Some of the most-asked question by vegans or those considering veganism is, “How do vegans get protein?” Turns out, some of the best sources of protein for vegans are found in plants.
Whether you are following a plant-based diet for ethical or health-related reasons, it’s important to know which protein-rich foods to include in your diet. Plant proteins have great benefits, but plant-based proteins are not as bioavailable (how effectively your body absorbs nutrients) as animal-based proteins. Getting enough protein requires planning, variety and balance.
For those looking for more support, 8fit created 1 and 2-week vegan meal plans.
Key sources of protein for vegans
There are a number of plant-based foods that are high in protein. For example:
Tofu (12 grams per 1 cup)
Peanut butter (8 grams per 2 tbsp)
Lentils (9 grams per ½ cup)
Pistachios (6 grams per 1oz)
Quinoa (8 grams per 1 cup)
Chickpeas (14 grams per 1 cup)
Walnuts (14 grams per 1oz)
Green peas (8 grams per 1 cup)
Pumpkin seeds (5 grams per 1 oz)
Black beans (15 grams per 1 cup)
But, these foods aren’t only good for their protein content. Many of these plant-based foods are also nutrient-dense, helping your body grow, heal and repair itself. Read through our list to learn more.
Tofu is a great source of protein and essential amino acids, which helps give your body energy. Tofu is also an excellent source of iron and calcium, which helps to carry oxygen in your blood and strengthen bones. Finally, tofu is a good source of fiber, which can help lower levels of unhealthy cholesterol (LDL).
Peanut butter is a protein-rich food which can help you feel fuller for longer. Peanuts are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Just be sure to look at the label and avoid added sugar, hydrogenated ingredients and trans fat. Our tip: We know it’s hard, but eat peanut butter in moderation. It’s not only nutrient-dense but also calorie-dense. Aim for 1-2 tablespoons.
Lentils are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, improving the health of your digestive tract and improving cholesterol levels. They are also an excellent source of folate and magnesium which helps lower artery-damaging homocysteine. All legumes, like lentils, help stabilize and balance blood sugar levels.
Pistachios contain the healthy fats, fiber and protein needed to manage hunger between meals. They contain higher amounts of protein than other nuts including almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans and walnuts. Pistachios are also a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, making them helpful for decreasing inflammation and improving heart health.
Quinoa has flavonoids, also known as plant antioxidants. Flavonoids have many positive effects on health including anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing benefits. Quinoa is technically a seed but is eaten like a grain. It has almost twice as much fiber and protein as most grains. Bonus: It includes protein containing all essential amino acids.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fiber, both which help increase satiety and curb food cravings. They also contain folate and zinc which are important for helping the body effectively produce new cells and improving immune function. Another beneficial nutrient in chickpeas is selenium which helps the liver work properly, decreases inflammation as well as cancer-causing compounds in the body.
Walnuts contain healthy amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium, which all reduce blood pressure. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that helps improve cardiovascular function (including blood pressure). Walnuts are exceptionally rich in antioxidants which are concentrated in the brown outer layer.
Green peas are an excellent source of fiber and protein which help regulate the pace of digestion and help keep blood sugar levels steady. In addition, they can help us regulate our fasting insulin levels. Peas are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant-rich nutrients, both of which help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Bonus: Green peas are a very environmentally friendly food due to their ability to take nitrogen gas in the air and convert it to usable forms.
Pumpkin seeds, in their unshelled form, are an excellent source of zinc, which improves immunity, fights free radicals and slows the aging process. Pumpkin seeds also contain a wide array of phytosterols (beneficial plant compounds) and antioxidants, which can give your health a little boost.
Black beans are high in soluble fiber which fights heart disease, helps remove toxins in the body and prevents overeating due to their filling qualities. These legumes contain phytonutrients, which work to benefit cholesterol levels and complex carbohydrates and give the body long-lasting energy. Recipe: Make black bean burgers and use avocado as the buns.