some varieties of plain Greek-style, almond-based yogurt include roughly 10 grams of protein per serving.
Use non-dairy yogurt in parfaits, overnight oats, smoothies, or with fruit and nuts for a nutritious breakfast or snack.
Seeds and Nuts
Nuts and seeds provide plant-based protein in a convenient snack. Nut butters add protein to sandwiches and dips.
All nuts include healthful fats and protein, making them important in a plant-based diet. Whole, raw almonds offer five grams of protein per ounce,14 unsalted cashews 4.2 grams,15 and unsalted pistachios without shells 5.78 grams.
“Look for brands with as few ingredients as possible—just nuts and maybe salt,” Penner said. “Skip the ones with hydrogenated oils or lots of added sugar.”
Hemp seeds, cereals, trail mixes, and pesto all include hemp. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 9.5 grams of protein.17
Chia seeds, another plant-based protein source, have 3.5 grams per ounce.
Chia seeds can be used to salads, yogurt, cereal, or smoothies. When soaked in liquid, chia seeds become gelatinous and creamy, like pudding.
Sunflower and Sesame Seeds
Don’t overlook your pantry seeds. Dr. Gerbstadt noted the most common types had protein and good fats. Sunflower seed kernels include five grams of protein every quarter cup.19 Sesame seeds weigh 6.4 grams.
Try creative methods to eat more seeds. “Instead of saving poppy seeds for once a year for your holiday bread, try adding them to a vinaigrette,” said Dr. Gerbstadt.
Other plant-based proteins may be worth adding to your diet. Some of these goods might be the major part of your next meal, while others can be protein-packed garnishes.
Most grains include some protein. Uncooked quinoa—a seed—has more than 24 grams of protein per cup.
Quinoa, a complete protein, provides all nine necessary amino acids the body requires for development and repair but cannot make.
Quinoa is versatile too. Soup and vegetarian chili can use the seed. Quinoa may be cooked with brown sugar and berries for breakfast or tossed with veggies and vinaigrette for a healthy salad.
Dr. Gerbstadt noted vegetables lack protein. Some veggies are high in protein, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fiber. Raw spinach has two grams of protein per cup.22 Chopped, cooked broccoli has 5.7 grams per cup.
“If someone is eating a lot of vegetables—and a wide variety of different types of vegetables—it will certainly add up to a good amount of amino acids,” said Dr. Gerbstadt.
Seitan, seasoned wheat gluten, is another plant-based meat alternative. Seitan—vital wheat gluten—contains almost 46 grams of protein per half-cup serving.
Seitan tastes like chicken yet resembles duck. So use it in any poultry preparation.
Chocolate has protein. Unsweetened raw cocoa powder, used in baking and homemade hot chocolate, has roughly one gram of protein per tablespoon.
Traditional recipes need heaps of sugar since raw cocoa powder is bitter. Unsweetened plant-based milk and a little pure maple syrup or date sugar make a nutritious hot chocolate. Air-popped popcorn with cocoa powder, sugar, allspice, and cayenne pepper makes a sweet and spicy whole-grain snack.
Plant Protein Powders
Plant-based whey protein powder alternatives are many. Plant-based protein powders include peas and almonds. Some mixes include protein from legumes and entire grains such brown rice, buckwheat, millet, and seeds.
Almond protein powder has 20 grams of protein every 1/3 cup. Check the label because protein content varies.26
Protein powders provide protein to smoothies, pancakes, savory soups, puddings, and frozen pops.
Find unsweetened ones. Protein powders can be sweetened with maple syrup in controlled amounts.
B12 produces energy, red blood cells, and DNA. Plant-based diets rely on vitamin B12-fortified nutritional yeast. Since many vegetarians and vegans risk vitamin B12 deficiency, check the label to make sure your nutritional yeast is fortified.27
Nutritional yeast also contains eight grams of protein per 16-gram serving.28 Nutritional yeast may be sprinkled on popcorn, cooked vegetables, and potatoes. Nutritional yeast may also be used in plant-based soups and homemade nut “cheese” like cashew queso.
Plant-based protein can improve health. Plant-based diets lessen heart disease, stroke, and cancer risk and help you lose weight.
Non-dairy milk, yogurt, and plant-based protein powders are high-protein options. Beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, and seeds provide plant-based protein.