Where would I get my protein from?? This is a common question that comes up regarding a plant-based diet. A lot of people assume that protein is only found in meats such as poultry, beef, fish, and eggs. Fortunately all plants contain protein and it is quite easy to meet protein needs while excluding all animal products. Listed in the article are my top 10 plant-based protein sources that can be incorporated in a plant-based diet.
20 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving
Seitan is made from gluten, which is the main protein found in wheat. The texture of seitan probably resembles meat more than any other meat substitutes. Seitan is usually be found in the refrigerated section of health food stores and can be prepared by sautéing, grilling, or pan frying.
2) Organic tofu, edamame, tempeh
Super Firm Tofu – 14 grams of protein per 3 oz.
Edamame – 9-13 grams of protein per ½ cup
Tempeh – 20 grams of protein per 4 oz.
All three of these foods derive from soybeans. Edamame are immature soybeans in the pod that are popular staples in cuisines of East Asia. Edamame is very common in U.S. grocery stores and can be found in the frozen vegetable section. The pods can be steamed, boiled, or microwaved before eaten.
Tofu can be referred as the soybean curd. It is made by coagulating soy milk followed by pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. Tofu comes in a variety of textures based on the fluid content. Firmer tofu’s have more of a meatier texture and contain more protein per oz. Super firm is the firmest tofu that I can be found and is available at Trader Joe’s. This tofu is 14 grams of protein per 3 oz.
Tempeh is another soybean product that is made by fermenting soybeans. Compared to tofu, tempeh has more protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins.
Side note: Always buy the organic versions of tofu, edamame, or tempeh.
3) Lentils and beans
Lentils- 18 grams of protein & 15 gram of fiber per cup
Black beans – 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber per cup
Chickpeas – 8 grams of protein per cup
Lentils and beans are foods in the legume family. In addition to their high protein content, legumes contain good amounts of slow digesting carbs and dietary fiber. Studies show that a diet rich in beans and lentils can help control blood sugar levels, decrease cholesterol, and lower blood pressure.
8 grams of protein per cup
Quinoa is a protein packed whole grain that is as versatile as rice. Quinoa contains all essential amino acids and is also a good source of potassium, fiber, iron, magnesium, and vitamin E. Cooking quinoa is quick and easy. Just bring the quinoa to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to low and let it cook for 15-20 minutes. You’ll know that it’s done once the quinoa becomes fluffy.
Side note: Quinoa has a naturally bitter coating, so remember to rinse your quinoa through a strainer before cooking unless it has already been prewashed.
5) High Protein Almond Milk
10 grams of protein per 8 fl oz. or 1 cup
Almond milk has become a very popular dairy substitute. Compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is has no hormones, antibiotics or cholesterol and is lower in calories and saturated fat. Almond milk is usually low in protein (1 gm per cup), but there is a brand called “Orgain Organic Protein Almond Milk” that contains organic pea protein and has 10 gm of protein per cup.
6) Green Peas and Organic Pea Protein Powder
Green peas – 16 grams of protein per cup
Protein powder – 20 grams of protein per 2 scoops
Many people think of green peas as cheap restaurant side-dish that adds ‘green’ on your plate, but on the contrary they’re little nutrition powerhouses. One cup of green peas actually provides more protein than a glass of milk. In addition to protein, green peas are an excellent source of fiber, B-vitamins, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Pea protein powder has recently been gaining popularity in the supplement industry as an alternative to whey and casein protein. Depending on the brand, one serving usually provides 20 grams of protein. Just like any other dietary supplement, I would probably only recommend using it if you can’t meet your protein needs through food alone. You should also make sure to check the ingredients label before buying, because many pea protein powders contain dairy and egg whites.
4 grams of protein per tablespoon
Spirulina is a blue – green algae that’s incredibly high in protein and is a good source of iron, B-vitamins, and antioxidants. Gram for gram, spirulina is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet and makes a great addition to any type of smoothie.
Chia seeds – 3 grams of protein per tablespoon
Hemp seeds – 3 grams of protein per tablespoon
Pumpkin seeds – 12 grams of protein per cup
Seeds contain all of the starting materials necessary for the growth and development of plants, which makes them very nutritious. They can help stabilize blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol when consumed as part of a healthy diet. Seeds can be added to oatmeal, smoothies, salads, or eaten by themselves.
9) Sprouted breads
8 grams for 2 slices
Sprouted breads such as Ezekiel bread are made from organic sprouted legumes and whole grains. The process of sprouting makes certain vitamins and minerals more readily available for digestion. Some studies have found that sprouting can boost the overall protein quality by increasing the amino acid profile of some amino acids. Lysine is an amino acid that is usually limited in plant based foods but sprouting increases the lysine content.
10) Nutritional yeast
9 grams of protein for 2 tablespoons
Nutritional yeast is the deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is usually sold in the form as a yellow powder or flakes. Nutritional yeast is very popular in vegan or vegetarian dishes due to its natural cheesy flavor. Nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on top of pasta and popcorn or added to mashed potatoes and scrambled tofu.