Protein is an essential building block of life, and vegetarians can't ignore its importance in their diet. Unfortunately, many people automatically assume that since meat has a high amount of protein, vegetarians cannot get similar amounts from plant sources.
But luckily for them, there are plenty of vegetarian foods full of protein to choose from — you need to know where to look! Whether you're entirely vegan or occasionally meat-free, here are 10 complete vegetarian proteins with all the essential amino acids your body needs:
What is Protein?
Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps build and repair your body's cells, muscles, and organs. It is made up of amino acids, considered the "building blocks" of life.
Protein provides your body with the nutrition it needs to build healthy new cells, boost metabolism, revive energy levels, and even control hormones. It's found in many foods, from plants such as legumes to animal products like eggs and dairy.
While most people know protein's importance for physical health, few recognize how beneficial it can be for mental well-being. It helps reduce stress and keeps hormone cortisol levels low while promoting better sleep quality and more efficient cognitive function overall.
Protein is essential in our everyday diet if we want to feel energized, strong and alert throughout our day-to-day lives!
Related Article: Why Does the Human Body Need Protein, and Where Should It Come From?
What are Veggie Protein Sources?
Veggie Protein sources are an excellent alternative to commonly known protein sources such as meat, fish, and poultry. Vegetarian protein sources can be found in a variety of foods. Nuts, lentils, soybeans, quinoa, seitan, tempeh, and other legumes are all packed with healthy proteins that give your body vital nutrients and taste great.
If these traditional sources don't interest you, there are plenty of choices for alternative vegan sources like hemp hearts, chia seeds, and even nutritional yeast!
Whether you are looking to switch up your diet or your regular groceries aren't cutting it anymore, consider exploring veggie protein sources that offer a nutritious boost to any meal.
Benefits & Risks of a Vegan Diet
Whether temporarily or as a long-term lifestyle change, going vegan can offer several physical and mental health benefits. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, meaning no meat, dairy, or eggs are consumed. While some may view this as highly restrictive, a vegan diet allows one to explore plant-based options.
Benefits of switching to a vegan diet include improved digestion due to increased dietary fibre intake, lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream, and potentially better blood sugar control because processed carbs are often avoided.
Furthermore, research has shown that people who follow a well-designed vegan diet tend to have a more favourable body composition and cardiovascular health status than those who follow non-vegan diets.
However, it presents certain nutritional risks that should be considered before committing to a long-term vegan diet plan. Some of these risks include potential vitamin B12, calcium and iron deficiencies.
To counter these risks and ensure their bodies are getting the nutrition they need, vegans often supplement their diets with vitamin B12 supplements or other foods rich in nutrients like dark leafy greens or tofu.
By taking the time to learn about the associated risks of pursuing a vegan lifestyle and ways to combat them safely, those who choose this lifestyle will be able to ensure they are nourishing their body properly by balancing both natural sources of vitamins and minerals along with dietary supplements necessary for their health.
10 Best Protein Veggies Sources
Whether for a protein-packed breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a snack between meals, veggie sources are excellent and healthy options! To help you out, here are 10 of the best high-protein vegetable sources:
Beans are a powerhouse of protein and other essential nutrients. Eating beans is a great way to get a good amount of plant-based protein in your diet, as they contain more than 13 grams of protein per cup.
Beans are also an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy carbohydrates. Beans are rich in folate, which helps protect against birth defects, prevent some types of cancer and help form red blood cells.
They can provide many health benefits when included in the diet; they're versatile and delicious! Whether you're vegan or vegetarian or just trying to eat healthier, you can't go wrong with the variety of delicious beans available.
Lentils are another excellent source of protein, providing 18 grams per 1-cup serving. Lentils have become a staple of meat-free meals because they contain just as much protein as some meat. It makes them one of the best veggie protein sources around! Lentils are a type of legume in different varieties, such as red lentils, green lentils, split red lentils, and more. They are incredibly nutritious and provide essential minerals such as manganese, folate, and more. Additionally, lentils can be used in various recipes, making them a versatile addition to any diet.
3. Green Peas
Green Peas are one of the most nutrient-dense vegetable sources of protein you can eat. High in dietary fiber and packed with vitamins, minerals, and beneficial phytonutrients, green peas provide a whopping 8 grams of protein per cup - that's twice as much as most grains, four times as much as potatoes, and almost as much as lentils.
Green peas are enriched with essential antioxidants such as Vitamin C and carotenoids like lutein. They also contain all nine essential amino acids to form a complete source of plant-based protein.
Add them to your dishes to balance out grains for a nutritious meal perfect for vegans and vegetarians alike!
Seitan is a complete vegan protein source that has been around for thousands of years. A traditional staple in Asian and European diets, Seitan is made from wheat gluten seasoned with spices - think tofu's chewier, higher-protein cousin!
Seitan contains up to 75% protein per serving, making it one of the best vegetable protein sources.
It also contains essential amino acids, iron, and B vitamins. Seitan is incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes, including stir-fry, salads, sandwiches, or hickory chunks for barbecuing.
With its great flavor and nutrition profile, Seitan is an excellent choice for vegetarians looking to increase their daily intake of plant proteins.
Quinoa is a grain that is often considered a superfood due to its nutrient content. Quinoa is an excellent source of plant-based protein, which contains all nine essential amino acids the body can't produce.
Quinoa is also free of cholesterol, gluten, and dairy, which makes it a fantastic choice for anyone with dietary sensitivities or restrictions. Plus, it is also cooked much faster than other grains - ready in about 15 to 20 minutes - so it is a great healthy option for busy people on the go!
Its versatility and flavor make it incredibly easy to use in several dishes and snacks, no matter your preferences or cooking skills. Quinoa is truly one of the most nutrient-dense veggie protein sources around!
6. Nutritional Yeast
This nutrient packed food is an inactive yeast that is yellow and has an interestingly cheesy, umami-rich taste. For every 2 tbsp of yeast it contains 4 grams of protein, according to the USDA, plus, it is a great source of vitamin B12.
Considering vegans are often vitamin B12 deficient this is an ideal choice to add into their diets. Nutritional yeast can be used in many ways ranging from: sauces, dressings, sprinkled on dinner dishes, salads or tossed into a bag of popcorn.
Tofu is one of the best vegetable protein sources available, offering numerous health benefits in a low-calorie form. Tofu is made from soybeans, which are high in essential amino acids and calcium and contain other vitamins and minerals.
Tofu's taste is incredibly versatile and can be used as an alternative to meat in many dishes. Tofu can be added to stir-fries, soups, sandwiches, and even salads for a complete vegetarian meal. Since tofu absorbs flavors so quickly, it works great paired with spices or marinades to create excellent meals full of flavor.
Tofu is also very easy to cook - throw it into the pan with your favorite veggies, and you're done! Not only does tofu provide excellent nutrition and many health benefits, but it's also simple to make and tastes delicious!
8. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a popular food item rich in protein and healthy fats, making it an ideal addition for those looking for plant-based proteins. It contains 8 grams of protein per two tablespoons and heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Moreover, peanut butter is also a good source of vitamins.
9. Plant-Based Protein Powder
Plant-based protein powder is an excellent way to get the necessary protein that many vegan diets lack. It provides a concentrated source of plant-based proteins, such as peas, hemp, and brown rice.
Plant-based protein powders come in various flavours and textures, allowing for personalized consumption preferences. Additionally, most plant-based proteins are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals.
This fortification allows those who follow vegan diets to achieve optimal nutrient levels that would otherwise be difficult to reach through dietary changes alone. Plant-based proteins are also typically free of common allergens, such as gluten, dairy, and soy, making them a great option for vegetarians.
10. Soy Milk
Soy milk is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. Wide varieties offer 10 grams of plant-based protein per glass, making for a complete meal. Soy milk has some excellent health benefits, too - it helps reduce cholesterol and improves heart and bone health, to name a few.
Soy milk also has more natural nutrients than other plant-based milk, such as almond or rice. Soy milk is an excellent veggie source of protein that should be part of any healthy diet.
Related Article: What Foods Can Vegans Eat to Get All 9 Essential Amino Acids?
The Bottom Line
A vegan or vegetarian diet does not mean you have to skimp on protein. Plenty of vegan protein sources can give you all the essential amino acids your body needs. Here are 10 of the best vegetable protein sources with all the essential amino acids. So if you're looking for an alternative to animal protein, these veggies are a great option.
- Jakše, Boštjan, et al. “Nutritional, Cardiovascular Health and Lifestyle Status of ‘Health Conscious’ Adult Vegans and Non-Vegans from Slovenia: A Cross-Sectional Self-Reported Survey.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 18, no. 11, Jan. 2021, p. 5968. www.mdpi.com, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18115968.