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A Guide To The 10 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

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Siti Amirah
March 25, 2024 July 9, 2024
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Protein is one of the most essential components of any diet because it plays a huge role in cellular activity. When it comes to the thought of protein, the immediate association often tends to be with words like ‘meat’. However, it is important to recognize that protein can come from other sources beyond animals. Why else are plant-based diets getting so popular these days?

There are numerous ways to hit your protein count as a vegetarian. In this article, we will share some of the best vegetarian protein sources. So, if you are not already on a vegetarian diet, maybe the following information could convince you.

Key Takeaways

  • Protein is important in any diet as it plays a crucial role in cellular activity and overall health.
  • Protein can be obtained from plant-based sources and not just animal-based sources.
  • Vegetarians have various plant-based sources along with milk, eggs, and dairy products to meet their protein needs.
  • Generally, for adults, 10-35% of daily calorie intake should be from protein consumption.
  • 10 best vegetarian protein sources (tofu, oats, lentils, hemp seeds, beans, quinoa, chia seeds, greek yogurt, peanut butter, and mycoprotein) are highlighted in this article.

Why Do We Need Protein?

As humans, we need protein in order for our bodies to function properly and remain healthy.

did you know
facts about protein

Protein plays an important role in ensuring that our body has enough energy. It also helps with the transport of oxygen in the blood throughout our body [2].

How Much Protein Do We Need?

To prevent the tissues in our body from breaking down and the loss of muscles, we have to ensure that we are consuming enough protein each day. That being said, moderation is key. Ensuring that we consume enough protein is one but we also need to be mindful to not over-consume protein. Excess protein will be converted and stored as fats.

According to U.S. Dietary Guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should aim for protein to make up 10–35% of their daily calorie intake [5]. The general recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight [4].

How Do Vegetarians Get Protein?

For vegetarians, getting their source of protein is not as straightforward as someone without any diet restrictions. Vegetarians generally consume plant protein and no meat, poultry, fish, or any animal-derived products (with the exception of milk, dairy products, and eggs).

Thus, those on a vegetarian diet will have to turn to these alternative sources of protein instead.

10 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

10 best vegetarian protein sources
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This list contains 10 of the best protein sources, suitable for those on following a plant-based diet. Bear in mind that this list is non-exhaustive. There are still plenty of other plant proteins that you can source online if none of these suits your taste buds.

1. Tofu

tofu
vegetarian protein source

Made from soy milk, tofu is one of the more popular plant-based protein sources. Every 100g portion of tofu provides about 8g of protein. Additionally, tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient that comes in many forms like silken, firm, and pressed.

It is easy, filling, and rich in protein so it makes sense that it is popular.

2. Oats

oats

Oats are another great choice if you are looking for a plant-based option that provides a good amount of protein. Half a cup (40g) of dry oats provides approximately 5g of protein. At the same time, they provide a ton of good minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, folate, and magnesium.

3. Lentils

lentils
10 best vegetarian protein source

Lentils are known as nutrient powerhouses, for they are packed with protein, fiber, and essential minerals. One cup of cooked lentils gives you about 18g of proteins. Not too shabby considering they are completely plant-based. They can also be used in a variety of dishes like soups and salads.

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4. Hemp Seeds

hemp seeds
10 best vegetarian protein source

Hemp seeds are considered as a complete protein source. In order to be a complete protein, the food has to contain all nine essential amino acids that the body is not able to produce on its own [3]. In this case, hemp seeds satisfy this criterion!

Besides that, hemp seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and other vitamins. A 30g serving gives you roughly 9g of protein.

5. Beans

beans
vegetarian protein source

Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans. What do they have in common?

They’re beans! All jokes aside, beans are a staple food in the vegetarian diet due to the high amount of protein in each serving. For reference, a cup of cooked beans contains 15g of protein.

But that’s not all, research also shows that a diet rich in beans can potentially decrease cholesterol levels and manage blood sugar levels.

6. Chia Seeds

chia seeds
vegetarian protein source

Chia seeds are amazing in terms of their protein content. Just two tablespoons alone contains 5g of protein. It is a perfect addition to overnight oats, yogurts, and salads.

Check out our article that features a recipe for chia seed pudding:

Low-carb breakfast ideas

7. Quinoa

quinoa
vegetarian protein

Quinoa are superfoods that contain the nine essential amino acids. A cup of cooked quinoa contains around 8g of protein. It is also gluten-free and rich in fiber. The next time you cook, try including quinoa and see how it changes your diet.

8. Greek Yogurt

greek yogurt
vegetarian protein

Greek yogurt is a favorite amongst those who are seeking to build muscles. Simply because greek yogurt offers a good amount of protein in a single serving. A single serving has up to 20g of protein, making it a perfect option for those who want to consume dairy in their diet.

9. Peanut Butter

peanut butter

Peanut butter is not only creamy and delicious, it also makes a good source of plant-based protein. Two tablespoons alone provides around 8g of protein along with some healthy fats and essential minerals. You can put it on toast, add to your smoothie, use it as a dip, or even add it to a gravy dish!

10. Mycoprotein

mycoprotein
meat substitute

Last but not least, we have mycoprotein. Mycoprotein is a type of protein that comes from fungus but don’t worry, it is perfectly safe to consume. It is commonly used in meat substitutes like Quorn products for example. A typical 100g serving contains 13g of protein and some fibers. This is a great alternative for individuals who are just starting out on a vegetarian lifestyle.

Summary

In summary, being on a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean that you cannot have delicious and nutritious foods. It is the same as a normal diet with no restrictions, just that the difference is only being able to consume plant foods and a couple of animal-based products. You can still get a good amount of protein from plant foods, eggs, and dairy. So, don’t be afraid to try!

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FAQs
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References  

Becerra-Tomás, N., Papandreou, C., & Salas-Salvadó, J. (2019). Legume Consumption and Cardiometabolic Health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 10(4): S437–S450. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz003

Cooper, J. (2022) Benefits of Protein [online]. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diet/benefits-protein

Cleveland Clinic (2022) What Are Complete Proteins? [online]. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-i-need-to-worry-about-eating-complete-proteins

Harvard Health Publishing (2023) How much protein do you need every day? [online]. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov

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