“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” ― Ann WigmoreTweet
Good news-those that choose a vegan or vegetarian diet and want delicious and protein-packed food options don’t have to rely solely on animal-based proteins to meet nutritional needs.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in building and repairing muscle tissue, supporting a healthy immune system, and aiding in weight loss. However, it can be challenging for vegans and vegetarians to consume enough protein through plant-based sources alone.
But don’t worry – there are plenty of high protein plant-based foods that can be incorporated into the diet to meet nutritional needs. In this article, we will discuss the top 10 high protein plant-based foods for vegans and vegetarians. Whether a person has been a seasoned plant-based eater or just starting, these options will not only nourish the body but also add variety and satisfaction to meals.
Benefits of Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient that plays many important roles in the body. It is needed for repairing tissue, building and maintaining muscle mass, aiding in digestion, and boosting the immune system. Consuming enough protein is particularly important for athletes and active individuals who are looking to build or maintain muscle mass. Additionally, increasing protein intake can help keep you feeling full for longer periods of time, reducing the likelihood of overeating and aiding in weight loss efforts.
Edamame (ay-duh-MAH-may ) is a Japanese dish prepared with immature soybeans in the pod. The pods are boiled or steamed and may be served with salt or other condiments. Once boiled, the seeds/beans take on a soft, creamy texture and a taste that’s similar to lima beans. However, it’s important to note that the pod isn’t edible and should not be eaten. The dish has become popular across the world. The beans are a fantastic plant-based protein source since it contains all essential amino acids. One cup of edamame, which is about 155 grams, has 18.5 grams of protein. That’s almost as much protein as a 3-ounce chicken breast, which has around 21 grams of protein! Therefore, edamame is an excellent choice for vegans, vegetarians, and others trying to lower their meat intake while consuming an adequate protein level.
Edamame is Rich in Antioxidants
One of the major benefits of edamame is that it’s low in calories. One cup of edamame has approximately 189 calories. It’s high in fiber, which helps a person feel full for longer periods, and it can promote weight loss while still consuming delicious foods.
Easy and Versatile to Prepare
Edamame is unlike many plant-based protein sources since it’s easy and fast to prepare. You can buy edamame frozen or fresh, cooked or uncooked. It is also incredibly versatile and can be added to a variety of dishes or consumed as a snack or side dish.
Lentils are a fantastic source of plant-based protein for vegans and vegetarians. Just one cup of cooked lentils contains around 18 grams of protein, which is equivalent to about three chicken eggs. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, making it an important nutrient for athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Lentils are also low in fat and calories, making them a great food for weight loss and muscle recovery.
Rich in Fiber
In addition to being high in protein, lentils are also rich in fiber. Fiber is important for healthy digestion, as it helps move food through the intestines and can prevent constipation. Fiber can also help lower cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar control, and contribute to a healthy gut microbiome. Lentils contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, making them a great food for anyone looking to improve their overall health and well-being.
Versatile and Easy to Cook
Lentils are an incredibly versatile food that can be used in a number of different dishes. They can be added to soups, salads, stews, and curries, or used as a substitute for ground beef in tacos or spaghetti sauce. Lentils are also easy to cook and can be ready in about 15-20 minutes. Simply rinse and drain them, then add them to a pot of boiling water and cook until tender.
Affordable and Sustainable
Another great thing about lentils is that they are affordable and sustainable. In comparison to animal-based sources of protein like beef, chicken, or fish, lentils are much more cost-effective. They are also more sustainable, as they require less water and resources to grow. Lentils are a great choice for anyone looking to eat a healthy and sustainable diet on a budget.
Another source of protein is chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans. They are a versatile legume that boasts an impressive range of health benefits.
Chickpeas are a great source of plant-based protein, containing around 15 grams of protein in just 1 cup of cooked chickpeas. This makes them an ideal food for vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who is looking to reduce their consumption of animal products while maintaining a healthy diet.
Chickpeas are also rich in essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins that our bodies require for optimal functioning. Unlike most plant-based proteins, chickpeas contain all the essential amino acids, making them a complete source of protein.
Other Health Benefits
Chickpeas are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is crucial for maintaining healthy digestion and preventing a range of health issues. Fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar levels, which is important for people with diabetes or anyone who wants to maintain a healthy weight.
Additionally, chickpeas are packed with vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and zinc, which are essential for optimal health. Iron is important for the production of red blood cells, while magnesium is involved in a range of biochemical reactions in the body, including muscle function and energy production.
Ways to Incorporate Chickpeas into Your Diet
Chickpeas are incredibly versatile and can be used in a range of dishes, from salads and dips to stews and curries. They are even delicious when roasted and eaten as a snack.
Hummus is a popular dip made from chickpeas, tahini ( toasted ground hulled sesame seeds)., lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s a great snack option that’s both tasty and healthy. Chickpeas can also be added to salads, soups, and casseroles for an extra boost of protein and flavor.
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into blocks. It is a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine and has been part of traditional diets for centuries. One of the reasons why tofu is such a popular food is that it is rich in protein. In fact, it is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the human body needs.
One cup of firm tofu contains around 20 grams of protein, making it an excellent source of this essential nutrient. Tofu is also low in fat and calories, which makes it a great choice for those trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Another great benefit of tofu is its versatility. It can be cooked in a variety of ways, including grilling, boiling, sautéing, and frying. It can be added to salads, stir fry recipes, and sandwiches, or even used as a replacement for meat in burgers and other dishes. This makes tofu a great option for those looking to explore new recipes and cooking techniques while still ensuring they are getting enough protein in their diet.
Tofu supports health and fitness goals by providing an excellent source of protein that is not only easy to prepare but also highly nutritious. It contains calcium, iron, and magnesium, which are important for overall health and wellbeing. It is also a good source of phytoestrogens, which have been linked to lower rates of breast cancer in some studies.
In conclusion, tofu is a highly nutritious, versatile, and convenient food that is an excellent source of protein for those following a plant-based diet.
Quinoa is an ancient grain that has been cultivated in South America for thousands of years and is now a popular superfood in many parts of the world. Quinoa is a great source of protein and is versatile to use in meals.
Protein in Quinoa
Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own. This is a rare quality among plant-based foods, which is why quinoa is such a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Quinoa contains 8 grams of protein per cup, which is similar to the amount found in a cup of milk or a medium-sized chicken egg.
In addition to its high protein content, quinoa is also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The fiber in quinoa can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote healthy digestion, while the vitamins and minerals can support overall health and well-being. Quinoa is also gluten-free, making it a safe and nutritious option for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
How to Use Quinoa in Meals
As a side dish: Cook quinoa in vegetable broth or water and serve it as a side dish with roasted vegetables, stir-fried tofu, or grilled chicken.
In soups and stews: Add cooked quinoa to your favorite soup or stew recipe to boost its protein and fiber content.
In salads: Quinoa makes a great base for salads. Mix it with vegetables, herbs, and a dressing of your choice for a healthy and filling meal.
As a breakfast cereal: Cook quinoa in almond milk and top it with fresh fruit, nuts, and honey for a protein-packed breakfast.
In veggie burgers: Use cooked quinoa as a binder in veggie burger patties for added protein and texture.
As the world becomes more health conscious, there is an increasing demand for plant-based sources of protein. One such source that often goes overlooked is the humble almond. Not only are almonds a delicious snack, but they’re also packed with protein and other vital nutrients.
Almonds are an excellent plant-based source of protein. Just 1/2 cup of almonds contain 15 grams of protein. Compared to other plant-based foods like beans, lentils, or tofu, almonds provide a high amount of protein with relatively fewer calories.
Protein Quality of Almonds
The protein found in almonds is a complete protein which means that it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need to function properly. These amino acids are termed ‘essential’ because the body can’t make them without dietary intake. Many plant-based sources of protein are incomplete, meaning they don’t contain all the essential amino acids. However, almonds are one of those foods that contain all essential amino acids.
Other Nutrients and Health Benefits of Almonds
Along with protein, almonds are also a great source of healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. These nutrients are essential for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. According to research, a diet that includes almonds has been linked to improved cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, and weight management.
How to Incorporate Almonds into the Diet
Add almond butter to your smoothie or oatmeal, use almond flour in baking recipes, or add sliced or chopped almonds to your salads, yogurt bowls or stir-fries. Raw almonds make for a perfect snack on the go, and they can also be roasted with a variety of spices to make a tasty snack.
7. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are small seeds produced by the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Historically, chia seeds were an important part of the diet for the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Today, they are frequently used in smoothies, puddings, and even added to baked goods to provide added nutritional value.
High Protein Content
Chia seeds are an excellent source of protein, with just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds containing approximately 4 grams of protein. While this may not seem like a lot, it adds up quickly when used in conjunction with other high-protein foods. Chia seeds can give a protein boost to athletes looking to build muscle mass or simply someone who wants to maintain good health.
How to Incorporate Chia Seeds into Your Diet
There are many ways to incorporate chia seeds into the diet. They can be sprinkled on top of yogurt or oatmeal, added to smoothies or shakes, or used as a topping for salads. One popular way to consume chia seeds is by making chia seed pudding, which is a delicious and healthy dessert option. To make chia seed pudding, simply mix chia seeds with milk or a milk alternative and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to thicken. You can then add your favorite flavorings, such as vanilla extract or honey, for a tasty and healthy snack.
8. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a great source of plant-based protein, with approximately 7 grams of protein per serving (2 tablespoons). This makes it an excellent alternative for those who are looking for a protein boost without consuming animal products.
Peanut Butter is Good for Heart Health
Consuming peanut butter has also been shown to be beneficial for heart health. Studies have found that consuming peanuts or peanut butter can help reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because peanuts and peanut butter contain healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation in the body, which can lead to heart disease.
Peanut Butter is Versatile
Aside from being a great source of protein, peanut butter is also incredibly versatile, making it an easy addition to many plant-based meals. It can be spread on toast or crackers, added to smoothies or oatmeal, and used as a dipping sauce for vegetables. It can also be used as a base for sauces, marinades, or dressings, adding both flavor and nutrition to your meals.
Peanut Butter is Affordable
Peanut butter is also an affordable source of protein. Compared to animal-based protein sources, such as meat or fish, peanut butter is much more budget-friendly, making it an excellent option for those who are looking to save money on their grocery bill.
Oats are a type of cereal grain that are packed with a variety of nutrients, including protein. In fact, oats are one of the few plant-based foods that are considered a complete protein.
One cup of cooked oats contains about 6 grams of protein. This is actually a decent amount considering that oats are mostly made up of carbohydrates.
In addition to being high in protein, oats also offer a number of other health benefits. Since they are a great source of fiber. Oats have also been linked to improved heart health and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. There are a variety of ways to incorporate more oats into the daily diet. You can start your day off with a bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit and nuts, or you can use oats to make homemade granola or energy bars. Oats can also be used in baking to make healthy muffins, breads, and cookies.
When you think of protein-rich foods, spinach might not be the first one that comes to mind. However, this leafy green vegetable is actually a great source of plant-based protein.
Spinach is a Nutritional Powerhouse
Not only is spinach a great source of protein, but it is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Spinach is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, calcium, and folate. Adding spinach to the diet can benefit overall health, including reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Spinach is High in Protein
A cup of spinach has about 5 grams of protein, which is more than many other vegetables. While it may not have as much protein as a beef steak, spinach is still a great plant-based option for those looking to increase their protein intake.
Spinach is Versatile
One of the great things about spinach is that it can be used in a variety of dishes, from smoothies to salads to soups. Its mild flavor makes it a great addition to many meals, and its high nutritional content makes it a smart choice for anyone looking to eat healthily.
Incorporate spinach into the diet by:
– Adding fresh spinach to a morning smoothie for a protein-packed breakfast.
– Tossing spinach into salads or use it as a base for salad greens.
– Adding spinach to soups, stews, and pasta dishes for an extra nutritional boost.
Spinach is a great choice to add to the diet of all ages, since it is a nutritional powerhouse!
Choosing a vegan or vegetarian diet does not mean that people miss out on protein-rich foods. There are plenty of high-protein plant-based foods that are both nutritious and delicious. Incorporating these foods into the diet can help ensure that daily protein needs are met without consuming animal products. Adding the high-protein plant-based foods listed above to daily meals can be a great way to meet human nutritional needs.
The I Will Projects, a 501(c)3 organization serving communities since 2014, believes in multiple solutions to address global challenges. Our IFIZ education programs focus on general aquaponics, growing microgreens and sprouts, and insect farming. These programs empower communities by expanding knowledge, developing collaboration, and advocating for sustainable innovation. Our aim is to contribute to a regenerative food system, ensuring access to healthy food and recognizing food as medicine. Click Here to Learn More.
Disclaimer: This blog post provides general health and nutritional information. The author is not a medical professional, and the content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any application of the material provided is at the reader’s discretion and is their sole responsibility. If you have a medical concern or emergency, please consult with a healthcare provider.