Top 10 Plant Based Protein Sources

October 29, 2022

Are you a vegan, vegetarian or simply trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet? Then this article is for you - we go over the top 10 plant-based protein sources.

Protein is an essential nutrient that keeps you satiated while helping maintain and grow muscle. Many might wonder where vegans and vegetarians get their protein source since animal protein is off-limits. However, a wide variety of plant-based proteins extend beyond just tofu! 

10 of the Best Vegan Plant-Based Protein Sources

1. Beans 

Beans are a low-fat and affordable source of plant protein. They pack a protein punch - just a half cup of beans contains about 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fibre to keep you satiated for longer.

2. Lentils

Lentils and other legumes are excellent protein sources. They contain antioxidant-rich polyphenols, which studies have shown can help reduce the risk of obesity, cancer, and diabetes. Lentils contain 9 grams of protein per half cup and are also rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. 

Lentils are delicious when added to soups, curries, or salads or used to make lentil-based veggie burgers! 

3. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a type of legume rich in many vital nutrients, including protein, fibre, iron and healthy fatty acids. They’re versatile legumes that can be used in various savoury and sweet dishes - from hummus to brownies! Chickpeas contain 7 grams of protein per half cup.

4. Seeds

You can add many different seeds to your diet to increase your daily protein intake, including hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds. Although most seeds are high in fit and low in carbs, they often have low protein percentages. For example, hemp seeds contain about 10 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons. Additionally, hemp seeds are a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, critical for optimal muscle, metabolic and tissue health. 

How can you add seeds to your recipes? Hemp seeds are delicious in a salad, and chia seeds can be used to make a delicious chia pudding for breakfast. 

5. Tofu 

Tofu is one of the most versatile plant-based protein sources. This soy-based protein source is high in protein and contains iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, and there are 9 grams of protein per 3 oz of tofu. 

You may have heard that soy protein can lead to breast cancer. However, this link was found in animals, and experts have found that soy protein is safe and recommended for human consumption. Tofu is a delicious addition to stir-fries, curries, or blended into soups. 

6. Nuts

Nuts, including peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and cashews, are another versatile plant-based protein. They are high in healthy fats and protein, so they can help maintain your energy levels throughout the day. 

Nut butter, including peanut and almond butter, is also a great way to incorporate this protein source into your diet. One tablespoon of smooth peanut butter contains about 3 grams of protein.

7. Quinoa

Like hemp seeds and tofu, quinoa is a complete protein as it contains all essential amino acids. It provides almost 4 grams of protein per 100 grams. 

8. Nutritional yeast

Do you miss eating cheese after transitioning to a plant-based or vegan diet? Nutritional yeast is a secret ingredient added to vegan “cheese” sauces, soups and dishes. It is high in protein and B vitamins. Incorporate some cheesy flavour into your dishes while keeping your meal plant-based by sprinkling on some nutritional yeast.

9. Tempeh

Tempeh is a soy protein, like tofu, made from fermented soybeans pressed into a block. High in protein and prebiotics, it’s an excellent protein source to add to sandwiches or salads. 

10. Edamame 

Edamame is a green soybean often found in Japanese restaurants. They are an excellent protein source that can add a nice crunch to salads, rice bowls or stir-fries. You can find them in the frozen section of your grocery store, either in the shell or shelled. 

What Are the Benefits of Substituting Animal Protein for Plant Protein? 

Swapping animal protein with plant protein can have many health benefits. The benefits of vegan protein include weight loss, increased fibre intake, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Additionally, vegan proteins do not contain saturated fat and cholesterol, often found in meat. Plant-based proteins can help boost your heart health since studies have linked red meat with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease partly due to the saturated fat content.

Aside from the health benefits, you’d also be protecting the environment, as plant-based diets, including vegan and vegetarian diets, are associated with reduced greenhouse gases.

ken lu author headshot

Written by

Ken Lu

Ken has a Bachelor's Degree of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, specializing in Sport Psychology. As well as being a Certified Personal Trainer, Ken is also a Movement & Mobility Specialist, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has trained for and won the 2018 NPAA BC Men's Physique Championship.