Protein is found in literally every cell of your body. It’s the main ingredient in your nails and hair, helps create hormones and enzymes, and plays a starring role in building cartilage, bone, skin, blood, and muscles. That’s a lot of work for one nutrient, especially considering our bodies aren’t able to store it. That’s why it’s important to get enough each day.
The recommended daily intake per 2.2 pounds of body weight is:
1 gram of protein if you’re not very active
1.3 grams if you’re moderately active
1.6 grams if you’re very active
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or older, talk with your doctor or nutritionist as you likely need more.
Getting Protein from Plants
Finding non-meat protein sources can be intimidating for people new to plant-based diets. Luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from:
Almonds – 16.5 grams per ½ cup
Grab a handful for a snack, spread almond butter on toast or an apple, or put almond milk in your coffee or smoothie.
Amaranth – 9 grams per cup
This gluten-free ancient seed can be boiled and eaten like cereal, popped and eaten as a snack or salad topping, and used as a thickener in stews and soups.
Baked Potato – 8 grams per large potato
For a savory protein boost, consider adding hummus.
Broccoli – 4 grams per medium stalk
A few easy options for eating this superfood include raw with dairy-free dip, steamed and sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice, or roasted with olive oil and garlic.
Chia (2 g/Tbsp.) and Hemp Seeds (3.5 g/Tbsp.)
Both kinds of seeds offer a variety of health benefits. You can use them to make pudding or add them to your oatmeal, plant-based yogurt, or smoothie.
Legumes – amount varies
Legumes are a plant-based diet staple for good reason. In a half-cup serving, chickpeas have 7.25 grams of protein, lentils and green peas have 9 grams, black beans have 15 grams, and peanuts have a whopping 20.5 grams. Just keep in mind that beans should be paired with rice to form a complete protein.
Chickpeas are especially versatile. You can throw them in stews and curries, puree them with garlic and lemon to make hummus, toss them on salads, or roast them for a healthy, filling snack.
Mycoprotein – 13 grams per ½ cup
Known as Quorn, this fungus-based protein is a meat substitute. Be sure to check labels, as some products use eggs, milk, and barley.
Nutritional Yeast – 8 grams per 2 tablespoons
A popular vegan-friendly condiment, nutritional yeast adds a cheese-like flavor to pasta, soups, sauces, and more.
Protein Powders – amount varies
Hemp, brown rice, spirulina, and pea protein are all good additions to your smoothies and juices—as long as they’re low in sugar and sodium. Just keep in mind that peas aren’t a complete protein, and you should alternate powders to get a variety of nutrients.
Pumpkin Seeds – 12 grams per cup
Pumpkin seeds are easy to roast for a quick snack. This complete protein also has high levels of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
Quinoa – 8 grams per cup
Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is a gluten-free seed that’s a healthier alternative to pasta and rice. Quinoa flour can be used for cooking and baking.
Seitan – 21 grams per 3 oz<
This protein powerhouse is used as a meat substitute in cooked dishes. It’s pure wheat gluten, so stay away if you’re gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease. Also, seitan’s low in the amino acid lysine, so it’s not a complete protein.
Soy - amount varies
Edamame has 8.5 grams of protein per ½ cup and can be eaten alone as a snack or in a salad, soup, or stew. Tofu and tempeh (10 grams and 15 grams per ½ cup, respectively) make good meat substitutes, and natto (fermented soybeans) have 15 grams per ½ cup.
Consider organic soy options to avoid GMOs and the pesticide glyphosate. If you’re pregnant, iodine deficient, asthmatic, diabetic, have kidney failure or bladder cancer, or have children allergic to cow’s milk or with cystic fibrosis, please consult with your doctor before consuming soy.
Does this list leave you feeling hungry and ready to experiment with plant-based protein? If so, then head over to our recipes page, where you can search for a variety of delicious recipes based on the ingredients you’d like to try.