Discover the best plant based high protein sources for vegans and vegetarians. Boost your daily protein intake by including seeds, nuts, grains, vegetables and pulses into your diet.
One of the most common concerns that vegans and vegetarians have is making sure their diet has sufficient protein from plants. When you make the shift away from eating animal based proteins, getting enough plant-based proteins and nutrients into a vegan or vegetarian diet can be hard at first, and planning is the key to success.
Many nutritional specialists agree that following a well-balanced vegan diet can provide you with all the essential minerals, vitamins, amino acids and proteins to maintain a healthy body.
A vegetarian or vegan diet high in plant proteins can assist with weight loss and it can help increase muscle mass and muscle strength. The body needs protein as they ensure an ample supply of essential amino acids.
Why Is Protein Important for Vegans and Vegetarians
Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of your body. There are 22 amino acids many of which our bodies can produce, but there are also essential amino acids that the body cannot produce and can only come from eating the right foods and planning your diet.
Unlike animal proteins which contain all the essential amino acids, some plant based proteins can be low in certain amino acids, so it’s important for vegans and vegetarians to eat a combination of plant based proteins during the day.
Essential Amino Acids
There are certain plant proteins that are complete proteins (i.e. contain all essential amino acids), soy, chia, quinoa and hemp seeds come under this category and make a great food source for a vegetarian or vegan diet, or people who want to reduce their intake of animal food.
Best Sources of Protein for Vegans & Vegetarians
Vegetarians and Vegans that eat a combination of high protein plants everyday enables them to get the right balance of vitamins, nutrients and proteins to maintain a healthy body. People who eat a plant based diet can boost their daily intake of protein by eating:
How Much Protein are there in Pulses? (Beans, Lentils and Peas)
Pulses are a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. A pulse is an edible seed from a legume plant, an example of a popular pulse is the pea, which comes from a pea pod (the pod is the legume).
Popular high protein pulses include:
- Chickpeas – approximately 7g of protein per 100g
- Garden peas – around 7g per 100g
- Lentils – around 8g of protein per 100g
- Beans – popular beans include kidney beans, black beans and fava beans
- Tofu – made from bean curd – further information
Other popular pulses for vegans with high protein levels, include lupins and beans. Beans are high in protein and also contain large amounts of soluble fibre.
A pulse is actually an edible seed that grows in a pod, and this therefore includes all beans, peas and lentils. Pulses make a great low-fat and affordable food source of plant protein and provide plenty of variety for use in meals and recipes. Other types of pulses include faba beans, vetches, pigeon peas and bambara beans.
Tofu – Made From Bean Curd
A popular source of plant protein is Tofu which provides around 8 grams of protein per 100g. Tofu is bean curd and is made by coagulating soy milk (soy milk is also a good substitute for animal milk) and then pressing the curds into solid white blocks.
Many vegetarians and vegans eat Tofu as it makes a good animal food substitute and is a complete protein which provides essential amino acids. Tofu can be used in a wide range of recipes as it spongy texture absorbs flavors well, it can be seasoned, marinated and is used in many savory and sweet dishes.
Tofu contains large amounts of protein, but are low in calories, and it provides nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium. Read more for Tofu recipes.
What Seeds are a Good Source of Plant Protein?
Culinary seeds come from flowers, crops and vegetables and offer a good source of protein, nutrition and healthy fats (chia seeds and flax seeds are a good source of plant based omega 3 fatty acids).
Vegans and vegetarians can use seeds to add texture to salads and can be used to create a crispy coating on meat afterlives such as Tofu. There are plenty of delicious vegan recipes using seeds such as chia, flax and sesame. They are a good source of protein with hemp seeds providing a massive 30g per 100g serving.
Amounts of Protein per 100g of Seeds:
- Hemp seeds – around 30g per 100g
- Quinoa seeds – further information
- Flax seeds – around 18g of protein per 100g
- Chia seeds – further information
- Sesame seeds – 17g per 100g
- Sunflower seeds – around 20g of protein per 100g
Quinoa is an edible seed which is high in protein, nutrients, fiber and B vitamins. Quinoa seeds are a complete protein and contain all essential amino acids, so it makes a good food source for a vegan diet, or people who want cut down on animal food sources.
Uncooked Quinoa seeds contain around 14g of protein per 100g. When cooked they make a great substitute for pasta, rice and couscous, 100g of cooked Quinoa contains 4g of protein and around 72% water. Quinoa is very versatile ingredient and is included in many vegan recipes, from avocado, quinoa salad to sweet potato & black bean chili with zesty quinoa.
How Much Protein are there in Chia Seeds?
Dried chia seeds contain around 16% protein. Chia seeds provide vegetarians and vegans with a valuable source of protein as they are a complete protein and they contain all the essential amino acids. The seeds are hydrophilic and will absorb up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked.
Chia seeds can be sprinkled on top of other foods, they can also be ground up before adding. They are a good alternative to eggs and also add extra protein for smoothies, cereals and tortillas and loads of other foods including making protein bars. The seeds can be consumed directly when soaked in water.
Apart from being an important source of protein for vegans, chia seeds are also very nutritious and contain are a good source of B vitamins, thiamin and niacin.
What Nuts are High in Protein?
Nuts are gaining popularity with vegan and vegetarian diets and offer a rich source of plant proteins. Nuts are very versatile and can be used as a snack or with meals to ensure you get enough protein each day, nuts are nutrient rich and are also energy-dense. A popular choice of nuts used in a plant based diet include:
- Cashew nuts – approximately 18g per 100g
- Pistachios – approx. 20g of protein per 100g
- Almonds – 20g of protein per 100g
- Walnuts – around 15g per 100g
- Brazil nuts – approximately 14g of protein per 100g
- Peanuts – 25g protein per 100g
What Grains are a Good Source of Protein?
Eating grains in your diet can provide you with a good source of plant proteins, grains are also a good source of carbohydrates, b-vitamins. Whole grains also have large amounts of soluble fiber that help control cholesterol levels and your appetite.
Protein levels for popular grains:
- Wheat – around 12g of protein per 100g
- Oats – 2.4g per 100g – further information
- Wild Rice – 4g of protein per 100g
- Spelt – 5g per 100g
- Sorghum – over 8g of protein per 100g
Oats are a nutrient rich cereal grain that offer a good source of vegan protein, oats are the only cereal containing a globulin or legume-like protein, avenalin. Oat protein is nearly equivalent in quality to soy protein, which research has shown to be equal to milk, meat, and egg protein. The protein content of the hull-less oat kernel ranges from 12 to 24%, the highest among cereals.
Vegetables offer a surprisingly high level of protein for a vegan and vegetarian diet, although they are not the highest protein dense plants they do provide plenty of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and fibre.
Amounts of Protein in Some Popular Vegetables
- Spinach – 2.9g per 100g
- Asparagus – 2.2g per 100g
- Artichokes – 2.9g per 100g
- Broccoli – 2.8g per 100g
- Kale – 4.3g per 100g