How do you get your protein? That tends to be a cliché question most people ask those who have adopted a plant-based diet. Whether you’re eating a 100% plant-based, vegetarian, or omnivorous diet (or something in between), this list will give you new and/or additional insights into how much protein non-animal products contain.
Most people don’t think of vegetables as being good sources of protein, or possessing any protein at all. If any protein-dense plant food comes to mind, it’s typically beans. But rest assured that beans aren’t the only plant-based protein out there.
“I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete.”
Before we get to the food part of the article, let’s discuss one’s protein needs. On average, a sedentary man needs at least 56 grams of protein a day and a sedentary woman needs at least 46. Basically, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight per day. If you don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle (double high five to you!), then your protein needs definitely go up quite a bit. Alas, I’m not a professional, so I am not at liberty to let you know the exact number at that point, as exercise type, frequency, and fitness goals vary greatly.
Anyway, below is a list of a multitude of nutritious, delicious, AND high-protein foods that happen to be completely plant-based. This list is in no way exhaustive. Also, the countdown is from low to high.
I bet when your mom would tell you to eat your broccoli, she wasn’t saying it due to its protein content.
This green mini tree (as I’d like to refer to them growing up) is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, fiber, potassium, and bioactive nutrients that may be preventive against a wide array of chronic health ailments.
Protein-wise, broccoli is definitely one of the more protein-dense veggies in the vegetable world. You’re looking at 3 grams of protein.
One of our previous posts featured iron-rich spinach. But this versatile leafy green isn’t all about the iron. You’d be surprised to know that it’s one of the most protein-dense vegetables out there, with numerous other leafy greens as runner-ups.
Popeye knew what he was doing when he’d gobble down a can of cooked spinach! The keyword here is cooked.
One cup of cooked spinach is 5 grams of protein, while 1 cup of it in its raw form is just shy of 1 gram.
3. Dried Apricots
Fruit isn’t normally considered a high-protein whole food, but dried apricots definitely have quite a bit of it.
Super sweet and delectable, these dried fruits are chock full of iron, vitamin A, phytonutrients, and of course fiber.
And the moment you’ve been waiting for… *drum roll please*
One cup of dried apricots contains 6 grams of protein!
Almonds are one of the most popular types of tree nuts. Saying they’re teaming with vital nutrients would be an understatement. Their nutritional profile is comprised of fiber, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese.
But you’re not here for all of that… you want to know the protein content. A 1 ounce serving (about 24 almonds) has 6 grams of protein.
Your best bet is to eat these raw. If your stomach can’t handle raw nuts, try dry roasted. That means they’re not roasted in oil!
Some people enjoy almondmilk, but most commercial almondmilks hardly have any almonds in them. Usually, there’s more water, thickeners, and synthetic vitamins and minerals than actual nuts. You can always go the homemade route, though. That way, you’ll have control over how many almonds go into it and you can skip the gut-irritating thickeners and lab-made vitamins.
These tasty morsels aren’t nuts at all. Unlike nuts that grow in trees, peanuts grow underground. They’re legumes and are closely related to green peas.
Okay, so number 5 on the list, they’re obviously high in protein, but they’re also full of fiber and magnesium.
There are about 35 peanuts in an ounce. You’re looking at 7 grams of protein in that ounce.
When it comes to these nut wannabes, peanut butter is one of the most popular ways to ingest them. But if you do decide to go this route, make sure the only ingredients are dry roasted peanuts! No oil. Some salt won’t hurt, but check the label.
This stuff is mistaken for a grain, but in all reality, it’s actually a seed. In recent years, it has easily become one of the most popular superfoods across the globe.
Quinoa’s health benefits are many, but I’ll save those for a future article. 😉
Now, let’s talk protein. One cup of cooked quinoa packs quite the punch with 8 grams of protein.
7. Hemp Seeds
Omega 3 fatty acids are the primary reason hemp seeds have received such hype recently.
But you’d be surprised to know how much plant-based protein is hiding in these nutty-flavored seeds.
Just 3 tablespoons of hulled (shelled) hemp seeds contain 11 grams of protein.
If you recall, I’ve written an entire article about heroic hemp, so to get a refresher on their additional health benefits, click here.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had oatmeal for breakfast!
If your digestive tract is a fan of grains, then oats should definitely be one of your go-to grains.
Oats are a wonderful source of magnesium, manganese, fiber, thiamin (vitamin B1), and numerous other nutrients.
Half a cup of raw oats contains 13 grams of protein.
More legumes! I seriously can’t get enough. Hopefully you can’t either.
These guys have fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, folate, and so much more! And you guessed it… they make a perfect primary ingredient in soup!
A cup of boiled lentils includes 18 grams of protein!
10. Lupini “Beans”
At this point, I know what you’re probably thinking… legumes and protein go together like pb&j. You’re absolutely right, with one distinction… lupini beans (along with soybeans) are by far the most protein-dense legume in the legume kingdom hands down. (The reason we didn’t include soybeans in this list is due to some questionable findings. If you are eating soy often, stick to organic and fermented. Most soy is GMO… at least in the U.S.).
Needless to say, they’re also packed with fiber, as are all plant-based foods. Then add some B-complex vitamins to the mix, and zinc, and copper. Yup, they’re nutrient-packed alright.
Just ONE cup of cooked lupins contains a whopping 26 grams of protein. I kid you not!
*WARNING: Stay away from lupini beans if you have a peanut allergy.
[Related Post: What Does “Non-GMO” Mean?]
“Luckily we know that you can get your protein source from many different ways. you can get it through vegetables if you are a vegetarian. I have seen many body builders that are vegetarian and they get strong and healthy.”
Plants and protein both begin with the letter “p” for a reason. But I’m not here to discredit meat, eggs, and dairy–all of which are extremely high sources of protein. While our diets are primarily plant-based, we prefer not to completely disregard any foods (except flat out junk food) due to our personal preferences or findings (which can be so contradictory at times).
It’s true, meat like one roasted chicken breast consists of 53 grams of protein, which already exceeds what an average woman who lives a sedentary lifestyle needs and just 3 grams away from what a man with a similar lifestyle needs in a day.
But the point I’d like to make here is that you can get enough protein no matter what your eating regimen is like. If you’re in any way concerned about your intake, keep a food diary. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), protein deficiency, as a whole, is exceedingly rare in healthy adults. 100% plant-based foodies just need to be a little more conscious of what they eat.
For instance, ff you eat a quinoa bowl made of 1 cup of cooked quinoa, 1 cup of lupini beans, and 1 cup of spinach drizzled with 24 chopped almonds, you’ve already reached your minimum protein needs as a woman. Add a cup of oats for breakfast, and you’re at your minimum protein needs as a man. Easy does it!
There are obviously TONS of other sources of plant-based protein. Can you think of any? If you had to pick your favorite source out of the list above, which one would it be?