You might be surprised to hear that there are many ways of getting enough protein, even on a plant-based diet! Eating more plants will provide plenty of fibre and other essential nutrients. Here you’ll find three foolproof tips for upping your intake of plant-based protein, as well as a list of high-protein vegan foods that could be considered staples in your diet.
Top 10 sources of plant protein
Lentils are an excellent source of plant-based proteins and contain fewer calories than other legumes.
The best lentils to buy are the small red ones, also called a masoor. You’ll find these in Indian markets or sometimes in the bulk spice section of health food stores. They cook up quickly and can be used in soups and stews or as a side dish with Indian food.
Look for split red lentils, also called “petite” lentils in grocery stores. These cook up quickly and are lower in starch than other lentils, which results in a creamier texture.
Split mung dal is another good option. It’s very quick to cook and is very tasty in Indian stews and soups.
Buy them dried or canned, but if you buy them dried, try to find ones that have been presoaked or sprouted as they’re much easier to digest.
There are a wide variety of beans to choose from. We recommend you stock up on a few different kinds and use them in place of meat in your recipes or in place of grains for a hearty salad.
Chickpeas are great for making hummus, but you can also make a delicious salad with them, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and fresh basil. You’ll be surprised at how much flavor they add! Be sure to rinse them well before cooking.
Black beans are high in protein and rich in fiber. They’re very quick to cook and make a great addition to soups and stews.
You can also try toasted black bean soup, which is one of our favorite recipes here at Mark’s Daily Apple .
Nuts are a great source of plant based protein, but you really need to be mindful about portion size. They’re high in calories and easy to eat in excess. Try to stick to a handful at a time, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Walnuts are the richest in omega-3s, which helps us maintain healthy brain function and helps reduce inflammation.
Almonds contain healthy fats and fiber that help to balance blood sugar.
Pistachios are a great snack because they’re high in protein and the majority of their fat is heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Walnuts and pistachios can be easily be added to salads or stirred into soups for a little flavor and crunch. You can even use them as “meatballs!” Just grind some up in your food processor and add them to spaghetti sauce.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is what you’ll use most when cooking with it. You can find it in most health food stores or in the refrigerated section of natural food markets.
It has a chewy consistency, so you’ll want to keep an eye on how much you use. It can also be easily crumbled for dishes like chili and lasagna that need meaty texture. You can even make it into meatballs.
Seitan also has a nice nutty flavor and you can use it as a replacement for ground beef, tofu or chicken in recipes. If you don’t like how seitan “tastes,” then try making your own!
Tofu is made from soy milk and is a staple in many Asian dishes. It’s very high in protein, has a neutral flavor and can be used for soups and stir-fries just like meat. You can also make tofu “meatballs” by grinding it up in your food processor and adding them to spaghetti sauce.
You’ll find tofu at most grocery stores and health food stores. Try to buy those that have been pressed rather than the ones that are soft.
The texture of tofu is delicate, so be careful not to overprocess it when cooking.
Tofu has a higher fat content and higher sodium levels than meats. You’ll want to read food labels before using tofu in recipes.
You can always replace the meat in a recipe by adding extra tofu, but if you are reducing the fat, you’ll have to adjust the calorie amount of the recipe.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. It has a firm, chewy texture and won’t crumble as easily as tofu, making it perfect for stir-fries and baked dishes. You can also soak crumbles in marinades to add deeper flavors.
Tempeh is tough to make yourself, so we recommend buying it at your local grocery store or health food store.
Tempeh is very high in protein and iron, so we always recommend including it in your diet. You can eat it raw with a fresh salad or marinate it and then bake it for added flavor with some steamed veggies.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that’s commonly used in dried powder form in recipes. It’s very high in protein and you’ll find it in many health food stores, especially where the bulk section is stocked.
We recommend adding a half a teaspoon per day to your smoothie or juices. It has quite a strong flavor, so we recommend you make sure it’s an enjoyable flavor before using it as the main source of your protein.
You’ll find spirulina at most health food stores, usually in the bulk section.
When buying spirulina, you’ll want to make sure the label says “100% pure” and that it’s harvested from fresh water. It can be hard to find, so we recommend making your own “spirulina juice” by blending fresh or frozen fruit with some water and then adding one teaspoon of spirulina before drinking. And then every day add a little bit more spirulina!
Pumpkin, hemp, sunflower and sesame seeds are great sources of plant-based protein. They’re available at most grocery stores or at farmer’s markets during the summer.
You can toss them in oatmeal, smoothies and salads for a healthy boost of nutrients. They’re also great for making cookies, muffins and other baked goods.
We recommend using organic seeds to avoid pesticides.
For a quick boost of protein, try soaking sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in some water overnight covered in the refrigerator. Once they’re done soaking, you can drain them and toss them with some salad or oatmeal for a little crunch.
You can also make your own homemade trail mix by combining several types of whole nuts and seeds that are very high in protein! You’ll want to eat this as a treat rather than a meal replacement due to their high calorie content.
9. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a great source of protein and should be eaten in moderation. It’s also one of our favorite snacks!
You can eat it by the spoonful, spread it on a banana, use it as part of a sandwich or blend some into your smoothie for added flavor and protein. You can even stir it into your oats before cooking.
We recommend using organic peanut butter whenever possible because most peanuts are sprayed with pesticides. Also, many brands have added sugar so read labels carefully when purchasing peanut butter.
Quinoa is a seed that’s rich in plant protein. It has a chewy texture and can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s also great in soups, salads and side dishes. Try mixing it with spinach or kale for a little extra flavor.
You can eat quinoa by itself as a meal, you can use it as part of a salad, or you can add it to any dish that needs more protein. You’ll find quinoa at most grocery stores and in bulk sections of natural food stores.
We recommend buying organic quinoa to avoid GMO’s.
Quinoa can also be sprouted like lentil to increase the amount of protein in your diet. Check out our Sprouted Seeds for Breakfast guide for more info on how to do this. (It sounds a little gross, but it’s actually very easy!)
You can get creative and use quinoa as a base ingredient in other recipes.
Why choose plant based protein over animal based protein?
Animal proteins are acidic, while plant proteins are alkalinizing. Your body runs best when it’s slightly alkaline. Too much acidity can lead to a whole host of issues including heartburn, indigestion, fatigue and joint pain. Plant proteins are also a great alternative for those who are sensitive to gluten but still want plenty of protein.
Plant proteins also have a smaller environmental footprint compared to animal products, which are responsible for a large portion of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.
How much protein should I eat?
Since we don’t need as much protein as we think, it’s best not to be too concerned about specific numbers. Eating a plant-based, whole foods diet is the first step. Make sure you have a good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates and plenty of fresh, whole fruits and vegetables.
A good rule of thumb is 10% of your body weight in grams of protein per day. So, a 130 pound adult would need just over 12 grams (1 ounce) of protein per day. That’s not a lot, but it is better to shoot for the high side – which is the maximum amount recommended – than under-eat or overdo it.
Three Simple Steps to Upping Your Plant Based Protein Intake
1) Eat plenty of beans or legumes (for example chickpeas, lentils or peanuts) throughout the day. They’re a great source of plant based protein and they’re easy to add to salads, soups and curries.
2) Eat nuts and seeds whenever you get the chance. You can mix up your breakfast by adding whole or chopped nuts to your oatmeal or smoothie. You’ll also find nut butters in many vegan recipes, which make great meat substitutes in stir-fry dishes.
3) Enjoy a good quality protein powder such as hemp or rice milk (lactose-free and vegan if it’s not fortified with vitamins or minerals). It’s easy to add to smoothies and shakes, and it gives a boost of plant nutrients when you need it most.
There’s many great plant based protein powders on the market these days, but here are a few brands we like:
Should I include plant based protein supplements?
Plant based protein supplements are becoming more and more popular with athletes who are looking for a quick boost of protein. They can also be helpful with weight loss programs or building muscle.
However, there’s some controversy over the use of protein supplements. Some experts believe that they’re unnecessary, while others believe that they’re just as important as whey protein shakes. So it really comes down to personal preference and what your health goals are.
If you choose to include protein supplements into your diet, make sure they’re organic and minimally processed. The best supplements are made up of all whole foods, so there are no added sugars or sweeteners.
Many also contain flavonoids, which help improve your immune system function and have anti-cancer properties. They’re also rich in plant based antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant chemicals).
What are the benefits of plant based protein?
All plants contain some amount of protein, but some foods contain more than others. Most plant based proteins are also nutritionally dense, which means they’re higher in fiber and vitamins than animal proteins (although some animal proteins are fortified with extra nutrients).
Plant based proteins also have less saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium than animal sources. For these reasons, they’re a great choice for almost everyone.
They’re also a great natural source of certain nutrients your body may be lacking, including amino acids and the B vitamins. They’re also a good source of minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium.
When it comes to plant proteins is a case of “2 birds 1 stone” you get all the benefits of the protein plus all the other vitamins and minerals, too!
Are there any negative side effects of plant based protein?
The biggest drawback to a plant based diet is often the abundance of starches, like corn, potatoes and beans. While these are great foods that can form the base of any healthy diet, they’re also high in calories (which can lead to weight gain if you don’t burn enough calories).
For this reason, it’s best to avoid highly refined starches like white bread or potato chips. Don’t replace them with the equally processed starches and carbs, like your other sugary snacks. Rather, keep your carb intake healthy by adding whole grains like quinoa or brown rice. These are better sources of carbohydrates that can help balance out your protein intake and lead to a healthy diet overall.
It’s important to make sure you take in enough protein in your diet, but it’s also important to make sure you get a balance of protein, carbs and fats.
Most people don’t need to worry about getting all the protein they require, but eating a variety of whole plant-based foods is a great way to make sure you get more than enough.
By eating more plant based foods and less processed food and animal products, you’re helping your body stay healthy and fit.
This is great news for those of us who have struggled with our weight, have had health problems in the past or are concerned about what we’re eating.