What Are the Best Sources of Plant Protein?

Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2021
plant based protein
Here are the 9 best sources of plant-based protein that include tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, hemp, and quinoa.

Protein, considered a building block of the body, is one of the essential nutrients the body needs for growth and energy. Animal products, such as meat, milk, and eggs, are good sources of protein. However, in recent years, plant-based diets, such as vegetarianism and veganism, have gained popularity, which has increased the demand for plant-based proteins.

9 best sources of plant-based protein

A diet rich in high protein plants can help reduce the risk of numerous chronic conditions and help people feel better overall.

The 9 best sources of protein to include in your plant-based diet include:

  1. Soy products
    • Soybeans are high protein foods, and their products are good sources of calcium and iron, making soy a healthy substitute for milk.
    • Soybean milk fortified with vitamins and minerals is an excellent alternative to cow’s milk.
    • Soy products, such as tofu and tempeh, can be used as a substitute for meat.
      • 4-ounces of tofu contains about 11 grams of protein
      • 3-ounces of tempeh contains about 18 grams of protein
    • Edamame is boiled soybeans eaten as an appetizer, which provides all the amino acids the body needs, due to its whole soy base.
  2. Lentils
    • Lentils can be used as an ingredient in soups, salads, and many other varieties of dishes.
    • They are a good source of fiber, folate, manganese, iron, antioxidants, and carbs that digest slowly.
    • Studies suggest that lentils have anti-obesity, anticancer, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it is a good idea to combine the two different types of lentils because these will give the body nutritionally superior protein.
  3. Seeds
    • Seeds such as chia, pumpkin, hemp, and flaxseeds are rich in fiber and proteins, and low in calories.
    • These seeds also contain trace amounts of minerals, such as iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
  4. Nuts
    • Nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, and pistachios, are a good source of protein and contain unsaturated fats that are beneficial to the heart.
    • These can be added as ingredients to salads and smoothies or can be eaten as a snack. However, they are high in calories, so people should maintain a fixed daily limit intake of nuts.
  5. Peanut butter
    • Peanut butter contains protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats that are good for the heart.
    • It is a good source of energy that can be eaten with bread for breakfast, and is a good alternative to butter, and is suitable for vegans. However, be mindful of the portion size because it may cause weight gain.
  6. Chickpeas and beans
    • Chickpeas and other beans, such as black beans, are high in protein, fiber, folate, iron, and healthy fatty acids.
    • Studies suggest that eating beans and other legumes can lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, and even reduce abdominal fat.
  7. Grains
    • Grains or cereals, especially rice, wheat, and millets, are good sources of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Some grains are cooked whole, while some are grounded into meals, which are used to make bread and pasta.
    • Quinoa, chia, and buckwheat are called pseudocereals because they do not grow from grass but small plants instead.
    • Quinoa contains minerals, carbohydrates, fibers, and all essential amino acids. So, it is considered a complete protein food. Quinoa can substitute rice or pasta.
  8. Spirulina
    • Spirulina is a blue-green alga, which is highly nutritious. Two tablespoons of spirulina can provide most of the daily requirements of protein, iron, vitamin B1, and copper.
    • It contains potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, and essential fatty acids. 
    • Spirulina has additional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.
  9. Vegetables and fruits
    • Veggies and fruits contain some proteins but not enough to meet the daily required intake. However, some vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, potatoes, green peas, and brussels sprouts, do contain a good amount of protein.
    • Fruits contain even less protein than veggies, but some fruits, such as banana, blackberries, nectarines, and guava, do provide some.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stated that all the nutritional needs of all age groups, including pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, can be obtained from vegetarian or vegan diets. However, to get all the essential proteins, vitamins, and minerals from a plant-based diet, people must eat an adequate number of calories from a whole range of foods.

How much protein do you need?

Your protein needs vary depending on a variety of factors, including age, weight, health status, activity level, and more. However, here are the general guidelines for how much protein you should consume per day.

  • Sedentary people should consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
  • Adults over 65 should consume between 0.55 to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
  • Athletes should consume between 0.55 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
  • People looking to lose weight should consume 0.75 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2021
Help Guide. Choosing Healthy Protein. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-eating/choosing-healthy-protein.htm

National Peanut Board. Can You Get Enough Protein From Plant Foods? https://www.nationalpeanutboard.org/news/can-you-get-enough-protein-from-plant-foods.htm

Mangels R. Protein In the Vegan Diet. In Simply Vegan, 5th ed. The Vegetarian Resource Group. https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php