Plant-based diets are becoming ever more common, with many people trying to reduce their intake of meat for the sake of our planet. A common (and perhaps frustrating) question for many vegetarians and vegans is ‘How do you get enough protein?’ It’s a question that’s rooted in misleading conventional wisdom that suggests we must consume animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs to ensure we get adequate amounts of protein in our diets.
In fact, there are a wide variety of plant-based protein sources out there – ones that can fuel the body just as well as animal-based ones. Here, we’ll delve into eight plant-based proteins that really deliver on the nutrition front.
One cup of quinoa – a good-sized portion – delivers about 11 grams of protein, nearly three times the amount of rice. It also has about 15 grams less carbs and more fiber. Known as a superfood, quinoa also contains iron, lysine, magnesium, B vitamins, and antioxidants. It’s simple to cook and can be used as a substitute for rice – or in many other creative ways.
With 19 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, tempeh is a great meat alternative. It’s made from fermented soybeans and is considered healthier than its cousin, tofu, since it has more protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins and is easier to digest. Since it’s a soy-based food, be sure to look for organic tempeh to ensure it’s GMO-free.
Beans are a versatile ingredient, since you can use them in everything from burritos to soups to salads. Protein values range from 12-15 grams per cup depending on the type of bean you’re eating, though they’re not a complete source of protein since they don’t have all the essential amino acids.
Often used in stews, soups, and casserole dishes, lentils boast 18 grams of protein per cup. Though they aren’t complete proteins, you can combine them with complementary foods (like rice) to make them complete. Be mindful of your portion sizes, however, since both lentils and rice are high in carbohydrates.
5. Hemp seeds
Also known as hemp hearts, hemp seeds have a nutty flavor and deliver a whopping 16 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons. They offer a perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and are easy to incorporate into your daily meals – sprinkle them on cereal or yogurt, use them to top a salad, incorporate them into rice, or blend them into a smoothie.
6. Chia seeds
You just need 2 tablespoons of chia seeds to get 4 grams of protein. The real bonus of chia, though, is that the same amount contains 11 grams of fiber, too. It’s a complete protein and a great source of iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have also shown that consuming chia helps boost nail, skin, and bone health. You can add dry chia seeds to smoothies, juices, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, and salad, or whip up chia pudding. Chia seeds also make a great addition to homemade granola.
With 4 grams of protein per tablespoon, this blue-green algae is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. It’s also rich in beta-carotene, calcium, and iron, and makes a great addition to smoothies.
In addition to being a great source of healthy fats, ¼ cup of almonds has 8 grams of protein. While snacking on raw almonds (after being soaked, ideally) is the easiest way to consume them, you can also add them to homemade granola, use them as a garnish for yogurt or oatmeal, put sliced almonds on salads, and pair almond butter with an apple for an afternoon pick-me-up.