Protein is a necessary component to a balanced and nutritious diet. Protein is made up of amino acids that we need for energy and for supporting musculoskeletal and organ health. The most complete sources of amino acids are animal proteins.
It can be difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get enough dietary protein on a plant based diet. It is important that a person who doesn’t eat meat or fish look for a variety of protein from plant sources. Let’s explore the best sources of plant based proteins.
Soybeans and Soy Products
Edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and soy miso are all good sources of protein and amino acids. It is possible to get approximately 15 grams of protein from 3.5 ounces of soy foods.
Edamame are young, green soybeans with that are served steamed or boiled as an appetizer, or tossed into salads. These are also rich in fiber, folate, and vitamin K.
Tofu is made from soybean curds pressed into a block that mimics cheese. Yet, it has very little flavor. Tofu is excellent for stir fries and soups.
Tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans prior to pressing them into a slab. It has a nutty flavor and can also be used in stir fries. Tempeh contains probiotics, B vitamins, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Beans and Legumes
Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, and peanuts are just some of the beans and legumes that contain protein. On average, you can get 15 grams of protein per 1 cup of cooked beans or lentils.
Beans are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, iron, folate, manganese, and potassium. Beans are wonderful in soups or for making dips, such as hummus.
Lentils are rich in iron, folate, and antioxidants. Lentils are great for soups, meat substitutes, and dahls.
Peanuts are an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, and B-complex vitamins. Peanut butter is a wonderful way to add protein to your diet.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds include almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds, to name a few. One ounce of nuts and seeds contains approximately 6 grams of protein. This is true for nut and seed butters as well.
Nuts and seeds are also rich sources of fiber and heart healthy fats. They also contain iron, calcium, magnesium, and certain B vitamins. The most nutrient dense nuts and seeds are those that are raw. You can find butters that are made from raw nuts and seeds as well.
Whole Grains and Quinoa
Oats, wild rice, sprouted grain breads, and quinoa are an easy and filling way to incorporate protein into your diet. Half a cup of oats provides approximately 6 grams of protein. One cup of cooked wild rice provides 7 grams of protein. Two slices of Ezekiel bread contains approximately 8 grams of protein. Quinoa provides 8 grams of protein per cooked cup.
Oats are also high in fiber, magnesium, zinc, and folate. Wild rice contains copper, phosphorous, and B vitamins. Sprouted breads provide vitamin C and beta-carotene. Quinoa is a good source of complex carbohydrates and iron. Quinoa is technically a seed.
Additional Sources of Protein
Additional sources of plant based protein include
- Seitan, a wheat gluten meat substitute
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale
- Spirulina, a blue-green algae
- Green peas and pea protein powder
- Nutritional yeast, a great cheese substitute