The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources That Are Amazingly Good for You

The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources That Are Amazingly Good for You

Limiting meat protein sources, wanting to live a vegan diet, or just simply avoiding meat, leads to inquiries about obtaining essential nutrients, particularly protein, from plant-based diets. The reassuring news is that meeting your daily protein needs is quite achievable.

The key lies in maintaining balance. It's crucial to avoid falling into the trap of being a "junk food vegan". Solely relying on items like frozen vegan waffles and chips can result in low energy and protein deficiency. Instead, embrace the full spectrum of a plant-based diet by incorporating vibrant produce, wholesome grains, and satisfying potatoes into your meals. This approach ensures that you not only meet but also surpass your daily protein requirements while enjoying a nutritionally rich and energizing diet.

Let's explore the best plant-based protein sources to help you feel full to build a healthier you.

As with any dietary changes you may wish to make, please consult first a health professional about them so that you can also find out the foods you may be allergic to.

The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources That Are Amazingly Good for You

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The Best Sources of Plant-Based Protein

Devoid of dairy, eggs, and meat, this list of plant-based sources of protein showcases top-notch vegan protein sources for our daily nutritional needs. Familiar favorites, such as beans and tofu make an appearance, alongside spirulina and quinoa, proving to be equally potent protein-packed choices.

Spirulina

Kicking off our list is the queen of all superfoods that comes from the scum of the earth - algae.

Spirulina, categorized as cyanobacteria or blue-green algae, has been a traditional food source in various countries for centuries. Available in capsules, tablets, and powder, it has found its way into diverse foods and beverages like energy bars, popcorn, and smoothies.

Thriving in extreme conditions where many other water-dwelling organisms cannot survive, spirulina is typically cultivated in either manmade or natural lakes, harvested, and freeze-dried.

With an impressive 60% protein content, surpassing most vegetables, it also serves as a rich source of beta-carotene, assorted minerals, and gamma-linolenic acid—an essential fatty acid.

Quinoa

Whole grains, such as quinoa, often associated with carbohydrates, can subtly contribute additional protein to your meals, offering not just protein but also fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Incorporate quinoa into your day by including it in your salad and other dishes. For reference, quinoa itself provides 8 grams of protein per cup.

Soy

While vegan protein is commonly linked to processed patties or enigmatic "meat" loaves, it extends beyond these stereotypes. Soy protein can play a wholesome role in a plant-based diet. Options such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, and even soy milk offer excellent sources of protein.

Experiment with preparing a stir-fry featuring tempeh or tofu, steam edamame for a simple appetizer, or enhance your morning cereal with soy milk for a protein-packed start to the day.

Consuming two to four servings of soy foods daily is linked to numerous health benefits. Common soy foods, according to the USDA, provide varying protein content per serving: tempeh offers 17g per 1/2 cup, shelled edamame provides 9g per 1/2 cup, tofu delivers 9g per 3 ounces, and soy milk contains 7g per 1 cup.

Nutritional Yeast

Don't be intimidated by the scientific name of nutritional yeast. With the moniker "nooch" in the vegan community, this inactive yellow yeast boasts a distinctive cheesy, umami-rich flavor.

With four grams of protein per two tablespoons, as per the USDA, it also serves as a valuable vegan source of vitamin B12, a nutrient predominantly found in animal products.

Since many vegans may require supplementation for B12, consult your healthcare provider to ensure adequate intake. Incorporate nutritional yeast into sauces, dressings, and pasta dishes, or sprinkle it on popcorn for a delightful flavor boost.

Seitan

Seitan holds a significant place in plant-based diets, crafted from vital wheat gluten—the primary protein in wheat—yielding a chewy, meat-like texture in various dishes. It's crucial to recognize that seitan is not gluten-free due to its wheat gluten content.

According to the USDA, a 3-ounce serving of seitan packs 20 grams of protein. Whether you prefer a homemade version with vital wheat gluten or a convenient pre-cooked option available alongside tofu in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket or natural foods store, seitan offers a protein-rich addition to your plant-based meals.

Legumes

A favorite among vegans aiming to boost protein intake, legumes serve as the cost-effective foundation for numerous plant-based dishes. This category includes beans and lentils, both renowned for their plant protein content. Various lentil types can offer up to 18 grams of protein per cup (cooked) while beans range from 10 to 18 grams per cup, depending on the variety.

Incorporate lentils into taco fillings, chilies, or curry bases, and embrace the versatility of beans by blending them into hummus, shaping them into fritters, or using them as baked potato toppers.

According to the USDA, cooked lentils provide 18 grams of protein per cup, chickpeas offer 14.5 grams per cup, and black beans contribute 15 grams per cup.

Seeds

Seeds go beyond bird feed, proving to be a valuable source of protein and fiber in vegan diets. Whether it's sesame seeds transformed into tahini or flax seeds added to oatmeal or bread, seeds offer diverse ways to enhance nutrition. Flax, chia, and hemp seeds also provide plant-based omega-3 fats. Particularly beneficial for those with nut allergies, seeds present a delightful protein option.

Incorporate them into your diet by spreading sunflower-seed butter on toast, blending tahini into salad dressings, or crafting a chia seed pudding. According to the USDA, pumpkin seeds offer 8.5 grams of protein per 1 ounce, hemp seeds provide 9.5 grams per 3 tablespoons, and tahini contains 5 grams per 2 tablespoons.

Nuts

Essential for any plant-based pantry, an array of nuts adds both versatility and nutritional value, suitable for snacking or enhancing recipes.

Following the American Heart Association's recommendation of consuming 1.5 ounces of nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butters multiple times a week, these modest servings pack a substantial protein punch.

Incorporate almonds into grab-and-go snacks, blend peanut butter into sauces, or elevate salads with a sprinkling of walnuts.

According to the USDA, almonds provide 9 grams of protein per 1.5 ounces, walnuts offer 6.6 grams per 1.5 ounces, cashews contribute 8 grams per 1.5 ounces, and peanut butter contains 8 grams per 2 tablespoons.

Green Vegetables

The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources That Are Amazingly Good for You

Often underestimated for their protein content, green vegetables provide more than just essential vitamins and minerals. Staples like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and green peas offer substantial protein, contributing to a well-balanced plate. Additionally, these greens are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, and low in calories.

Elevate your meals by incorporating cooked spinach into pasta, integrating green peas into a curry, or preparing Brussels sprouts for a delectably crispy side.

According to the USDA, these cooked vegetables provide varying protein amounts: spinach offers 5 grams per cup, green peas provide 4 grams per 1/2 cup, and Brussels sprouts contribute 2 grams per 1/2 cup.

Enjoy Your Meals With Plant-Based Protein Sources

Achieving a great body involves a combination of kitchen and gym efforts. Make sure to meet your daily protein needs and embrace a colorful array of foods.

For those seeking to enhance their plant protein intake, our list serves as a helpful guide for incorporating more plant-based proteins into their diet.

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