Nutrition

7 Vegan-Friendly Protein Sources We Can All Get Behind

4 min read

Searching for plant-based sources of protein? Look no further.
Searching for plant-based sources of protein? Look no further.

Essential Takeaways

  • Our bodies need protein—but there are a lot of misconceptions about the “right” kind of protein to eat, or whether vegans and vegetarians can get enough.
  • We’re effectively debunking that myth with 7 vegan-friendly protein options you can incorporate into any meal.

Whether you’re a vegan, an omnivore, or somewhere in between, one thing we all have in common is that our bodies need protein. One popular misconception, though, is that those who follow a vegan diet aren’t getting enough protein because they don’t consume animal-based products. The truth? There are many nutrient-rich vegan protein sources available, so consider that myth debunked. Below, find seven vegan protein sources meat-eaters and vegans alike will love.*

Lentils

In general, legumes (aka beans, lentils, peas, and more) are excellent sources of protein—but lentils really shine for a few reasons. For one, a cup of cooked lentils delivers a whopping 16.2 grams of protein. Two, the tiny legumes also provide other essential nutrients such as folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. And third, thanks to high amounts of fiber, they’ll keep you full and energized throughout the day. *(1)

Looking for recipe inspiration?

This make-ahead lentil salad is perfect for busy workdays.
Try it out

The best part? Lentils have a short cook time (20 minutes max), and they don’t require soaking in advance, which makes them a go-to when you need to put together a meal quickly. They also store well in the refrigerator. So you can make a big batch and have lunches ready to go for the entire week.

Chickpeas

Staying on the legume train, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are another nutrient powerhouse that fits right into any diet. Chickpeas contain fiber, iron, folate, potassium, and—you guessed it—protein: One cup of cooked chickpeas boasts 14.5 grams. And there are so many ways to incorporate chickpeas into your meals. You can toss them in salads for extra protein, make tacos with them, or roast them and eat them as a crunchy—and seriously addicting—snack. And we also feel compelled to remind you that you can whip up some homemade hummus with nutritional yeast, garlic, tahini, olive oil, and lemon juice for dipping crackers or veggies.* (2)

Hemp seeds

Like beans, seeds are also a great vegan protein source. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds, for example, contain an impressive 9 grams of protein. Their subtle, nutty taste makes them a great addition to homemade protein bars or smoothies. Sprinkling some hemp seeds over a slice of avocado toast is another way to sneak in more protein and healthy fats into your meal. As you do, you’ll also reap the benefits of other essential minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, and zinc.* (3)

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Quinoa

Unlike other plant protein sources, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning not only does it have a high protein content, but it also contains all nine of the essential amino acids. So nutritionally, the ancient grain doesn’t disappoint. One cup of fluffy, cooked quinoa provides 8.14 grams of protein, along with magnesium, iron, fiber, and zinc—all things our bodies need. Serve it as a side dish, swap it for brown rice, or even eat it cold as a salad.* (4)

Edamame

Great for adding to stir-fries or eating as an appetizer, edamame is a vegan food that really delivers in the protein department: One cup of cooked and shelled edamame has 18.5 grams of protein. Edamame is also a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate. * (5)

Chia seeds

Small but mighty, two tablespoons of chia seeds provide 4 grams of protein, as well as fiber, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids. What makes chia seeds superstars, though, is their versatility: You can add them to smoothies, homemade strawberry lemonade, overnight oats, or even popsicles. You can also mix them with your favorite nut milk to make a delicious pudding.* (6)

Oats

If you want to step up your protein intake, enjoying a bowl of oatmeal is an excellent way to go. One cup of raw oats contains 26.3 grams of protein. Oats are also full of magnesium, fiber, and folate. That said, if you eat oatmeal regularly, it can quickly become a bit boring. The solution: Dress up your oat bowl with different toppings such as granola or fresh fruit. And if you want to add additional sources of protein and some crunch, top your oatmeal with peanuts, almonds, pistachios, or cashews. A spoonful of creamy peanut butter or almond butter will also do the trick.* (7)

References:

  1. Polak, Rani et al. “Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake.” Clinical diabetes : a publication of the American Diabetes Association vol. 33,4 (2015): 198-205. doi:10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198
  2. “Chickpea Nutrition.” FoodData Central, USDA.
  3. “Hemp Seed Nutrition.” FoodData Central, USDA.
  4. “Quinoa Nutrition.” FoodData Central, USDA.
  5. “Edamame Nutrition.” FoodData Central, USDA.
  6. Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica): health promoting properties and therapeutic applications – a review. Retrieved from the National Institutes of Health
  7. “Oat Nutrition.” FoodData Central, USDA.

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