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10 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

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A substantial amount of protein intake is essential for the body to function at its best. Here are the 10 best vegetarian protein sources that contain a high amount of protein per serving.

A common myth regarding the diet of vegetarians remains that after chucking meat out, the major source of protein intake is gone. However, this is not the case. There are a plethora of meatless sources of protein that are available to the fitness fanatics, sources which are also accompanied by the benefit of being lower in calorie and fat. Here are 10 foods that contain a high amount of protein per serving.

Top 10 Protein Sources for Vegan & Vegetarians

1. Spirulina: ~52.5g of protein per 100g


As opposed to beef that constitutes 22% protein, spirulina is 69-71% rich in protein. Spirulina is a blue-green alga that nutritionists are labeling as the superfood of the future. It is something hardly heard of but has countless benefits for anyone seeking a diet fraught with protein. Two spoons of spirulina can suffice as a protein substitute for a meal.

Health Benefits
  • Spirulina is touted as the best source of not only protein but other vitamins as well.
  • It is also rich in minerals.
  • A study has found that spirulina reduces the effects of allergies of the nose that arise due to dust.
Dietary Information
  • The recommended amount is 3 grams daily.
  • Either one tablespoon of powder or six 500mg tablets would suffice.
Individual Concerns
  • Spirulina can be easily contaminated with toxins called microcystins.
  • Although, spirulina in itself does not produce any toxins the harvesting process can infuse some unwittingly.

Bottom Line

Spirulina is a nutritious high-protein food with many beneficial health-enhancing properties.

2. Soybeans, Tofu & Tempeh: ~8-40g of protein per 100g


Steamed soybeans (4 g protein/0.5 cup), tofu (10 g protein/0.5 cup), and soy milk (2 g protein/0.5 cup) provide protein in entirety along with magnesium, a mineral that is critical for muscle development and energy production.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to eat soybeans. Also, you can make tempeh, a traditional soy product originating from Indonesia, prepared by fermentation.

Tofu is made from soybeans and is rich in iron and calcium. It’s also a complete protein. Opt for the firmest tofu available – the harder the tofu, the higher the protein content.

Health Benefits
  • Soybeans are an important source of the minerals copper, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, and potassium; the B vitamin, riboflavin; and omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid).
  • Soybeans are also considered to have Flavonoids and Isoflavonoids, Phenolic Acids, Phytoalexins, Phytosterols, Proteins, and Peptides, Saponins.
  • Whole Soy foods help in cancer prevention.
  • Soybeans also show cardiovascular benefits, such as the lowering of triglycerides and total cholesterol or the raising of HDL cholesterol.
  • Soybeans show the potential of preventing hot flashes, which are a common symptom of menopause and pre-menopause in most women.
  • Intake of whole soy foods, especially fermented whole soybean foods have shown bone health benefits and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
  • Soybeans decrease the synthesis of certain fatty acids as well as depositing of these fatty acids in fat cells. Therefore, they help in reducing obesity.
  • Soybeans are a rich source of Vitamin K.
Dietary Information
  • Replacing meat and dairy with soy would lower total cholesterol intake by about 125 milligrams per day and saturated fat by about 2.4 grams per day.
  • 1 cup of soybeans has approximately 10g of fiber and 25-30 grams of high-quality protein.
  • High levels of total soy intake (approximately 200 grams per day) have also been associated with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
Individual Concerns
  • Increased intake of soy foods might harm thyroid health.
  • Soybeans contain phytates which might lessen the absorption of many nutrients.

Bottom Line

Soy products are perhaps best known for their fantastic blend of protein and fiber. They are a very good source of manganese, molybdenum, copper, phosphorus, and protein as well as a good source of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamin B2, magnesium, vitamin K, and potassium. There is also a wide range of unique proteins, peptides, and phytonutrients contained in soy.

3. Hemp seeds: ~30g of protein per 100g

Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds’ most remarkable property is that they contain the nine essential amino acids which are not naturally produced within the body. They are also a rich source of protein and have a natural balance between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Health Benefits
  • It improves cardiovascular well-being.
  • Treats Insomnia.
  • Improves Digestive Health.
  • It helps in weight loss.
  • It improves muscle mass.
  • Regulates and balances hormones.
  • Prevents Osteoporosis.
Dietary Information
  • 100 gms of hemp seeds contain 586 kcal of energy and 31.56 g of protein.
  • hemp seed comprises 21 amino acids, of which 9 are essential to the human body.
  • It is a good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, essential fats.
  • It is rich in fiber.
Individual Concerns
  • Consuming hemp seeds in large quantities can cause mild diarrhea.
  • If you take anticoagulants, you may want to be more cautious about consuming hemp seeds because they inhibit platelets and may cause a bleeding risk.

Bottom Line

Hemp seeds have a high nutrition profile and are a healthy addition to most diets. Hemp seeds benefits include properties that can be helpful in improving symptoms of arthritis and joint pain; improving heart and digestive health; promoting hair, skin and nail health; and boosting the immune system to guard against cancer.

4. Lentils: ~22g of protein per 100g


Staple to an Indian diet, lentils are a major source of protein. Be it split pigeon peas, green gram and split, dehusked black gram lentil, lentils are an easy and inexpensive way of increasing protein intake for vegetarians. They can make up for protein contained in animal rich food. Undoubtedly, they are the quintessential source of protein.

1 cup of lentils has almost as much protein as 18 grams of chicken. Lentils can be used in soup, salads, and stews. In fact, they can be used in making cookies!

Health Benefits
  • Lentils help in burning fat and maintaining the metabolism of the body.
  • Lentils are also rich in fiber and other essential minerals.
  • The fiber content helps prevent constipation and indigestion.
  • Extremely low in fat content, lentils are a great source of nutrition for vegetarians.
Dietary Information
  • Lentils are a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.
  • Their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rapidly rising after a meal, so they help in managing the blood sugar level.
  • 1 cup of lentils gives 7 grams of protein.
  • A single serving of lentils, about half a cup (about 113 grams) uncooked, has 60% of the (RDA) of iron, 67% of the RDA for Vitamin B1, and a whopping 31 grams of dietary fiber.
Individual Concerns
  • An excessive amount of lentils can cause flatulence.
  • Lentils contain anti-nutritional elements that the body cannot digest, such as hem-agglutinins, oligosaccharides, and trypsin inhibitors.

Bottom Line

Lentils are an excellent source of molybdenum and folate. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, and manganese. Additionally, they are a good source of iron, protein, vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, zinc, potassium, and vitamin B6. Lentils are nutritional powerhouses. They may also help reduce the risk of various diseases.

5. Almonds: ~20g of protein per 100g


Add almonds when you wish to complement your meal with some nuts. It has protein in abundance. Not only almond, but almond butter is beneficial as well. It is less toxic than peanut butter and qualifies as another source of protein.

Health Benefits
  • Almonds increase memory power.
  • Lower LDL-Cholesterol and reduce your risk of Heart Disease.
  • They regulate the blood sugar level and cholesterol levels.
  • They provide protection against Diabetes and Heart Disease.
  • They are also a go-to food item if you are striving to lose your weight as they improve digestion.
  • Almonds help prevent gallstones.
Dietary Information
  • Eat 5-10 almonds daily.
  • For best results, eat them on an empty stomach in the morning after they have been soaked all night.
  • Almonds are a very good source of copper, manganese, and riboflavin.
  • They are rich in nutrients like fiber, Vitamin E and antioxidants, and good fat.
Individual Concerns
  • Consuming more than 15 almonds a day can be harmful and increase your weight in lieu of reducing it.
  • Almonds have been determined to have high oxalate content.

Bottom Line

Almonds are a very good source of vitamin E, manganese, biotin, and copper. Almonds are a good source of magnesium, molybdenum, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and phosphorus. Fortunately, although a one-quarter cup of almonds contains about 11 grams of fat, a sizable portion of it (7 grams) is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

6. Green Peas & chickpeas: ~6-18g of protein per 100g

green peaschickpeas

Perhaps the only vegetable that is replete with protein. You get protein from frozen peas as well, so help yourself and stash a bag of peas up in your freezer. 1 cup of chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, have approximately 15 grams of protein, and chickpeas can be consumed roasted if you are fond of healthy yet crunchy snacks. This is an amazing way to get protein without the disadvantage of added fat of salty crunchy peanuts! Or add chickpeas to salads, mash with avocado for a healthy hummus.

Health Benefits
  • Peas help in managing blood sugar levels.
  • Those into gymming and body-building must eat peas on a regular basis as it has maximum protein density.
  • Eating peas keep diseases like osteoporosis at bay.
  • Green peas are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
  • Green peas are very likely to provide some unique health benefits in the prevention of stomach cancer.
  • Chickpeas contain a plentiful amount of fiber which is helpful in supporting digestive tract function.
  • Chickpeas are a remarkable food in terms of their antioxidant composition.
Dietary Information
  • For those who are trying to lose weight, 1 cup of low-calorie green peas will be sufficient.
  • For those trying to build some muscles, 1 to 3 cups of peas will be sufficient.
  • 1 cup contains around 8.5 grams of protein.
  • 3/4 cup of garbanzos/chickpeas per day can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in a one-month period of time.
Individual Concerns
  • Excess of green peas can cause loss of calcium in the body.
  • Consuming more than suggested amounts of peas can build uric acid in the body which may lead to gout.

Bottom Line

Green peas are actually an outstanding phytonutrient source. Green peas are a very good source of vitamin K, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin C, phosphorus, and folate. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, niacin, vitamin B2, molybdenum, zinc, protein, magnesium, iron, potassium, and choline. Garbanzo beans/chickpeas are an excellent source of molybdenum and manganese. They are also a very good source of folate and copper as well as a good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, protein, iron, and zinc. The fiber in chickpeas is mostly insoluble and it has been shown to undergo conversion into short-chain fatty acids in the large intestine and provide support for our digestive tract in that way.

7. Chia Seeds: ~16g of protein per 100g

Chia seeds

Protein content in chia seeds helps build lean muscle mass which burns fat. It has a high protein quality score of 115 and contains many amino acids. Indians are not fond of seeds as such in their diet but it’s about time they started incorporating them as they are nutritious and healthy.

Chia seeds are a nutrition powerhouse, proving 4 grams of protein in just 1 oz, while also giving you 11 grams of fiber and more calcium than 3 glasses of milk! They are tasteless and easily absorbed by the body. They have a nutty texture and can be easily complemented with smoothies, soups, stews, or also by adding 1 tbsp to everything you bake.

Health Benefits
  • Chia seeds are rich in leptin, thus reducing sugar cravings.
  • They keep one hydrated and improve skin texture. They also aid in reducing inflammation.
Dietary Information
  • To those striving to either lose weight or gain muscles, 3 tablespoons (28 grams) is recommended.
Individual Concerns
  • They have a blood-thinning effect, leading you to bleed more if you get a cut.
  • People allergic to mustard seeds could be allergic to chia, as they come from the same family.

Bottom Line

Chia seeds are a versatile source of plant protein. They also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other health-promoting compounds.

8. Quinoa: ~14g of protein per 100g


Quinoa is one of the healthiest non-animal sources of protein. Quinoa is a herbaceous plant containing an exceptional amino acid profile.

Health Benefits
  • It is rich in those amino acids that our body is not capable of forming of its own.
  • It also contains zinc which is important for the immune system, folate, a vitamin required by pregnant women and iron and phosphorus.
  • It has all 9 of the essential amino acids that are integral to normal body operations.
  • Moreover, it is gluten-free and thus, has an added advantage for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
  • It’s low Glycemic Index(GI) value, helps in better blood sugar regulation, decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Quinoa has several cardiovascular benefits.
Dietary Information
  • 3/4th cup of quinoa provides 8 grams of protein – approximately similar to 1 cup of yogurt, and about double the amount of protein in an equivalent amount of brown rice.
  • The high total protein content of quinoa and its outstanding amino acid composition makes it a fantastic source of plant protein in any meal plan.
  • Quinoa is a good source of many minerals including iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Individual Concerns
  • Quinoa tends to be a little more expensive than other grains.
  • The flavored versions may contain unwanted preservatives.

Bottom Line

The outstanding overall nutrient richness of quinoa is reflected in its high-quality proteins, its healthy mix of soluble and insoluble fibers, and its wealth of mineral nutrients, including zinc, copper, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. This food is also a good source of folate and contains many other B vitamins in substantial amounts.

9. Oats & Oatmeal: ~13g of protein per 100g


Oats are whole grains packed full of nutrients to help keep your body healthy. Protein-packed, full of fiber and low on fat, oats are designed to boost your energy levels and help you lead a healthy lifestyle. They are not only good for the stomach but are interestingly super filling, satisfying, and versatile. Oats contain a wide range of nutrients like fiber, vitamin E, essential fatty acids, etc. which make them top the healthy food charts.

Health Benefits
  • Oats are food that seems to provide us with unusually helpful digestive support.
  • Oats help in regulating the blood sugar level.
  • Oats support cardiovascular health.
Dietary Information
  • ¼ cup of dry unprocessed oats typically providing us with 6-7 grams of protein and 4-5 grams of fiber.
Individual Concerns
  • Few people are diagnosed with celiac disease to some of the types of proteins present in oats.

Bottom Line

Oats are an excellent source of manganese and molybdenum. They are also a very good source of phosphorus as well as a good source of copper, biotin, vitamin B1, magnesium, dietary fiber, chromium, zinc, and protein. In the phytonutrient category, oats provide valuable amounts of beta-glucans and saponins.

10. Buckwheat: ~13g of protein per 100g


Half a cup of buckwheat is sure to assimilate in itself 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and magnesium. It contains proteins which in combination with amino acids helps reduce cholesterol levels and acts as a repellent for diabetes and obesity.

Health Benefits
  • Buckwheat is rich with disease-fighting antioxidants.
  • The high fiber content helps improve digestion.
  • It is free from gluten and is non-allergic.
  • Besides protein, it also provides important vitamins and minerals.
  • Diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
  • Buckwheat is also a good source of magnesium.
  • The nutrients in buckwheat may contribute to blood sugar control.
  • Buckwheat is high in insoluble fiber and can help women avoid gallstones.
  • Buckwheat has health-promoting potential equal to or even higher than that of Vegetables and Fruits.
  • Buckwheat is abundant in lignans that provide protection against heart disease.
  • Eating buckwheat at least 6 times each week is an especially good idea for postmenopausal women with high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other signs of cardiovascular disease
  • A diet rich in fiber from buckwheat offers significant protection against breast cancer.
  • Buckwheat is highly protective against childhood asthma.
Dietary Information
  • Buckwheat does not contain gluten.
  • Buckwheat can be a good substitute for wheat, oats, rye, and barley in a gluten-free diet.
Individual Concerns
  • The buckwheat diet is considered a mono diet. A mono diet substitutes all other foods with a single food item, meaning that you can eat nothing but buckwheat for three meals per day.
  • Detox or mono diets can be inimical to your health.
  • Eating only one food item for an extended period of time can deprive your body of vital nutrients that it needs to function properly. Therefore, it is necessary to consult the doctor before starting any mono diet.

Bottom Line

Buckwheat is a very good source of manganese and a good source of copper, magnesium, dietary fiber, and phosphorus. Buckwheat contains two flavonoids with significant health-promoting actions: rutin and quercetin. The protein in buckwheat is a high-quality protein, containing all eight essential amino acids, including lysine.

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