10 Best Foods High In Vegan Protein
Fitting enough protein into our diets can be tricky, especially for vegans. Partly because plant-based protein is often made up of ‘incomplete’ proteins, so eating the right plant-based foods is vital for proper maintenance and growth. These 10 foods are vegan-friendly, high in protein and can serve as a delicious way to increase your daily protein intake.
On that note, many vegans opt to use (complete) protein supplements to get extra nutrition. These are the 10 best vegan-friendly protein powder supplements to take in a pinch.
1. Classic Hummus and Pita Bread
Made from smashed Chickpeas, Hummus and Pita Bread is a traditional middle-eastern staple that’s been served as a healthy snack and meal side for centuries. This foodstuff has since made recent popularity among Western nations for its excellent plant-based nutritional value, taste and simplicity.
On average, each 100-gram serving of hummus contains 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of highly soluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber works by expanding into a gel-like substance in your stomach and helps you feel satiated. This helps keep you full and reduce overeating.
Hummus also contains other trace nutrients
Hummus has several essential micronutrients your body needs to stay healthy like magnesium and phosphorus. Magnesium is an electrolyte that regulates biochemical reactions like muscle contraction, protein synthesis, blood glucose control and nerve transmission . Moreover, Phosphorus plays an important role in cellular metabolism and is a major factor in maintaining proper bone health .
Where to get it:
You can make it yourself or buy it from your local market. A quality store-bought hummus should have a minimal amount of ingredients like chickpeas, oil, tahini, garlic, salt, and no added sugars. Some good brands to look for are Sabra and Hope. If you wish to make it at home, try one of these delicious recipes!
2. Lovely Legumes (Lentils)
While incomplete, Lentils are among the richest sources of natural plant-based protein and fiber in the world. Each 100g serving of cooked lentils has about 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of dietary fiber.
Both types of dietary fiber explained: soluble and insoluble:
- Soluble fiber readily absorbs water and swells up to form a gel-like compound. This type of fiber has been seen to help lower elevated cholesterol, induce satiety and balance blood glucose .
- Unlike its soluble counterpart, insoluble fiber does not absorb water. This type of fiber increases stool bulk and helps improve the movement and elimination of waste out of the intestines .
Lentils are one of the most naturally alkaline vegetables and may help balance pH levels . Having a proper bodily pH is important for balancing gut-flora which play an important role in digestion, nutrient absorption and help to maintain overall health. Lentils also supply beneficial nutrients like manganese and vitamin B6.
What to do:
Lentils are an inexpensive way to obtain high amounts of healthy plant-based protein. Good news is preparing your own is easy. For whole lentils, bring a pot of water to boil, add the lentils, cover the pot with a lid and then let the water simmer for about 15-20 minutes. If you’re low on time, you can likely get pre-cooked lentils from your market. That said, check out these amazing recipes for tasty lentils!
3. Almond Nut Butter
Almond butter is one of the most wholly nutrient-dense sources of plant-based protein. Each tbsp of almond butter supplies upwards of 3.5 grams clean protein. One serving (tbsp) of almond butter also has about 1.6 grams of healthy dietary fiber which helps aid in digestion and keep you feeling satiated.
Like most nuts, almond butter contains omega-3 fatty acids which serve to lower inflammation, reduce blood pressure, prevent atrial fibrillation and also improve endothelial (cellular lining) function . What’s more, consuming almond butter has been seen to produce a moderate yet significant decrease in ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the body . So, in addition to providing loads of protein and fiber, almond butter helps support brain function, maintain healthy skin, and improve cardiovascular (heart) health.
What to eat it with:
This nut butter is easily one of the best most versatile sources of vegan protein. Almond butter goes great in a variety of dishes and recipes, but our favorite makes use of both lentils and almond butter (Lentils in Peanut Sauce). For a list of 10 awesome recipes, we seriously suggest checking these out.
4. Soybean Edamame
Edamame is basically a fancy way of saying cooked soybeans. Originating in Asia, it’s one of the ‘simpler’ foods to make our list and is quite rich in vegan-friendly protein. Just one cooked cup of edamame can provide about 17 grams of protein, or about 34% of the FDA’s recommended daily value . Furthermore, one cooked cup may contain between 8-9 grams of dietary fiber. That’s the same amount of fiber you’d expect to gain from eating four slices of whole-grain bread.
Edamame also sports a decent micronutrient complex that consists of Vitamin C, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium and Vitamin B6 . While we wouldn’t solely rely on it for its micro-nutritional value, it’s certainly beneficial to have around in your diet. Proper amounts of the nutrients Calcium and Iron are critical for optimal health, which is a large part of Edamame’s big appeal. This is due to a low level of Iron and B6 typically associated with vegan diets, which can lead to unwanted deficiencies and symptoms, particularly when compared to what carnivores receive.
How to make it:
What’s great about Edamame is that it’s easy to prepare and doesn’t need much seasoning. This soy foodstuff has excellent culinary potential and is generally best served steamed with light oil and salt. If you’re looking for something with a little more excitement, we highly recommend checking out these vegan-friendly edamame recipes. We tried a few and were blown away by how delectable they were.
5. Tasty Tempeh
Tempeh is a traditional soy food originating in Indonesia. It’s made by introducing cultured soybeans to a fermentation that lasts anywhere between one and two days. Like Tofu, Tempeh is made of soy, however, it typically has more nutritious characteristics due to its retention of the whole bean and fermentation, which has been shown to disable antinutrients in other foodstuffs . That said, each 100-gram serving of Tempeh will usually provide about 19 grams of easily digestible plant-based protein.
It doesn’t just only have lots of protein, either. Tempeh contains micronutrients like Calcium, Copper and a wide range of B Vitamins that the body needs to function properly . Because of its fermentation, tempeh is naturally high in probiotics.
Tasty Tempeh Ideas:
Tempeh can be used in a wide assortment of dishes for great results. Because Tempeh hasn’t become mainstream in Western culture yet as tofu has, you probably won’t find it at your local grocery market. This tasty foodstuff can be fried, baked and even added to soups. We found it goes best when added to teriyaki pasta and fried foods. For a delicious set of vegan-friendly recipes, check out this list by Self.
7. Pure Spirulina
For most people, algae probably wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a rich source of protein. Contained inside one 7-gram tbsp of Spirulina is 4 grams of high-quality protein, a small amount of dietary fiber. In contrast to its macros, Spirulina is one of the most micronutrient dense foods on Earth and contains essential nutrients like manganese, b-vitamins, iodine, and antioxidants.
What Spirulina lacks in fiber, though, it certainly makes up for with its health benefits. This is because people who regularly add spirulina to their diet tend to have less inflammation associated with irritated sinuses and allergies .
How to use it:
Turns out you can do a lot more with spirulina than just directly take it as a health supplement. One great way to add some to your diet is to combine it with shakes, sauces or use it with baked goods. The best method we suggest using is by adding some to your smoothie. Best part? It only takes 5 minutes to make! This recipe we’re referencing can be found here. Take a look and let us know what you think.
7. Classic Rolled Oats
Oats have been a longstanding staple of mankind’s diet for thousands of years and still are today more than ever. Rolled oats specifically are the kind you’d expect to find from say, an oatmeal packet. They’re rolled flat, lightly toasted, and differ from the more traditional style of oat groats in the sense that they’ve been slightly processed .
One cup of cooked oats – or a 43-gram packet – generally has 4-6 grams of protein and about 3-6 grams of dietary fiber, depending on the brand and its serving size. What’s great about oats is that they’re one of the most soluble grains in existence. And, because the fiber profile in oats is so dense, you’ll feel full much faster and won’t feel the need to overeat, which can negatively impact your digestive system .
In addition to scoring low on the glycemic index, which is great, oats have a special kind of highly-soluble fiber called beta-glucans, which are naturally occurring polysaccharides. Beta-glucans have been shown to support the immune system and might help inhibit certain types of cancerous tumor growth .
What to use oats in:
Rolled oats are a hugely popular grain food and are most popular in breakfast dishes, like oatmeal. It can also be used to make baked (or non-baked) protein bars, smoothies, shakes and porridge to name a few. The best ingredients to add to cooked rolled oats are fruit, yogurt, and spices like cinnamon. We recommend at least trying a few of the recipes by FitFoodieFinds. They’re to die for!
8. Kamut (Khorasan Wheat)
Kamut is an ancient type of grain that’s twice the size of modern-day wheat and is largely known for its nutritional properties. A 172-gram cup of cooked Kamut contains around 11 grams of protein and approximately 7 grams of soluble fiber. Kamut has a good nutritional complex that’s high in essentials like Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc and Vitamin B6.
Kamut has micronutrients essential for optimal health.
Some of these nutrients include the minerals manganese (100% DV) and Zinc. Manganese is key for supporting bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related issues . Zinc also helps keep bones strong, is used to regulate gene expression, and contributes to protein structure .
Eating foods with rich nutritional value like Kamut is important- especially for vegans. Consuming too few nutrients can lead to nutritional deficiencies that negatively impact your health.
Kamut has also been shown to reduce metabolic risk factors like ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, balance blood glucose, and have anti-inflammatory properties .
How to eat Kamut:
There’s a diverse range of amazing recipes you can cook kamut with. The best uses we’ve found is to use it as your pasta, bars, bake bread (pound bread especially), or add it to your salad in its whole form. It’s an incredibly versatile grain and can be found in most health food stores, like Whole Foods. Our favorite recipe is kamut and roasted veggies by Martha Stewart. We made it ourselves, and people – it’s so good.
9. Emperors Rice (Black Rice)
Black rice has a rather large cultural history for a grain. Often known as the “Forbidden” or “Emperors rice”, it was purely reserved for high royalty and the Emperor in ancient China . Since it’s spread, it’s become world renown for its excellent nutritional value and has become increasingly popular in Western countries. One cooked cup of black rice has roughly 10 grams of protein and is a rich source of soluble dietary fiber at about 4 grams per serving (one cooked cup).
Soluble fiber helps slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream and increase satiety . This is important for preventing issues like obesity, insulin resistance, and is generally good for optimal health.
Most of the antioxidants in black rice come from its pigment, which is also anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants protect organs from cellular damage by rampant molecules called free-radicals.
Best Used with: Burgers, Soups, Stir-Fry, Salads, Grain mixes
Black rice is quite the versatile grain and can be used in loads of different recipes. We made a huge range of various dishes containing black rice to find out which one tasted best. It ultimately came down to the cumin-scented quinoa and black rice recipe by Epicurious. It prepares quickly and tastes great!
10. Teff Grain Superfood
Teff is a very small whole grain that originated in Ethiopia. For the past few thousand years, it’s been a staple food to Ethiopian families, offering a great source of both vital nutrients and taste. Teff is a high source of protein at 10 grams per cooked cup or half an uncooked cup. Likewise, it has a high dietary fiber content at about 7 grams per cooked cup. As an added bonus, it’s an excellent naturally gluten-free alternative to wheat that arguably provides even more benefits.
Teff Grain Helps You Grow
Teff is a great source of micronutrients like calcium, zinc, and phosphorus. These nutrients are utilized in a wide range of bodily functions and support the growth and maintenance of your skeletal structure. Phosphorus functions synergistically alongside calcium to promote bone health and prevent the onset of issues like osteoporosis . Zinc is key in helping correct growth issues in otherwise stunted individuals and may also be useful in treating hypogonadism .
Best Used With: Burgers, Chili, Bread (banana), Porridge, Pancakes
Our favorite way of including Teff into the diet is to eat it as a classic porridge. We like to follow this recipe by cheatsheet and mix it with some additions like fruits and nuts. If you’re looking to spice things up a bit, try making a few Teff burgers. They taste great, hold together well and are really easy to make.
Final Thoughts on Vegan Foods
Many people tend to think vegan diets are generally unable to supply adequate amounts of nutrition like protein, vitamins, and minerals. This notion is simply not true. Institutions like the ADA (American Dietary Association) and other clinical studies have argued that, when planned correctly, vegan diets are “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycles”  and are able to “easily meet human dietary protein requirements as long as energy needs are met and a variety of foods are eaten” .
As long as you include a healthy variety of foods and eat often enough, you’ll be just fine.