Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians

ProteinVegan and vegetarian diets are becoming more popular in society. People make this choice for many reasons such as animal welfare, health, or because of climate change.

A common concern amongst those who choose a plant-based diet is how to add enough protein in their diet. Certain plants and other food sources can help a person obtain enough protein in their diet.

Tofu, Edamame, and Tempeh

Edamame, which has a grassy and sweet taste, are young soybeans. The cannot be consumed raw and must be boiled or steamed. They can be eaten alone with salt or added to salad and soup.

Originating from soybeans, tofu, edamame, and tempeh are a complete protein source. Soybeans are a whole protein source, providing the body with the necessary amino acids.

Tofu is formed from bean curds and is made using the same technique to make cheese. Tempah is made by fermenting mature soybeans, pressing them into a patty and cooking it.

Tofu has no taste and takes on the absorbs the flavor of the ingredients it is prepared with. Tempah has a nutty flavor.

Tofu, edamame, and tempeh contain 10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces, iron, and calcium.


One cup of lentils contains 50 percent of the recommended amount of daily fiber. Consuming legumes may also help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

Lentils are rich in iron, manganese, and folate.

The legumes can be used in many different types of dishes such as soups, dahls, and salads.

Lentils contain 10 grams of protein per cup.


Pinto, chickpeas, kidney, black, and other bean varieties are sources of fiber, complex carbohydrates, folate, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese. Beans can also decrease cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and help control blood sugar.

Beans can be used in chili and other dishes.

Beans contain approximately 15 grams of protein per cup.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a favorite ingredient with vegetarians and vegans. It is dairy-free, yet can give dishes a cheese flavor.

This yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast and is sold in flake form or as a yellow powder, and can be sprinkled on popcorn or pasta in the place of cheese.

The yeast provides 14 grams of protein per ounce.


Hempseed comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is the same family as marijuana. The seed only contains trace amounts of THC.

Hempseed contains selenium, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. It is also a good source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown hempseed may help with symptoms menopause, PMS, and help reduce inflammation.

The seed can be used in salad dressings, protein bars, muesli, or a smoothie.

Hempseed contains 10 grams of protein per ounce.

Fruits and Vegetables

All fruits and vegetables contain protein, but usually in small amounts. However, some fruits and vegetables contain more protein than others.

Some vegetables with the most protein are spinach, broccoli, corn, asparagus, potatoes, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes. These vegetables contain 4-5 grams per cup.

Fruit is lower in protein than vegetables. Some that contain the most protein include cherimoyas, blackberries, mulberries, guava, bananas, and nectarines. These fruits have about 2-4 grams of protein per cup.

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds are native to Guatemala and Mexico and come from Salvia hispanica plant.

The seeds contain calcium, magnesium, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids and iron.

Chia seeds are practically tasteless, and absorb water, turning them into a gel. They can be added to baked good, smoothies, or made into a pudding.

What’s more, these little seeds contain a good amount of iron, fiber, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and various other beneficial plant compounds (59, 60).

Chia seeds contain 6 grams of protein per 1.25 ounce.

Soy Milk

Soy Milk is milk made from soybeans and is an alternative to cow’s milk.

It does not contain vitamin B12, and it is recommended to purchase a fortified version of the product. It also contains calcium and vitamin D.

Soy milk can be found in the supermarket, and can be drunk, or used in baking and cooking recipes.

The milk is available sweetened and unsweetened. It is recommended one should buy the unsweetened variety due to the added sugar.

Soy milk contains 7 grams of protein per cup.

Vegan and Vegetarian diets continue to grow in popularity and show no signs that it stop any time soon. There is no doubt this type of diet can be healthy. If one is interested in this type of diet, they should seek the advice of a doctor or nutritionist to ensure proper amounts of protein is consumed.

Written by Barbara Sobel
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware


Healthline: The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians
Greatist: 10 Complete Proteins Vegans Need to Know About
Eating Well: Top Vegetarian Protein Sources

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of johnbillu’s Flickr Page – Creative Common License

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