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What are the highest Plant-Based Protein-Rich Foods?

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  • A common concern about vegetarian and vegan diets is that they may lack sufficient protein. But vegans can get protein from various plant sources, though some may be better than others.

    The vegan diet has been linked to several health benefits in terms of nutrients, weight loss, and a lower chance of various health problems. In fact, many experts agree that a well-planned meatless diet can provide all the nutrients you need, including protein.

    However, certain plant foods contain significantly more plant protein than others, and research suggests that higher protein diets can promote muscle strength, feelings of fullness, and weight loss.

    In addition, while well-planned vegan diets made up of mostly minimally processed foods are considered beneficial for all stages of life, those including large amounts of ultra-processed plant foods are not.

    Poorly planned or highly processed vegan diets may increase your chance of developing nutrient deficiencies, especially in vitamin B12, iodine, iron, calcium, zinc, and long-chain omega-3s.

    The following are 18 protein-rich foods that contain a high amount of protein per serving. That said, speak with your doctor to see if you can benefit from supplements and fortified foods to bridge any nutritional gaps that might arise.

    Learn more about the food with rich in protein and high protein foods and vegetables.

    1. Seitan
    Seitan is a popular protein source for many vegetarians and vegans. Unlike many soy-based mock meats, it closely resembles the look and texture of meat when cooked.

    Also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, it contains about 25 grams (g) of protein per 3.5 ounces (oz) or 100 g, making it one of the richest plant protein sources available.

    Seitan is also a good source of selenium and contains small amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorus. However, because it’s made from gluten, the main protein in wheat, people with gluten-related disorders should avoid it.

    2. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame
    Tofu, tempeh, and edamame all contain iron, calcium, and 12–20 g of protein per 3.5 oz (100 g) serving.

    All three originate from soybeans, which are considered a whole source of protein, providing your body with all the essential amino acids it needs.

    Edamame is also rich in folate, vitamin K, and fiber, which can help support digestion and regularity.

    On the other hand, tempeh contains probiotics, B vitamins, and minerals, such as magnesium and phosphorus.

    3. Lentils
    With 18 g of protein per cooked cup (198 g), lentils are a great source of protein and fiber, providing over half of your recommended daily fiber intake in a single cup (198 g).

    Furthermore, the type of fiber found in lentils has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon, which can help promote a healthy gut. Lentils may also reduce your chance of heart disease, diabetes, excess body weight, and certain types of cancer.

    In addition, lentils are rich in folate, manganese, iron, antioxidants, and other health-promoting plant compounds.

    4. Beans

    Kidney, black, pinto, and most other varieties of beans are extremely important staple foods across cultures and contain high amounts of protein per serving. This also includes chickpeas.

    Most types of beans contain about 15 g of protein per cooked cup (170 g). They’re also excellent sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and several beneficial plant compounds.

    Moreover, research shows that a diet rich in beans and other legumes can help decrease cholesterol levels, manage blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and even reduce belly fat.

    5. Nutritional yeast

    Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, which is sold commercially as a yellow powder or flakes.

    Half an oz (16 g) of this complete source of plant protein provides 8 g of protein and 3 g of fiber. Fortified nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, and all the B vitamins, including vitamin B12.

    6. Spelt and teff
    Spelt and teff belong to a category known as ancient grains. Other ancient grains include einkorn, barley, sorghum, and farro.

    Spelt is a type of wheat and contains gluten, whereas teff originates from an annual grass, meaning that it’s naturally gluten-free.

    Spelt and teff provide 10–11 g of protein per cooked cup (250 g), making them higher in protein than other ancient grains.

    Both are excellent sources of various nutrients, including complex carbs, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. They also contain B vitamins, zinc, and selenium.

    7. Hemp seeds

    Hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is sometimes maligned for belonging to the same family as the cannabis plant.

    However, hemp seeds contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

    Although hemp seeds aren’t as well-known as other seeds, they contain 9 g of protein in each 3-tablespoon (tbs) or 30 g serving.

    They also contain high levels of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and selenium. What’s more, they’re a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ratio considered optimal for human health.

    Interestingly, research indicates that the type of fats found in hemp seeds may help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms of menopause and certain skin conditions.

    8. Green peas
    Green peas contain nearly 9 g of protein per cooked cup (160 g), which is slightly more than a cup (237 milliliters (mL)) of dairy milk.

    What’s more, a serving of green peas covers more than 25% of your daily fiber, thiamine, folate, manganese, and vitamin C and K needs.

    Green peas are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and several other B vitamins.

    9. Spirulina
    This blue-green algae is definitely a nutritional powerhouse. A 2 tbs (14 g) serving provides 8 g of complete protein, in addition to covering 22% of your daily requirements for iron and 95% of your daily copper needs (60).

    Spirulina also contains high amounts of magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and small amounts of most of the other nutrients your body needs, including essential fatty acids.

    According to some test-tube and animal research, phycocyanin, a natural pigment found in spirulina, may have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.

    Furthermore, research links consuming spirulina to health benefits ranging from a stronger immune system and reduced blood pressure to improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

    Still, we need more human studies before we can draw conclusions on all of spirulina’s health claims.

    10. Amaranth and quinoa
    Although amaranth and quinoa are often referred to as ancient or gluten-free grains, they don’t grow from grasses like other cereal grains do. For this reason, they’re technically considered pseudocereal.

    Nevertheless, similarly to more commonly known grains, they can be prepared or ground into flours.

    Amaranth and quinoa provide 8–9 g of protein per cooked cup (246 g and 185 g respectively) and are complete sources of protein, which is uncommon among grains and pseudocereals.

    They are also good sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.

    11. Ezekiel bread and other breads made from sprouted grains

    Ezekiel bread is made from organic, sprouted whole grains and legumes. These include wheat, millet, barley, and spelt, as well as soybeans and lentils.

    Two slices of Ezekiel bread contain approximately 8 g of protein, which is slightly more than most other types of bread.

    Sprouting grains and legumes increases the number of healthy nutrients they contain and reduces their content of antinutrients, which are compounds that can affect your body’s absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.

    In addition, studies show that sprouting increases their content of specific amino acids, such as lysine, which can help boost their overall protein quality.

    12. Soy milk
    Soy milk is made from soybeans and is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals. Not only does it contain 6 g of protein per cup (244 g), but it’s also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 (76).

    However, keep in mind that soy milk and soybeans do not naturally contain vitamin B12, so picking a fortified variety is a good idea.

    Additionally, some types may contain added sugar, so it’s best to opt for unsweetened varieties whenever possible.

    13. Oats and oatmeal
    Eating oats is an easy and delicious way to add protein to any diet.

    Half a cup (40 g) of dry oats provides approximately 5 g of protein and 4 g of fiber. Oats also contain magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and folate.

    Although oats are not considered a complete protein, they do contain higher quality protein than other commonly consumed grains like rice and wheat.

    14. Wild rice
    Unlike white rice, wild rice is not stripped of its bran. That’s great from a nutritional perspective, as bran contains fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals.

    A cooked cup (164 g) provides nearly 7 g of protein, in addition to healthy amounts of fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and B vitamins.

    15. Chia seeds
    Chia seeds are derived from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. They contain 5 g of protein and 10 g of fiber per ounce (28 g)

    These little seeds also contain high levels of iron, calcium, selenium, and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other beneficial plant compounds.

    16. Nuts, nut butter, and other seeds
    Nuts, seeds, and their derived products are great sources of protein.

    One ounce (28 g) contains 5–7 g of protein, depending on the variety. For example, almonds contain 6 g.

    Nuts and seeds are also great sources of fiber and healthy fats, along with iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and certain B vitamins. They likewise contain antioxidants, among other beneficial plant compounds.

    When choosing which nuts and seeds to buy, keep in mind that blanching and roasting may damage the nutrients in nuts. Therefore, it’s best to eat them raw.

    17. Protein-rich fruits and vegetables
    Although all fruits and vegetables contain protein, some contain more than others.

    Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts, which typically contain 4–5 g of protein per cooked cup.

    Although technically a grain, sweet corn is another common food that contains about as much protein as these high protein vegetables.

    Fresh fruits generally have a lower protein content than vegetables. Those containing the most include guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries , nectarines, and bananas, which have about 2–4 g of protein per cup.

    18. Mycoprotein
    Mycoprotein is a non-animal-based protein derived from Fusarium venenatum, which is a type of fungus. It’s often used to produce meat substitutes, including veggie burgers, patties, cutlets, and fillets.

    Its nutritional value can range a bit depending on the specific product, but most contain 15–16 g of protein per 3.5 oz (100 g) serving, along with 5–8 g of fiber.

    Although there are concerns about the safety of mycoprotein related to food allergies, research shows that adverse reactions are very rare.

    However, keep in mind that some products made with mycoprotein may also contain egg whites, so be sure to check the label carefully if you’re following a vegan diet or avoiding eggs for other reasons, such as food allergies.

    Frequently asked questions

    What vegan foods are high in protein?
    Seitan, tofu, beans, and lentils can provide protein in a vegan diet.

    How can a vegan get 100g of protein a day?
    In order to get 100g of daily protein, a person following a vegan diet typically needs to vary their plant protein sources and include multiple protein sources in one meal. These can include seitan, which contains 25 g of protein per 3.5 oz (100 g), tofu, beans, and lentils, as well as foods that provide a smaller amount of protein, such as whole grains, nutritional yeast, and nuts.

    What is a good source of protein that isn’t meat?
    Some plant-based foods, such as soybean products, seitan, beans, and lentils contain high amounts of protein. You can also find protein in nuts, whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, and hemp seeds. People following a vegan diet may need to plan in order to reach their daily protein goals.

    Protein deficiencies among vegetarians and vegans are uncommon, especially for those following a healthy, well-planned diet.

    Still, some people may be interested in increasing their plant protein intake for a variety of reasons.

    This list can be used as a guide for anyone interested in incorporating more plant-based proteins into their diet.

  • You know, this topic is very interesting for me. Recently I began to reconsider my diet and eat only high-quality food. I really liked the srsly low carb bread, light and tasty. Now not one of my breakfasts goes by without it. Try it, I think it will suit you too.

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