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25 Vegan Sources for Protein

25 Vegan Sources for Protein

If you’ve been vegan for any length of time, there’s a pretty good chance that someone’s asked you the ubiquitous question, “How do you get enough protein?” It’s a common misconception that you need animal products to get enough protein into your diet. In fact, many plant foods are loaded with protein, and if you incorporate 2-3 protein sources into each meal, chances are your protein levels will be a-OK.

Need proof that vegans aren’t hurting for protein? Just take a look at the recent popularity of veganism among bodybuilders! When you’re doing heavy weight training like bodybuilders do, you need to take in a lot more protein than the average recommendations. If it was that hard to get enough protein on a vegan diet, chances are we wouldn’t see so many bodybuilders talking about the benefits of a vegan diet!

The amount of protein you need in your diet depends a lot on your body weight and what activities you do. Americans in general eat far more protein than we need each day. The RDA for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, you’d need 51 grams of protein per day (140 pounds = 63.5 kg, and 63.5 X .8 = 50.8).

Like I mentioned above, you just need a couple of protein sources at each meal, and you’re golden. Depending on the protein sources you choose, you can even have just one source at a meal, if it’s high in protein. What I don’t want to do is confuse this idea with protein combining, a common practice that is totally unnecessary.

the myth of protein combining

The Myth of Protein Combining

You can probably track the idea of protein combining back to the book Diet for a Small Planet. The idea is that plant foods don’t contain “complete” proteins, and you need to combine certain plant foods at each meal to make sure you’re getting enough complete proteins.

Proteins contain amino acids, which are necessary for good health. There are nine amino acids that our bodies need to function, and animal products contain all nine. However, most plant-based protein sources are missing one or two amino acids, and different ones are missing different amino acids.

What makes a good myth is a kernel of truth, right? It’s true that you need to eat a variety of proteins to make sure you’re getting all of the amino acids your body needs, but it’s not as hard as protein combining methods make it seem. You don’t need all nine at the same meal, and it’s even OK if you don’t get them all every single day. If you stick to a variety of protein sources, like the ones below, you’ll be golden. Hey, maybe you’ll even try your hand at bodybuilding!


vegan protein sources

25 Vegan Protein Sources

There are plenty of vegan protein sources, and if you make sure to eat a variety of these throughout the week, you won’t need to worry about getting enough protein!

I understand that not everyone is going to eat all 25 of these. This list is a jumping off point to give you some options to get going. Beans, whole grains, and even fruits and veggies contain protein, so if your favorite foods aren’t on this list, I suggest using a resource like the USDA Nutrition Database to check out their protein contents.

  1. Tempeh -  41 g per cup
  2. Lentils – 18 g per cup
  3. Plain soymilk – 11 g per cup
  4. Edamame – 20 g per cup
  5. Seitan – 19 g per 3 ounces
  6. Tofu – 20 g per 1/2 cup
  7. Peas – 9 g per cup
  8. Brown rice – 5 g per cup
  9. White rice – 4 g per cup
  10. Cooked broccoli – 4 g per cup
  11. Sunflower seeds – 6 g per 1/4 cup
  12. Quinoa – 9 g per cup
  13. Cooked spinach – 5 g per cup
  14. Avocado – 4 g per cup
  15. Whole grain bread – 7 g in 2 slices
  16. Black beans – 15 g per cup
  17. Cashews – 5 g per 1/4 cup
  18. Cooked semolina pasta – 8 g per cup
  19. Chia seeds – 5 g per 2 tablespoons
  20. Flax seeds – 4 g per 2 tablespoons
  21. Bulgur – 5.5 g per cup
  22. Peanut butter – 8 g per 2 tablespoons
  23. Sunflower seed butter – 5.5 g per 2 tablespoons
  24. Baked red potato – 3 g per cup
  25. Barley – 3.5 g per cup

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear from you guys! What plant-based foods do you rely on for protein?


Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health, Vegan, Vegetarian, , , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
5:51AM PDT on Aug 2, 2015

Thank you so much for sharing this very interesting article that I save as a pdf !
Be all blessed as all your loved ones.
Animals included, of course !

8:26PM PST on Feb 20, 2015

I already eat very little meat but I want to try and eliminate it from my diet altogether so thanks for the info

11:24AM PST on Feb 12, 2015

Thank you for the tips!

9:32AM PST on Feb 6, 2015

My favorite plant based protein powders come from Growing Naturals. I'm especially liking the organic protein powder, but the Rice protein powder is great too! Hope you'll check them out, if you haven't already.

8:59PM PST on Nov 29, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

8:52AM PST on Nov 28, 2014

Aren't cravings - really addictions? Switching to a vegetarian diet requires breaking addictions and cleaning up the body. This process is that you always get worse before you get better. That is what I find is the biggest challenge of being a vegetarian if I am honest with myself is getting through the cravings. It is also about new habits. Old habits are hard to break. Making my own food that is vegetarian plus tasty is time-consuming. The old habit of going to KFC took a long time to get over. Now I would never go to KFC. IT takes time to change your diet and learn new recipes. I think one of the problems is that people expect they can change over night. It is a gradual process and that is why so many vegans crash and burn. Take your time, do it right. We can live without meat and junk food. It just takes more time and effort. To me it is worth it.

6:25AM PST on Nov 28, 2014

Yeah, vegans have it tough. The content of protein in food is not the problem, it's the protein absorption and many plant based foods have protein inhibitors or anti nutrients plus a good amount of carbs to boot (all those carbs are turned to sugar no matter if complex or simple). Animal protein (properly raised) is nutrient dense and highly bio available. Shellfish is a great option for vegans because of the DHA, B12, protein, and zinc. I turned a couple of my vegan friends onto oysters and it helped many problems they were having on their vegan diet. They were blown away because they could still maintain their lifestyle with a slight but seriously effective compromise and their energy, brain clarity, and hormonal balance increased.

11:01AM PST on Nov 27, 2014

Great to know

11:01AM PST on Nov 27, 2014

Great to know

12:46AM PDT on Aug 16, 2014

Thanks for sharing

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