The powerful nutrient protein is considered to be one of the main building blocks of life. When consumed, protein sources break down into amino acids which then repair and grow damaged cells. Protein takes longer to digest (break down) than fellow nutrient carbohydrates, so by eating protein-rich foods, you will feel fuller for longer; that’s why protein is often associated with weight-loss regimes.
Little may you know, protein isn’t actually as hard to find as you think and a balanced plant-based diet will provide more than enough of your recommended daily allowance. That’s right – you can easily consume heaps of protein without eating meat. So, where can you get effective, easy and affordable sources of this nutrient? See below for our ten top picks!
Top 10 Sources of Plant-Based Protein
1. Nuts and Nut Butters
Ah, the humble (yet reasonably high calorie) nut; full of protein, healthy fats and an abundance of flavour! Anything from the classic peanut butter, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamia, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts – you name the nut and the protein content is guaranteed to ‘nut’ let you down. Perfect for snacking, baking, granola or blending into nut butters, nuts are a very versatile protein source! Depending on the type, nuts can be quite expensive so buy in bulk to save those pennies or buy them in blended form.
Merely 2TBSP of Peanut Butter packs 8g of protein, almonds have 7g!
2. Pumpkin Seeds
These power-house seeds are packed with a crunch and an impressive punch of protein yet are so commonly over-looked as a source of this nutrient. Add them to granola, oatmeal, sprinkle on salads, tacos, pizza toppings, spreads; the combinations are endless of how these seeds can easily be incorporated into your daily diet. Not only are they high-protein, they are also filled with other important nutrients such as iron and magnesium. Like nuts, they can get pricey so buy in bulk and save in the long term.
Per cup, pumpkin seeds serve up a staggering 32g of protein, providing 70% of your recommended daily allowance!
This meat-alternative is popular as it mimics the texture of chicken. When seasoned and flavoured well it’s an excellent substitute for even the most hardcore meat eaters. Made from wheat-gluten it is great paired with big flavours and stacks more protein than even tofu or tempeh – a staggering 72g per cup!
‘Beans, beans, good for your heart. Beans, beans, make you fart.’
Beans have a high fibre content, which as we all know, increases bowel motions. But, beans are also stacked with protein and are an affordable, easily accessed source of plant-based protein. Green beans, black beans, pinto beans, mung beans, turtle beans – beans are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes and flavours that are all high in protein. Green beans alone have 8g of protein per cup, black beans have double that at 16g per cup and kidney beans have 13g per cup!
A common staple in any diet – vegan or not, hummus pairs perfectly with crackers, crudités, in wraps, pitas or if you’re like me – eaten straight out of the tub. Hummus is traditionally made from a blended chickpea base, with lemon juice, garlic and tahini (a sesame seed butter, vegan and also a good source of protein). If you opt for a classic shop bought hummus you’ll get around 14g of protein per cup. Chickpeas, the main ingredient in hummus, are full of flavour and have a very high protein content so they are commonly used in spreads, dips, burgers and vegan meat alternatives.
6. Chia Seeds
These small seeds can absorb huge amounts of moisture making them a great replacement for egg when baking. They are fantastic in smoothies, sprinkled over salads or added to breakfasts like granola or chia seed pudding. Popular as a health-food, it’s hard to have not heard about chia seeds and kale! Per 2 TBSP, chia seeds serve up 5g of protein and have all the required amino acids to be considered a complete protein source!
Not only considered to be an ancient grain, quinoa is actually a seed and as you may have gathered by now – seeds are super-stacked with protein! This unique gluten free ‘grain’ contains over 8g of protein per cup and like chia seeds, contains all the essential amino acids to be considered a complete protein. From cereal or porridge, winter soups or summer salads, Buddha bowls to even quinoa brownies, if quinoa isn’t already a staple in your diet, it’s well worth including it.
8. Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale, broccoli and rocket include some of the popular leafy greens hailed for their health benefits. It may not be obvious but these colourful vegetables are hiding a not well-known secret; they are loaded with protein too! If you eat these greens plentifully, your protein consumption will stack up fast. For example, one cup of spinach holds 2.1g of protein and one cup of broccoli contains 8.1g of protein. It’s easy and affordable to include these flavourful vegetables that have a high nutritional value into your everyday diet.
9. Soy-Products, like Tofu and Tempeh
Soy milk, tofu and tempeh are popular, widely available and inexpensive staple ingredients in most vegan or vegetarian diets because soy-based foods have some of the highest amounts of plant-based protein. With 12g of protein per cup of tempeh, 8g of protein per cup of soy milk and 10g of protein per cup of tofu – it’s easy to see why so many people include this versatile, flavor-absorbing ingredient into their meat-free lifestyle.
10. Green Peas
“Green peas, yellow peas, split peas, blue peas – I scream, you scream, we all scream for peas!”
A common ingredient in plant-based protein powder, peas are already associated with their nutritional value. (Grandma was onto something when she force fed you mushy peas…) Green peas are delicious when eaten fresh, pureed, boiled and are filled with fiber, protein and flavor. Per cup, green peas have 8g of protein and are rich in amino acid that aids in weight loss and increases metabolism. They also contain leucine, a main amino acid, which is not always easy to find in natural plant-based sources.