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A Vegan’s Guide to Protein: 20 Protein-Dense Foods To Add to Your Diet

28 Sep 2018

As a vegan or vegetarian, you might find it difficult to eat enough food to meet your daily protein requirements. However, you might already be eating your fill of protein and not even know!

Today’s recommendations suggest that the average person needs about .38 grams of protein per 1 pound of body weight, although this number would increase if you are more active or if you are looking to increase muscle mass. A 120-pound woman needs at least 45.6 grams of protein a day and a 200-pound man should consume at least 76 grams of protein in any given day. Both of these figures are not a lot in themselves, but when you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, the tiny portions of protein in your food might take longer to meet your daily needs, or so you thought . . .

To help you meet your daily protein needs, here is a handy list of 20 vegetarian- and vegan-friendly sources of protein: 


Broccoli is such a flavorful and versatile veggie and a single cup loads you with fiber, vitamin C, 4 grams of protein, and just 54 calories!



Edamame, which is just a soybean in the pod, is a fun way to get in your protein. You can heat these in the microwave just as you would popcorn and then remove the shell and enjoy. They load you with 8 grams of protein per half cup.


Green Peas

These tiny veggies can be tossed in just about every entree for additional flavor and nutrients. Toss them here and there throughout your day, and pack in 7.9 grams of protein for each cup.



One cup of asparagus (4-6 chopped stalks, depending on size) racks up 4 grams of protein as well as high levels of B vitamins, folate and other key nutrients.



With healthy fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, spinach is a great way to add some nutrition and protein into your diet. A cup of raw spinach clocks in at .9 grams of protein, so toss some into your morning smoothie or mix it with your other greens in your salad



Beans, beans, they are good for your heart, the more you eat the more you . . . Beans, no matter the variety, are great sources of protein and they contain filling fiber to bulk up your next dish. Black eyed peas and green beans each contain 8 grams of protein per half cup, while kidney beans contain 6.5 grams of protein per half cup. Lentils take the cake with 9 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber per half cup.   



This legume has so many uses and can be tossed in every sandwich, on every salad and in any entree recipe, to add bulk and 18 grams of filling fiber per cup cooked!



AKA garbanzo beans, chickpeas are great for salads, entrees or blended into smooth and creamy hummus. Chickpeas have 7.3 grams of protein for each half-cup serving and they are high in fiber and low in calories – the best combination for a healthy meal.



Go nuts for nuts! Nuts are a delicious source of protein. Nuts are high in calories and offer about 5 grams of protein per ounce in their raw form. Almonds have 7 grams of protein per cup. Whichever nut you try, the high protein and fat content will keep you full and satisfied.


Nut Butter

Peanut butter has about 8 grams of protein for each 2 tablespoon serving, but watch out for added sugar and hydrogenated oil (yuck!). Or, try almond butter which punches in 7 grams of protein for a 2 tablespoon serving.



Who would have known that oatmeal is a protein powerhouse? Oatmeal is fiber-rich and has three times the protein of brown rice, clocking in at an impressive 6 grams of protein for each cup of cooked oatmeal. Toss in some nuts, almond milk and cocoa powder and you have a protein party! Or, sprinkle some into your morning smoothie to make it more protein-dense and filling.



If you have not yet integrated quinoa into your diet, what are you waiting for?! Add some agave, fruit and almond milk, and have a sweet breakfast. Add veggies, tofu and some tahini for a flavor-packed dinner. Toss some in your vegetable soup to add bulk, or serve it over greens and a light dressing for a refreshing salad. Known as a complete protein, this versatile grain contains 8 grams of protein per cup and has essential amino acids for a healthy body.

Photo credit: Vegan Liftz



Seeds can be a great source of protein and a welcome addition to many dishes. Sunflower seeds contain almost 6 grams of protein per ounce and poppy seeds and sesame seeds each contain 1.6 grams of protein per tablespoon, so toss these bad boys in your smoothies, salads and anywhere else that you could use a little texture and boost of protein.


Chia Seeds

Yes, chia seeds deserve their own category outside of the seeds grouping. These tiny seeds contain 5 grams of protein for each 2 tablespoon serving, but due to their high fiber content, these are a great, filling addition to any dish, dessert or smoothie.



AKA blue green algae, this nutrient-rich superfood packs in 4 grams of protein for each tablespoon and offers 80% of your daily iron needs. Add this to baked goods or your next smoothie for a nutrient boost.


No, this is not a travel destination but a nutrient- and protein-dense savory spread that can be used on almost anything. Use this to replace mayonnaise on sandwiches and get a punch of flavor and essential vitamins. Tahini offers 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving and it has tons of iron and B vitamins.



Of course, you were waiting for tofu to be on this list. Tofu, which is made from soybeans, offers one of the highest concentrations of protein in a vegan source. When you shop for tofu, not any kind will do! Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops being grown, so it’s important to shop for organic and GMO-free tofu. Tofu boasts about 20 grams of protein per half cup (depending on brand), so try it in your next recipe or dress it up to make it your main course.


Unsweetened Soy Milk

This is a great alternative to traditional milk, and it can be used in place of milk in almost every instance. Soy milk contains, on average, 80 calories per cup and 7 grams of protein.



This is a meat substitute that is similar to tofu, but it contains a whopping 6 grams of protein per ounce. Use it in your next recipe in place of poultry.


Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Yes, you can get protein from chocolate, specifically this type that you can add to smoothies or baked goods. This contains just 12 calories and 1.1 grams of protein per tablespoon.


The next time someone asks you about how you manage to get in all of your protein requirements if you don’t eat meat, let them know about all of the high protein sources that are non-meat based (and without the artery clogging saturated fat). Use this list on your next shopping trip to identify healthy, high-protein sources that will kick your recipes up a notch!  


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