10 of the Best Plant-Based Sources of Protein

You can benefit greatly from your choice to replace animal protein with plant-based protein. For ideas, look at this list.

The idea that meat is the only source of protein is untrue.
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Protein probably makes you think of a chicken breast or a piece of steak when you hear the word. That makes sense because, according to the Heart Foundation, one of the most popular sources of this macronutrient is meat.

But there are other sources of protein besides meat.

The protein you require each day can be obtained without consuming meat from poultry, beef, or pork. According to Nathalie Sessions, RD, the owner of Nutrition Sessions in Pearland, Texas, “When done thoughtfully, individuals can meet their protein needs exclusively from plant-based sources.”

Health Advantages of Plant Protein Over Animal Protein

According to Cedars-Sinai, one benefit of animal protein is that it is a complete supply, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce. However, a number of plant sources also meet this need. Here are some advantages of eating less meat and more plant proteins.

Reduce weight

A review of 19 randomized controlled trials found that plant-based diets, including low-fat vegan diets and even less-strict omnivore diets, helped study participants who were overweight, had type 2 diabetes or had cardiovascular disease lose weight. The review was published on September 30, 2020, in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity: Targets and Therapy.

Safeguard the environment

According to a 2019 study published in The Lancet, adopting a plant-based diet, such as a vegan or vegetarian one or one that sources all of its protein from plants rather than animals, is linked to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Improve heart health

The advantages of plant-based alternatives are undoubtedly even greater when it comes to red meat. Because of the saturated fat content, red meat has been linked in some studies to a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to Sessions.

In fact, a randomized controlled trial found that among diets containing red meat, white meat, and plants, diets with plants had the most beneficial effects on LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels. This study was published in July 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. According to the American Heart Association, lowering cholesterol levels can be achieved by swapping out saturated fat for healthier fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

While this was going on, a review of 15 randomized controlled trials involving a total of 856 participants, which was published on May 29, 2020, in Nutrients, discovered that omnivores—those who consume both plant and animal proteins—had higher diastolic and systolic blood pressure readings than vegetarians. A healthier heart and reduced risk of heart disease can result from lower blood pressure, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Expand your life

Consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat, poultry, but not fish, was linked to an increased risk of heart disease, according to a cohort study of nearly 30,000 adults in the United States published on February 3, 2020, in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers also found that while poultry and fish were not linked to death from any cause, eating red meat of any kind was.

The National Institutes of Health also states that consuming red meat may cause life expectancy to decrease. The association advises replacing it in your diet with more wholesome protein sources, such as fish and chicken without skin, as well as plants. According to a study that appeared in PLOS Medicine on February 8, 2022, people who tended to consume more plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts while reducing their consumption of refined grains, red and processed meats, and sugary drinks could live up to 10 years longer. However, researchers acknowledged that they lacked information on how white meat, eggs, oils, and other dietary changes might affect longevity.

You might be hesitant to reduce your intake of animal proteins out of concern for vitamin deficits. However, Cedars-Sinai points out that if you eat a variety of meals, you may acquire all the amino acids your body needs to function at its peak.

Sessions assert that eating red meat is not necessary for good health.

I need how much protein?

The suggested daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams (g) per kilogram of body weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing. You should strive for at least 0.36 times your weight in pounds (lb) each day in terms of protein. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, your daily protein goal is 54 grams. To put it another way, according to Shira Sussi, RDN, the owner of Shira Sussi Nutrition in Brooklyn, New York, protein should account for between 10 and 35 percent of your daily calorie consumption.

For most Americans, that is not a difficult request. The majority of Americans are consuming the necessary amount of protein, according to Sessions, so there is no need for concern. My clients and patients frequently consume too much protein while simultaneously consuming less of the nutrient-dense vegetables, fruit, and whole grains than is advised.

Because “people are socialized with the assumption that protein, primarily animal protein, needs to be the center of the meal and that a meal without protein is not full or fulfilling,” Sussi speculates that this may be the case. She refutes this notion, arguing that dinner doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around a big piece of meat. By including high-quality plant protein in your meals and snacks throughout the day, such as by adding beans to a salad or sandwiching grilled tofu between slices of bread for lunch, you may satisfy your demand for this macronutrient, advises Sussi.

Try These Plant-Based Protein Sources

Ready to learn more about protein from plants? Here are the top ten things to include in your diet, whether you want to entirely cut out animal products or just broaden your protein choices.

1 Lentil (up to 9 g of protein per 1/2 cup)

                      Jeff Wasserman/Stocksy

According to Sessions, lentils and other legumes (including beans, peas, nuts, and seeds) provide a complete protein source. She claims that 12 cups of cooked beans, which is considered one serving, have 9 g of protein and are also high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They also include antioxidant-rich polyphenols, which, according to a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, have qualities that fight fat, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes.

Ways to enjoy them include lentils as the protein source in a vegetable-heavy soup or as the main ingredient in your next vegetarian burger!

2 Chickpeas (7.5 g of Protein per ½ Cup)


According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are legumes that are high in protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus, and beneficial fatty acids. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a serving size of half a cup of chickpeas has around 7.5 g of protein.

Ways to enjoy them For a crunchy snack, Sussi advises roasting chickpeas. You can also get your fix by eating hummus, which is primarily made of chickpeas.

3 Hemp Seeds (10 g of Protein per 3 Tbsp)


According to Sussi, three tablespoons (tbsp) of these tiny seeds supply roughly 10 g of protein and include all nine necessary amino acids. They are also known as hemp hearts, which are merely shelled hemp seeds and can be found in grocery stores.

Ways to enjoy them Sussi advises adding hemp hearts or seeds to yogurt, salads, soups, and nut-buttered toast. She refers to them as “nutrition sprinkles” and says they have a subdued nutty flavor profile and a nice crunch.

4 Tofu (9 g of Protein per 3 Oz)

Soy is a complete protein because it contains all nine necessary amino acids, just like hemp seeds do, according to Sussi. You have a variety of methods to include soy products in your diet because soy is the primary ingredient in many different foods, such as soy milk, edamame, miso, tempeh, and soy nuts. It serves as the main component of tofu, another meat alternative that should be high on your list. The USDA estimates that a 3-ounce (88-g) serving contains 9 g of protein.

According to Sussi, it also has potassium and iron. You might have heard that soy can cause breast cancer, which is why soy products don’t have the best reputation. The American Cancer Society says it is safe and advisable to consume soy products because that connection was discovered in animals and doesn’t seem to be a problem for people.

How to have fun You can roast this adaptable soy protein with a variety of vibrant vegetables on a sheet pan or add it to your next stir-fry.

5 Nuts (5 to 6 g of Protein per ¼ Cup)


Whichever nut you prefer, it probably contains a healthy amount of protein, with 5 to 6 g in a modest handful (less than 1/4 cup), according to Sussi. According to California Almonds, pistachios come in at No. 2 in terms of protein content per serving, right after almonds. According to the American Pistachio Growers, pistachios do provide a complete protein. According to the Mayo Clinic, nuts are a rich source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which can decrease cholesterol levels in addition to being a decent source of protein.

Ways to enjoy them Almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, and hazelnuts are just a few of the options available, making it simple to add variety to your diet. Sussi advises tossing them on salads, in smoothies, or on top of vegetables.

6 Quinoa (8 g Protein per Cup)


Quinoa can be used in place of other grains such as rice and pasta, despite the fact that it is technically a seed. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, one cup of cooked quinoa has 8 g of protein and 5 g of satiating fiber. Not to mention that quinoa contains all nine of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

How to have fun Quinoa is a versatile food that goes well with any meal. You can eat it for breakfast with milk as you would cereal, for lunch as the protein in your salad, or for dinner in place of pasta.

7 Nutritional Yeast (8 g of Protein per ¼ Cup)


There are numerous reasons non-vegans should give nutritional yeast a try, despite the fact that many vegans are crazy about its cheese-like umami flavor. It’s loaded with protein, glutathione, and B vitamins, according to Sussi. “8 g of protein are in a quarter cup.” Additionally, it doesn’t include any artificial flavors or ingredients, dairy, sugar, or gluten.

How to have fun Sussi suggests adding it to soups and sauces, topping popcorn or avocado toast with it, or blending it with soaked cashews to create a fantastic homemade vegan cheese for pasta or vegetables.

8 Tempeh (14 g Protein per 3 Oz)


Another high-protein soy food that works well as a meat substitute is a tempeh, despite not being as well known as tofu. It’s a thick, cake-like serving of fermented soybeans that occasionally includes seasonings and other grains, such as rice. A 3 oz. serving of organic tempeh contains 14 g of protein, according to the USDA. It is located in the grocery store’s refrigerated department.

How to have fun Try substituting your beef patty for one made with tempeh between two slices of bread, just like you would with tofu.

 9 Black Beans (7.5 g Protein per ½ Cup)


Choose from a variety of beans, such as black beans, navy beans, cranberry beans, kidney beans, etc. There are more than 20 different types, according to Sussi, and each one provides crucial nutrients. According to Sussi, they are nutrient powerhouses since they are high in protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, and iron. According to the USDA, a half cup of black beans has roughly 7.5 g of protein.

Ways to enjoy them Beans can be used in salads, stir-fries, soups, and stews, according to Sussi. When purchasing canned beans at the grocery store, she advises choosing low- or no-sodium types.

10 Peanut Butter (7 g Protein per 2 Tbsp)


Yes, this mainstay of the cupboard tastes great and is a terrific source of high-quality plant-based protein. The USDA states that two tablespoons have 7 g of protein. Just make sure to choose healthy types and watch your portion sizes because the portion in question has a whopping 180 calories and may easily go from a healthy protein source to an irresistible delight if you eat too much of it.

How to have fun You probably already know how to eat peanut butter. When spread on apple slices, this delectable spread is the ideal afternoon snack. Or, treat yourself to a PB&J classic by putting your childhood favorite on whole-wheat bread with low-sugar jelly.

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