A common notion regarding vegetarian diet is that it lacks one of the vital nutrients – proteins. Fortunately, that is completely a myth. In fact, there are a whole lot of vegan sources of protein, most of them easily available in the market. It is just that you were not aware of it. So, if you are a vegetarian and you are wondering about how to get enough of proteins, it is time that you stop worrying because there are many protein sources for vegetarians. Today I am going to share the list of important protein source for vegetarians that can be consume to maintain good health. I know there is a large section of Indians out there who follow a vegetarian diet. Some of them are constantly looking for best vegetarian sources of protein. If you are a vegetarian and you are looking for protein rich foods, then here’s the post worth reading. Today, I am sharing the list of not one, or two, but 16 best protein source for vegetarians. Add these protein rich foods to your everyday diet and you will be able to maintain the required level of protein and live a healthy life.
What are the proteins and its key functions?
Protein is a very important nutrient that helps us maintain good health. They are nothing but complex molecules made of the amino acids that help in the structure of the body, in its proper functioning and in regulating the various physiological processes going inside our system. They are a very essential macronutrient and constitute about 17% of your body weight.
Some of the main functions that proteins perform are as follows:
- Leads to proper metabolic functioning
- Increases your immunity
- Leads to molecule transportation
- Promotes the growth of the cells and differentiation
- Strengthens your muscles
- Keeps your nails strong and prevent their easy breakage
- Promotes proper growth of hair
- Repairs damaged skin
- Transmission of nerve muscles
Now, that you know how important proteins are, it is important that all you vegetarians take proper note on the important protein source for vegetarians, and see to it that you include these protein rich foods in your daily diet. In fact, even the non-vegetarians may consider adding these foods to their diet.
Now, you must be thinking that what is complete protein? Well, complete protein is a source of protein that will include all the 9 important amino acids. In total, there are around 20 amino acids and joining same/different amino acids in different combinations leads to different proteins as per the requirement of your body.
Depending on whether the system can synthesize the amino acids or requires an external source for any particular amino acids, they are divided into the essential (which needs to be acquired from a food source) and non-essential amino acids (which can be synthesized in the body). There are 9 essential amino acids. However, you need both the essential and the non-essential amino acids for your system to perform at optimal level. So, you need to take note of that while including food items in your system.
But, what is the amount of protein required by our body on a daily basis? That’s exactly what we are going to discuss below.
How much protein does our system requires daily?
The daily recommended amount of protein required by our system is 0.8 g- 1.6 gm per kg body weight. However, the intake of the protein also depends on whether you are leading a sedentary lifestyle or a highly active one. The athletes generally require eating a little more than the daily recommended amount, as they are highly active.
Now, hopefully you have got a nice idea about proteins, their importance and the amount of protein required by the body. So, let’s check the best protein source for vegetarians now.
16 best source of protein for vegetarians (protein rich foods)
Even a vegetarian diet can contain a lot of protein, so if you are a vegetarian or vegan and needs to balance the amount of protein in your system, then here is the list of best source of protein for vegetarians.
You can easily make lentils a part of daily diet as they are one of the best sources of plant protein and are also easily available in the market. There is around 18g of protein per 1 cup of lentil.
Apart from being great source of protein, lentils are also rich in other important nutrients including dietary fiber, calcium, zinc, folate, Vitamin A, C, K, niacin, potassium, selenium etc. all of which are necessary for your system to perform well. Moreover, they possess antioxidant properties and also are anti-cancerous in nature. They also are beneficial in reducing the chances of having cardiovascular issues, ease inflammations and also help in regulating blood sugar, blood pressure levels in body.
I generally would recommend you to eat mixed lentils as that will help you in getting different nutrients present in different kind of lentils. You may also add some veggies and make lentil soups and add minimal spices and salt. Trust me, it is both healthy as well as tasty and a great source of protein and other nutrients.
Here is the list of lentils to look out for:
- Pink lentils (masoor daal)
- Indian brown lentils (whole masoor daal)
- Mung beans (hare moog)
- Husked and split black gram (uraddaal)
- Black gram lentils (whole uraddaal)
- Split pigeon peas (toordaal)
- Split chickpeas (chanadaal)
The next in the list of important protein source for vegan and vegetarians for maintaining good health is seitan. It is nothing but the main wheat gluten that has a resemblance with cooked meat. There is around 21g protein per 1 ounce of seitan.
Besides being very rich in protein, it also contains other nutrients like selenium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron and potassium. You may easily cook it the way meat is cooked and consume it. However, if you have got Celiac disease or have gluten sensitivity, then you must avoid eating it.
The very ordinary looking beans are very nutritious especially when it comes to proteins. You will get around 8 g proteins per 1 cup. The other nutrients you will get from the various beans are Vitamin C, iron, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and omega 3 fatty acids, all of which are crucial for healthy functioning of your system.
And, if you consume different beans on frequent basis, then that can help you in shedding your belly fat as well. Also, it will help in regulating the LDL cholesterol levels in body and in giving you protection from getting affected by Diabetes and any kind of cardiovascular diseases. The black beans also have the ability to lower the GI of the particular food to which they are added.
Please make sure you include the following types of beans in your diet for getting all round benefits as well as for balancing protein levels in body.
- White beans
Tofu and tempeh
Making tofu and tempeh a part of your diet is one of the best ways to maintain proper levels of protein in your system, as both of them are quite rich in protein. Tofu contains around 10g protein per ½ cup (of firm tofu) and there is around 15.5g of protein per ½ cup of tempeh. Both of them are soy products and besides containing protein, they are also rich in various Vitamins and minerals.
Soy contains a rich amount of polyphenols, phytic acid, phytoestrogens, and saponins, which are very healthy according to studies. So, make sure you are eating tofu and tempeh. Simply have them after grinding or pan-frying them. You may even add them to sandwiches and salads or make curry.
Seeds and nuts
Make sure you are eating enough seeds and nuts as these are one of the most important protein source for vegetarians and vegans for maintaining good health. There are about 1-6 gm of protein per tablespoon depending on the variety you pick. Let me give you few examples:
Here is a list of seeds and nuts and the amount of protein they contain:
- Pumpkin seeds- 4g per tablespoon
- Hemp seeds- 5g per heaped tablespoon
- Ground linseed- 3g per tablespoon
- Sunflower seeds- 6g per ounce
- Walnuts- 3g protein for every 3 whole walnuts
- Almonds- 1g for ever 6 almonds
- Pistachios- 1g of protein per 10 pistachios
- Cashew nuts- 3g per 10 cashew nuts
Besides proteins, the various seeds and nuts are also loaded with dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, phytochemicals, and minerals like calcium, selenium, iron, potassium and zinc. They also possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So, basically a lot of goodness in one seed or nut. So, make sure you eat them frequently.
Simply add them to your breakfast bowl, salads, smoothies or simply snack upon a handful of them whenever you want to.
No one is unknown to the amazing health benefits that spinach bestows upon us and it is also rich in protein and hence deserves a spot in the list of important protein source for vegetarians and vegan. There is around 5g of protein per cup of spinach which is good to help you remain strong and hearty.
Spinach is also rich in various Vitamins like K, A, B2, B6, C, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, dietary fiber, phosphorous and many others and gives protection from various diseases like Diabetes, anemia, cardiovascular issues etc. Hence, you cannot afford to miss out spinach from your diet chart at any cost.
Ezekiel bread is nothing but sprouted bread made of legumes and whole grains and is next in our list of important protein source for vegetarians and vegan for maintaining good health. There is about 12g of protein per 100g. It is also rich in Vitamin B1, dietary fiber, phosphorous, niacin, and magnesium.
However, Ezekiel is not free of gluten so if you are suffering from Celiac disease or is sensitive to gluten, you may avoid consuming it. For the rest, you may consume it like any regular bread in the form of sandwiches, toast etc.
Oats have already earned the level of being healthy and why not, after all, they are a powerhouse of nutrients including the very vital nutrient protein. You will get around 17g of protein per 100g of oats.
Oats are actually the cereal grains that are enjoyed in the form of oatmeal, rolled oats and instant oats. Apart from being rich in protein, they also contain omega 3 fatty acids that are really essential in building lean muscle mass and in reducing any kind of inflammation. Also, oats contain folate, zinc, calcium, phosphorous, iron and magnesium, all of which are vital for healthy living.
In addition, consuming oats on a regular basis will also help you to keep your blood sugar levels in check and to improve your blood lipid profile, leading to effective weight loss. Therefore, please do consume oatmeal bowl as breakfast or lunch or simply add some oats to your smoothies.
Amaranth, Quinoa, Teff
The next in list is Amaranth, Quinoa and Teff as all of them are rich in protein content. Every 100g of amaranth, quinoa and teff contains around 4g protein which is good enough to meet your daily requirements.
Amaranth and Quinoa belongs to the amaranth family and have got same nutritional value. On the other hand, teff belongs to the grass family and looks more or less like Quinoa but in the case of teff, the grains are smaller. But, what the 3 of them have in common besides being rich in protein is that all of them are pseudo cereals that are gluten free. They also are rich in dietary fiber, Vitamins and various minerals. They contain fewer calories and contain essential amino acids like threonine and leucine.
If you want to lose few kilos as well as want to balance the protein content in your system, then it is good if you make amaranth, quinoa and teff a part of your diet. You may consume them after cooking them with other veggies and mixing some herbs and nuts in it.
You may be unaware of it, but spirulina is an edible filamentous microorganism that is very rich in protein. You will get around 57g protein from every 100g of spirulina. Besides that, spirulina is also a good source of Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, gamma-linoleic acid, trace elements, antioxidants and a number of bioactive compounds.
Spirulina is also antiviral, antibacterial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous in nature, so you can easily conclude that it is one of the most useful food items that you can certainly never give a miss.
You can consume around 1-4g of spirulina on a regular basis but it will safe for you if you consult a good doctor at first.
Barley belongs to the grass family and is another cereal which is rich in protein. There is around 4g protein per 1 cup of barley. It is also a rich source of Vitamin A, K, riboflavin, folate, chlorine, and minerals like selenium, zinc, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
If you consume barley on a regular basis, it will help you lower the levels of blood glucose in your system and also give you protection from getting affected by Diabetes Type 2. Barley is also instrumental in giving a proper boost to your immune system, promotes proper movement of your bowels, alleviates fatigue, reduces inflammation, and also helps to fight various types of cancer.
You may consume barley water, make barley risotto or add it to soups and salads to gain the maximum benefits.
Edamame is basically soybeans in the pod. It is actually a Japanese word meaning stem beans as it is sold along with the stem. It is a good source of protein with per 100g containing 11g of protein. Besides protein, edamame is rich in Vitamins C, K, folate and minerals like magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, and zinc, all of which are very healthy for your system.
Edamame is in most cases, consumed blanched or boiled and may also be added to the salads. Some even consider it to be a good alternative of rice. You may eat edamame as a healthy snack as well.
This cereal is made from pre-boiled hulled kernels of rye, wheat, barley and oats. It is quite popular in the Mediterranean and the Middle East regions. Bulgur is very rich in protein with 100g of bulgur containing around 3g of protein and is hence in our list of important protein source for vegetarians and vegan for maintaining good health.
Bulgur is rich in calcium, folate, potassium, magnesium, and dietary fiber along with protein. You may make bulgur pilaf, bulgur and lentil salad and bread.
Wheatberry is the whole wheat with the bran, endosperm and kernel and it thus it has a higher nutritional value. As far as protein is concerned, it is high in proteinwith per ½ cup of wheatberry containing around 3.5g of protein.
The consumption of the whole grains was found to lower the risk of several diseases like cancer, Diabetes Type 2, heart related issues etc. So, eating wheatberry will be very beneficial for you. You can make pilaf and salads with wheatberry and consume them whenever you want to.
Vegan protein powder
If your body is deficient in protein, then you can start consuming vegan protein powder as they are undoubtedly one of the important protein sources for vegetarians and vegans for maintaining good health as suggested by its name itself. They generally contain around 20-30g of protein per serving which is good enough to balance your protein levels.
You will get many vegan protein powders in the market, all of which are made from different plant protein sources. There are also protein powders that are gluten free and GMO free which are especially beneficial for having strong bones and muscles. So, make your favorite vegan protein powder a part of your diet and remain strong and healthy.
Now you might be a little surprised to see egg in the list of protein source for vegan and vegetarians but the fact is that there are many vegetarians who do include eggs as a part of their diet. In fact, I myself have many vegetarian friends who do that. So, if in your case too, eggs are welcomed, then you can surely consume them as they are very rich in protein. There is around 6g of protein per egg which is like really good.
Besides the good taste, eggs are in general very healthy and if you include them frequently in your diet, then that will help keep your muscles strong, boost metabolic functioning, and keep your hunger pangs in check for long. They also contain a host of flat-belly and health-promoting nutrient like for example chlorine, an important fat burner that also is crucial in maintaining your brain health.
So, eggs are a good option for all you vegetarians out there. And, you already know there are various ways of including eggs in your diet, so I do not think I need to tell you anything about it. Just add them to your breakfast, lunch or dinner in any form whenever you want to.
Over to you: which is your favorite protein rich vegetarian food?
Well, undoubtedly, protein is one of the most vital nutrients that our body needs to remain healthy and strong. But often we feel that a non-vegetarian diet contains more of protein while a vegetarian food may lack it. Well, that is a misconception as even the vegetarians have a lot of options in their hand when it comes to eating protein rich food items to stabilize the protein content in the body.
I have already shared a list of 16 best protein sources for vegetarians and vegans; can be add to your everyday diet. Some of them are quite common and I am sure you have already eaten some of these foods. Few of the foods may sound a little unknown to you but they are also really good options for a vegetarian or a vegan. And, if you are a vegetarian who keeps the option of eggs open, then that is definitely something which will help you gain the benefits of protein.
So, that is all I had to share regarding the best vegetarian sources of protein. I hope by now, you have already jotted down what to include in your day to day diet if you want to get more protein. However, if you know about any other vegan source of protein that you consume, please feel free to share by commenting below.
Which of the above is by the way your favorite food source for protein?
Until then, stay healthy, eat healthy.
Eliana the chief editor at bodyandbeans is a professional yoga instructor and a fitness freak. She has done her master’s in history from Kolkata University. She is passionate about healthy eating and living practices.