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26 Delicious Vegan Sources of Protein (The Ultimate Guide!)

Protein is important to our health, our workouts and recovery, and our brain function; without it, we wouldn’t function at our best and our bodies wouldn’t be able to support us long-term. However, the problem with the view of protein in our country is where we’re getting the majority of our protein from: animals. Regardless of different opinions out there about including meat as a part of our regular diets, we can’t ignore the fact that meat consumption is causing our major environmental, health, and humanitarian problems. When you put all the pieces together, it is time we start looking for a real sustainable alternative. Say hello to plants!

The Myth About Protein in a Plant-Based Diet
There used to be a myth that we needed to consume different types of foods to form “complete proteins” in the body. While this shouldn’t necessarily be ignored completely, it’s also not as important as we once thought. There are plenty of complete sources of plant-based protein that we can eat. Our bodies can also make complete proteins when we eat a variety of higher protein foods, even if those foods aren’t necessarily eaten together (such as rice and beans, a classic example of protein pairings). One struggle, however, is that many people aren’t sure how to replace the meat on their plate with a plant-based protein they’ll love and enjoy as much as meat. So, the simple thing is to quit focusing on just what our plates look like at dinner.

How to Rethink Protein Once and For All
Get rid of the picture of a dinner dish in your mind that shows a piece of meat, veggies, and a whole grain. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with eating protein at a meal, it’s also not mandatory for getting what you need. You can incorporate protein all throughout the day on a plant-based diet, especially in snacks, where it’s most often overlooked, without really needing a massive source at every meal. You can also eat foods that contain smaller amounts of protein at each meal that the body can use efficiently to form proteins on its own, even if these foods aren’t as high as the proteins in meat. Remember, the body can only use so much protein at one time anyway. What it can’t digest the rest of during a meal can go to waste and even be harmful to the body. A little here and there throughout the day (especially focusing on protein at breakfast to regulate blood sugar) is ultimately best.

Try these 25 plant-based proteins and see just how satisfying they really can be!

1. Lentils
Lentil recipes

Lentils are a protein favorite of many, especially those on vegetarian and vegan diets looking to pump up the protein fast. Lentils add 9 grams of protein to your meal per half cup, along with nearly 15 grams of fiber!

2. Tofu
Tofu recipes

What used to be seen as a boring vegan protein source has now been transformed into everything from breakfast to entrees, and yes, even desserts too. This protein source’s main attractive nature is that it can be flavored however you want and adds a rich, creamy texture or chewy texture to your food depending on if you buy firm or soft tofu.

3. Black Beans
Black bean recipes

Black beans are one of the richest sources of antioxidants and one of the healthiest beans of all beans and legumes. Their dark color indicates their strong antioxidant content and they also have less starch than some other beans. One favorite way to enjoy them is to make black bean burritos, but that’s not the only way to use them.

4. Quinoa
Quinoa Recipes

With 8 grams per cup, this gluten-free seed-like grain is a fantastic source of protein, magnesium, antioxidants, and fiber. You can cook it, bake it, and even stir into stir-fry quinoa dishes and more.

5. Amaranth
Amaranth Burgers recipe

Amaranth is similar to quinoa and teff in its nutritional content, though much tinier in size. This ancient pseudo-grain (also a seed) adds 7 grams of protein to your meals in just one cup of cooked amaranth. It’s also a fantastic source of iron, B vitamins, and magnesium.

6. Soy Milk
Soy milk Recipes

Love soy or hate soy, it’s actually the controversial little legume, isn’t it? Soy milk, if bought organic, can be a part of a healthy diet. There is conflicting research regarding its effects on cancer, but many studies show it can help actually prevent cancer rather than causes it (unlike meat). The key is to buy non-GMO soy and not to buy it in the form of highly processed soy protein isolates. Try soy milk, which packs 8 grams of protein in just one cup, offers 4 grams of heart-healthy fats, and is rich in phytosterols that assist with good heart health. Buy organic, unsweetened as the healthiest option.

7. Green Peas
Pea recipes

Packed with protein and fiber, peas are so yummy! They contain 8 grams of protein per cup, so add a little of these sweet treats throughout the day. Bonus … peas are also rich in leucine, an amino acid crucial to metabolism and weight loss that’s hard to find in most plant-based foods.

8. Artichokes
Artichoke Recipes

Containing 4 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup, artichoke hearts are a great way to boost fiber, protein, and they are filling but low in calories.

9. Hemp Seeds
Hemp Recipes

Hemp seeds are a complete protein that are hard NOT to love. Packing 13 grams in just 3 tablespoons, these tiny seeds are easy to add anywhere.

10. Oatmeal
Oatmeal Recipes

Oatmeal has three times the protein of brown rice with less starch and more fiber. It’s also a great source of magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins.

11. Pumpkin Seeds
Why Everyone Should Add Pumpkin Seeds to Their Diet

Pumpkin seeds are one of the most overlooked sources of iron and protein out there, containing 8 gram of protein per 1/4 cup. They’re also an excellent source of magnesium as well, not to mention pretty tasty and oh so crunchy!

12. Chia Seeds
Chia Recipes

Chia, chia, chia … what can’t this super seed do? Chia has 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons and is also a complete protein source.

13. Tempeh
Tempeh Recipes

Tempeh is a fermented form of soy that’s high in protein, easy to digest, and rich in probiotics. A favorite among many people, it’s a meaty ingredients you should at least try. Tempeh it up with protein-rich recipes for 12 grams per cup!

14. Hemp Milk
The Amazing World of Plant-Based Milks: Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is becoming more and more popular just like other plant-based milks. You can make your own at home or try buying it at the store. Hemp milk packs 5 grams in one cup. You can make your own by blending 1/4 cup hemp seeds with 2 cups of water, straining, and using like you would almond milk. You don’t have to soak hemp seeds like you do almonds, and can adjust the ratio of seeds to water depending on how rich and creamy you’d like your milk.

15. Edamame
Edamame

Filled with antioxidants and fiber, not to mention protein, edamame is the young green soybean and so delicious! It’s filled with a nutty sweetness and packs in 8.5 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup. Add to salads, soups, burgers, soba noodles, and more. You can even snack on it raw and roast it like chickpeas for a crunchy snack.

16. Spinach
Vegan Spinach Recipes

Filled with 5 grams of protein per cup, spinach is a great leafy green to enjoy as much as you can. We don’t have to tell you how to use it though … we’re sure you’re already loving this green plenty.

17. Black Eyed Peas
Black Eyed Peas Recipes

Black eyed peas might seem boring, but they pack 8 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup. Like most other beans, they’re also a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. You can use them in soup or anywhere else you’d normally use beans. Their mild and nutty flavor makes a great hearty dinner!

18. Broccoli
Broccoli Recipes

This lovely veggie contains 4 grams of protein in just 1 cup, which isn’t too bad considering that same cup also contains 30 percent of your daily calcium needs, along with vitamin C, fiber, and B vitamins for only 30 calories.

19. Asparagus
Asparagus Recipes

Filled with 4 grams per cup (about 4-6 stalks, chopped), asparagus is also a great source of B vitamins and folate.

20. Green Beans
Green Beans Recipes

Green beans pack 4 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup, along with vitamin B6, and they’re low in carbs but high in fiber.

21. Almonds
How to Make Homemade Almond Butter

Almonds have 7 grams per cup of fresh nuts or in 2 tablespoons of almond butter. And what’s not to love about this healthy nut?

22. Spirulina
Reasons You Need More Spirulina in Your Life

This blue green algae may look a bit scary to newbies, but it’s so easy to use, especially if you add it to a smoothie with other ingredients like berries, cacao, or some banana. Spirulina adds 80 percent of your daily iron needs and 4 grams of protein in one tablespoon; it’s also a complete amino acid source … who knew!?

23. Tahini
Tahini is AWESOME

This yummy spread that can be used anywhere nut butters can is just filled with filling protein. Containing 8 grams in two tablespoons, tahini is also a fantastic source of iron and B vitamins, along with magnesium and potassium.

24. Nutritional Yeast
Benefits of Nutritional Yeast for Your Blood Sugar

Who knew this cheesy ingredient was packed with so much nutrition? Nutritional yeast contains 8 grams of protein in just 2 tablespoons!

25. Chickpeas
Ginger Garlic Chickpeas

Not just for hummus, a 1/2 cup of chickpeas will also give you a nice dose of protein (6-8 grams depending on the brand). You can also use hummus, though note that it’s not as high in servings as chickpeas since it contains other ingredients. Try incorporating chickpeas into meals more often when you can.

26. Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter Recipes

A favorite pre-workout food of many, peanut butter is a classic North American staple everyone loves. Thankfully, just 2 tablespoons also gives you 8 grams of pure, delicious protein too!

April 2019 
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16 Reasons To GO NUTS For Nuts

BY DR. RONALD HOFFMAN  NOVEMBER 29, 2013 

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine underscores the health benefits of nuts. Researchers followed over a hundred thousand men and women over several decades and concluded that eating nuts helped them stave off the Grim Reaper. Seven or more servings of nuts per week cut the risk of dying by a third! (“A serving” was defined as one ounce, which is about one handful of almonds.)

Specifically, those who at nuts five or more times per week were found to enjoy a 29% reduction in death from heart disease; an 11% reduction in death from stroke; a 23% reduction in death from infection; a 24% reduction in death from respiratory diseases; a 29% reduction in death from kidney disease; and an 11% reduction in death from cancer.

It’s long been known that nuts are heart-healthy. A now-famous study of Seventh-Day Adventists who consume a low-fat, plant-based diet compared non-nut eaters to nut-eaters, anticipating that the nuts (which are high in calories and fat) might raise their heart disease risk. Au contraire!

Even though they were already on a heart-healthy, predominantly vegetarian diet, those Adventists who consumed nuts at least five times a week had a 48% lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and a 51% lower risk of a nonfatal heart attack compared to those who consumed nuts less than once weekly.

Ironically, the Federal Government doesn’t want nut manufacturers to broadcast these benefits to consumers. In a recent case, the Food and Drug Administration sent a sharply-worded warning letter to Diamond Food, Inc., a manufacturer of walnuts, ordering them to “cease and desist” from making medical claims about their products. They even threatened to confiscate the “misbranded” nuts as illegal contraband!

It seems that, the way the officials see it, if nuts are to be advertised as reducing the risk of a specific disease, they must undergo the same rigorous application process as drugs, an insurmountable regulatory hurdle that would require years of wrangling and hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, and fortunately, we don’t need FDA approval to enjoy the many health benefits of nuts.

Here are 16 reasons why you might want to include them frequently in your diet.

1. Nuts are a perfect VEGAN food.

With the current emphasis on plant-based diets, nuts provide a great complement to grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes. They add protein and healthy oils to balance vegetarian diets that might otherwise tend to be carb-rich and skimpy in beneficial fats and certain vitamins and minerals.

2. Nuts are PALEO.

That is, with the exception of peanuts, which are actually legumes, sometimes spurned by hard-core Paleo adherents because of their lectin content. Tree nuts and seeds are ancient staples of the human diet to which millions of years of evolution have made us well-adapted.

3. Nuts are LOW-CARB, low GI.

The Glycemic Index, or GI, is a determinant of how quickly the sugars in foods are digested, absorbed, and released into the blood stream. High-GI foods are thought to overwhelm the body’s sugar-handling capabilities, resulting in progression towards metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Nuts are relatively low-carb to begin with, and the carbs they contain are released slowly after a meal. They make a great snack to stave off sugar-craving or hypoglycemia.

4. Nuts promote SATIETY.

While nuts are caloric, eating nuts promotes a sensation of fullness that fends off the munchies for less healthy fat-laden or sugar-laden junk food. Some studies suggest that adding nuts to your diet can actually help you lose weight.

5. Nuts are high in FIBER.

While not traditionally thought of as a high-fiber food, nuts are rich in soluble fiber, the best kind for reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

nuts

6. Nuts are a rich source of PHYTOSTEROLS.

These plant sterols are thought to bind to cholesterol and help to sweep it harmlessly out of the body; phytosterols are even recognized by the American Heart Association as a natural way to reduce heart disease risk.

7. Nuts contain healthy fats and oils.

Nuts are rich in the essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acid. Note the word essential: the body cannot make these oils on its own, and we must obtain them from outside sources. Lack of these essential fatty acids can cause dry skin, inflammation, infertility, mood and memory problems and promote heart disease.

8. Nuts are a great source of Vitamin E.

Getting your vitamin E from a pill may not be as good as getting natural vitamin E from nuts and seeds. There are actually eight different forms of natural vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols: nuts deliver the full spectrum of this critical antioxidant.

9. Nuts are rich in B vitamins.

Nuts provide many vital B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.

10. Nuts are a source of critical POLYPHENOLS.

Polyphenols are plant-derived antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals. Nuts contain a wide variety of polyphenols, including resveratrol, lutein, cryptoxanthin and many others. Some seeds, like flaxseed and sesame, are rich in lignans, a specific subtype of polyphenols that may protect against reproductive cancers.

11. Nuts are the richest plant source of ZINC.

A mineral critical for immunity and reproductive function, strict vegetarians sometimes don’t get enough.

12. Nuts are high in MAGNESIUM.

Consider magnesium the energy mineral; its lack may be felt as fatigue or irritability and it can even increase the risk of heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure. Magnesium’s role in bone metabolism is often underestimated.

13. Nuts deliver COPPER.

Unless you fancy liver or oysters, nuts and seeds are your best bet as dietary sources for the essential trace mineral copper.

14. Nuts provide SELENIUM.

Just two or three Brazil nuts per day can give you all the immune-boosting selenium your body needs, especially if you’re not fond of fish or meat.

15. Nuts are PORTABLE.

Unlike baked chicken breast or poached salmon, a small packet of nuts can easily be stashed in your briefcase, purse or backpack, ready to provide an instant, non-perishable hunger-banishing snack in the office, on the commute, or on the trail.

16. Nuts are VERSATILE.

They can be used as stand-alone snack foods; spread on sandwiches (with all the nut butter varieties available, you don’t need to get hung up on just traditional PB); sprinkled on salads or vegetable side dishes; mixed with grains to provide a flavor accent; as a gluten-free crust for baked fish or chicken; or even power-blended into your favorite smoothie.