Although it’s pretty challenging to take lean protein from a vegan or vegetarian diet.
But, surprisingly, there are some high protein plant-based food options available that we can take to meet our daily protein intake to achieve our desired goal or maintain a healthy life.
So, in this article, we’ll go through how much protein you actually need per day with the twenty best protein sources for vegans and vegetarians’ diets.
How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?
Shortly, it depends.
There’s not a fixed number for everyone, but it depends on your body weight, goal and activity level.
For example, if you don’t work out or just start exercising, 0.5-0.8g/pound bodyweight can be perfect for maintaining a healthy life.
When you’re at an intermediate level or your body has experienced one to two years of training, try to reach about 1 gram/pound weight for potential muscle gain.
However, if you’re experienced enough in training or an advanced athlete and want to add more muscle to your body, you should consume about 1.2-1.5 grams/pound bodyweight.
Here’s the table on how much protein you should eat per day:
- Beginners (2-3 day/week workout): 0.5-0.8g/lb (180lb weight = 90-130g)
- Maintain a healthy body (3-5 days/week workout): 0.8-1g/lb
- Athletes or advanced people (5-6 day/week workout): 1-1.5g/lb
When you’re a beginner, taking less protein can show you good results as your body wasn’t used to the exercise before.
But after training for about 6-12 months, you may need to increase your protein intake in order to gain muscle mass consistently.
However, consuming about 0.7-1 gram/pound (1.6–2.2 gram/kg) protein can be enough for most people.
20 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians
Here’re the twenty best vegan and vegetarian protein sources you can include in your diet.
Let’s begin with one of the larger families, the legumes. A legume is a plant in the Fabaceae family.
Some of the best protein-rich legumes are:
- Chickpeas: When we’re looking for muscle-building food sources, we can’t miss the chickpeas. It provides about 19-gram protein, 17-gram fiber and 61-gram carbs in a 100 grams chickpeas bowl.
- Black beans: One serving (1/2 cup) of cooked black beans offer about 8 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs, and 7 grams of fiber, making it a perfect lunch option.
- Kidney beans: One of the healthiest types of beans we can consume as a vegan or vegetarian is kidney beans. 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of boiled kidney beans boast almost 9 grams of protein, 6 grams of dietary fiber, and 23 grams of carbohydrates.
- Green peas: It’s a great source of vitamins C and E, zinc, and other antioxidants that strengthen your immune system. One cup (145 g) of green peas contains 8-gram protein along with 7-gram fiber and 21-gram carbs.
- Lima beans: Another legume that is high in protein is lima beans. A 100 grams serving of lima beans offers about 8 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 21 grams of carbohydrate.
As you can see, legumes aren’t only high in protein but also they’re a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Add these to your snacks or main meals to fill up your protein intake.
The next vegan protein option we have is seitan, which is packed with high protein amounts as animal foods like fish and chicken.
The amount of protein seitan has varied on the ingredients (like soy or legumes) added during production.
However, a 3.5-ounce (100 g) serving of seitan usually contains about 15-20 grams of protein with a healthy amount of iron and calcium.
3. Soy Products
Soy products are a great vegetarian protein source, and consuming them in moderation can help us meet our protein intake efficiently.
The five best soy products are:
- Tofu: Tofu is made of condensed soy milk and contains all nine essential amino acids. 3-ounces tofu offers 8-gram protein with a good amount of iron and calcium.
- Soy milk: It’s a plant-based drink. One cup (243 g) of soy milk offers about 8-gram protein, 15 grams carbs, 4.3-gram fat, and some vitamins and minerals.
- Edamame: It’s a form of immature soybeans, sometimes referred to as green vegetable-type soybeans. 3-ounces edamame contains 11-gram protein with several vital nutrients.
- Soy nuts: It’s a form of dried soybeans, a crunchy and delicious snack option. One ounce (28 g) soy nuts offer about 12 grams protein, 6 grams healthy fat, and 3 grams fiber.
- Soybean: Soybean is high protein low-fat food option for vegetarians. A 50-gram soybean contains about 26 grams of protein and 16-gram carbs, and very little to no fat.
4. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is an excellent protein source for vegans and is packed with several essential vitamins and minerals as well.
It also contains all nine amino acids, making it a complete protein food as many animal products.
A 2 tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast contains 8 grams protein along with 5 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber, and very little fat. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
5. Dairy Products
Another great protein source for vegetarians is dairy products, and it includes several food items in this family.
Some of the best dairy products are:
- Low-fat milk: The first and obvious dairy product we have is milk. One cup (244 g) of low-fat milk contains about 8 grams of protein and nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
- Greek yogurt: Yogurt is a nutrient-dense item that isn’t only a great source of protein but helps improve digestive health, weight control, and overall health. One cup (170 g) of Greek yogurt offers 17 grams of protein and several vitamins and minerals.
- Cottage cheese: It’s packed with protein and an excellent source of calcium. A 4 ounce (113 g) serving of cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein with calcium and vitamin B6.
- Whey protein: If you’re looking for a lean vegetarian protein source, go for a protein supplement. One scoop of whey contains about 24 grams of lean protein, which you can consume after a workout.
Tempeh is a healthy and nutrient-dense source for vegans and vegetarians. Just like other meatless high-protein sources like tofu and seitan, tempeh is also an impressive one.
It’s typically made up form fermented soybeans, wheat, or both.
100-gram cooked tempeh provides about 18 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of fat.
7. Nuts and Nut Butters
The next protein source we have on the list is nuts — full of vital nutrients including protein, fiber, monounsaturated fat, and vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 and phosphorus.
Although nuts are the primary source of healthy fat, but they also contain a good amount of protein and fiber, which can be an excellent snack option.
Here’re the five best nuts you can eat:
- Peanuts: One ounce (28 g) of peanuts offer about 7-gram protein along with 14-gram healthy fat and 2.4-grams fiber. Peanut butter can be a good option for your bread recipes.
- Almonds: A 1-ounce serving of almonds contains 6 grams protein, 4.5 grams fiber, and 14 grams fat (9 of which are monounsaturated).
- Walnuts: A 1-ounce serving of walnuts offer 4.3 grams protein, 18 grams fat, 2 grams fiber along with iron, vitamin B6 and manganese.
- Cashew nuts: A 1-ounce serving (about 18 whole) of cashews contain 5 gram protein, 1 gram fiber and 12 gram fat.
- Brazil nuts: A 1-ounce (6 kernels) serving of Brazil nuts offer about 4.1 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and 19 grams of fat with some vitamins and minerals.
The seeds are packed with many vital nutrients that are crucial for improving our overall health. They’re rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fatty acids, including omega 3 and omega 6.
Seeds also have several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help to improve the health of our heart, skin, and joints.
Let’s check out the best nutrient-dense seed options:
- Hemp seeds: One tablespoon of hemp seeds contain about 3 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbs, along with several vitamins and minerals.
- Chia seeds: A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds offers 4.7-gram protein, 9-gram dietary fiber, and 9-gram healthy fat. And also contain iron, calcium, and magnesium.
- Flaxseeds: One tablespoon (7 g) of ground flaxseed contains 1.28 grams of protein, 1.91 grams of fiber and 2.95 grams of healthy fatty acids.
- Pumpkin seeds: A 1-ounce serving of pumpkin seed offers 5 grams protein and dietary fiber, 5 grams of healthy fatty acids, and several minerals.
- Pistachios: One-ounce serving of pistachios contain about 6 grams protein, 3 grams fiber and 13 grams of healthy fats with many vitamins and minerals.
9. Wild Rice
The next option we have is an excellent alternative for regular rice, wild rice. It has about 30 percent fewer calories than brown rice, while 40 percent more protein.
One cup (164 g) serving of cooked wild rice contains 7 grams protein, 35 grams carbs, and 3 grams of dietary fiber along with iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
Barley is a whole grain, which means it definitively provides complex carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a good amount of protein.
A 100 grams of uncooked hulled barley contain about 12-gram protein, 73-gram carbs, 17-gram fiber, and 2.3-grams fat. It also has a good amount of iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
11. Spelt and Teff
Spelt is a mild, nutty flavor grain that contains several essential nutrients, including iron, magnesium, and zinc. It helps to improve heart health, aid digestion, and reduce the risk of diabetes.
It’s also a great alternative for wheat and can be an impressive option for weight control and maintaining a healthy life.
One cup (194 g) serving of spelt contains 11 grams protein along with 8 grams fiber and 51 grams of carbs.
Teff is another grain that comes in a variety of colors. It’s naturally low in sodium, making it a healthy option for people with high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.
One serving of dry teff (1/4 cup) offers 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of dietary fiber, along with several essential vitamins and minerals.
The next vegetarian protein source we have is spirulina, which has a powerful protein called phycocyanin and many other nutrients.
Studies show that spirulina may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, pain relief, and brain-protective properties to help maintain an overall healthy life.
One tablespoon (7 g) serving of spirulina offer 4 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of carbs, and several vitamins and minerals.
Freekeh is a high-protein grain for vegans and vegetarians. This Turkish salad is simple to make and a delicious option.
A quarter-cup (1/4 cup) serving of freekeh offers 5 grams protein, 24 grams carbs, and 4.5 grams fiber.
Here’s another grain option, the quinoa. It’s a great source of complex carbohydrates and provides a good amount of protein and fiber as well.
One cup of cooked quinoa offers about 8.14 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 3.55 grams of fat.
15. Bulgur Wheat
If you’re looking for a food option to improve your heart health and prevent cardiovascular disorders, you should include bulgur wheat in your diet.
One cup serving of cooked bulgur offer 6 grams of protein, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of fiber which is about 32 percent of your daily intake.
Here’s my all-time breakfast option for muscle gain or fat loss, oatmeal. It’s loaded with complex carbs and fiber and a good amount of protein as well.
The nutritional value of 40-gram servings of rolled oats is 5 grams protein, 27 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber and 2.5 grams fat.
17. Ezekiel Bread
Here’s the one for bread lovers, and one of the healthiest bread you can eat is Ezekiel bread. It’s a sprouted bread made from a variety of whole grains and legumes.
This bread is also rich in healthy nutrients and fiber compared to white bread.
One slice serving of Ezekiel bread contains 80 calories along with 4 grams protein, 15 grams carbs, and 3 grams fiber with very little to no fat.
Mycoprotein is a form of protein known as fungal protein, a category of living things like mushrooms.
Although some mycoprotein products contain a small amount of egg or milk to enhance texture but there’re also other products available that are completely vegan.
So, you should check the ingredient list before buying it.
A 100 gram serving of mycoprotein offer 11 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 9 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fat.
19. Protein-Rich Fruits
Whether you’re trying to build muscle or lose fat, you can definitively eat two to five servings of fruits every day to maintain overall good health. (1)
Fruits are high in many vital nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. However, they contain a decent amount of protein as well.
Include these fruits in your diet:
The last protein food option we have for vegans and vegetarians is potato which is a typical option that can fit in every meal.
It contains a good amount of carbs and fiber and vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese as well.
One small potato (170 g) contains 130 calories along with 3.4 grams protein, 30 grams carbs, 3.7 grams fiber and several essential nutrients.
Although taking lean protein from a vegan and vegetarian diet can be a little challenging, but you can cover up your daily protein requirement very efficiently.
So, include these foods in your diet, and you’ll be good to go.
If you find any food that I missed mentioned in the list, feel free to mention it in the comment section below. I’m waiting for your reply!