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High protein foods for vegans

by Ezra 7 minutes read

Last updated: 08 Mar, 2023

It is a common misconception that those following a vegan diet are unable to get sufficient daily protein intakes. Contrary to popular opinion, plant-based diets have substantial amounts of protein as long as the right foods are eaten.

What is protein?

The word ‘protein’ stems from the Greek language, meaning ‘primary’ and ‘first.’ Getting enough protein in your diet is more important than most people realise, as protein plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of every cell in the human body.

The health benefits of protein:

  • Regulates hormones

  • Builds and repairs muscle, bones, skin, and cartilage

  • Assists with the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells

  • Boosts metabolism

  • Keeps the body satiated for longer

  • Lowers blood pressure

  • Aids with weight loss

  • Keeps the immune and respiratory system functioning correctly

The daily Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein, in the average adult, is 0.75g protein per kilogram of body weight.

How much protein you need depends on varying factors like age, activity level, and muscle mass. As a general rule, the average male should consume around 56g per day whilst the average female should consume around 46g per day.

Complete protein vs incomplete proteins

Out of the 20 amino acids that your body uses to form protein, 9 are essential. These essential amino acids cannot be produced by your body itself, so they must be consumed through your diet. The remaining 11 amino acids are considered non-essential as they are produced from the 9 essential amino acids.

A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids that are vital for the human body, whilst an incomplete protein contains only some of the essential amino acids.

Protein from animal products is complete as it contains all of the essential amino acids whereas most plants are incomplete. Due to this, it is wrongly assumed that those following a vegan diet are unable to get sufficient daily protein intakes.

However, as long as your diet is varied and balanced, it is not difficult to find protein rich vegan foods. As a vegetarian or vegan, ensure that foods which are incomplete proteins are always combined with foods which are complete proteins.

10 high protein vegan foods

1. Spirulina

Spirulina is a gluten-free superfood, coming in the form of a green-blue algae, that is incredibly rich in protein. It is our number one recommendation for plant-based protein as it contains a massive 57 grams of protein per 100 grams / 64 grams of protein per cup!

Spirulina also has strong antioxidant properties, and is packed full of nutrients like iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, copper, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.

It can be consumed as a powder, a perfect addition to smoothies, water, or fruit juice, or as a supplement.

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2. Peanuts

Peanuts are our second-best recommendation for vegan forms of protein, with 26g of protein per 100g / 38g of protein per cup. Peanuts are also good sources of magnesium, potassium, and vitamins E and B6.

If you prefer peanut butter (the smooth kind) over regular peanuts, the spread contains 25g of protein per 100g / 65g of protein per cup.

3. Tempeh

Tempeh is a popular meat replacement for those following a vegan diet, containing large amounts of proteins with 19g of protein per 100g / 31g of protein per cup. It is a great source of B vitamins, probiotics, magnesium, and phosphorus.

As a fermented soy product, tempeh can be marinated in any flavour and used in sandwiches, stir fries, and curries.

4. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, able to be eaten hot and cold, contain 19g of protein per 100g / 39g of protein per cup. They are an excellent source of iron, folate, fibre, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.

Chickpeas are highly versatile and can be added to curries and stews, roasted in the oven as a snack, and blended to create hummus.

If you prefer hummus (store-bought), this contains 8g of protein per 100g / 19g of protein per cup.

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5. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain 19g of protein per 100g / 12g of protein per cup. They are protein rich in phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.

It is easy to include pumpkin seeds in your plant-based diet, all you need to do is roast them in the oven with your favourite seasoning!

6. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are a complete protein which contains 17g of protein per 100g. They are a superb source of vitamins B, D, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, niacin, boron, calcium, and magnesium.

They are a low-calorie food that can be used in breakfast dishes, soups, salads, desserts. It can even be used as an egg replacement in baking!

Other nuts and seeds that are rich in protein include: hemp seeds, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and cashews.

7. Edamame

Edamame contains 11g of protein per 100g / 17g of protein per cup, and is a great source of K1 vitamins, riboflavin, iron, manganese, copper, thiamine, and folate.

It is a great addition to salads, sushi, stir fries, or enjoyed on its own. Remember that edamame must be boiled or steamed before being consumed, as they are immature soybeans.

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8. Lentils

Lentils, coming in red, green, or brown forms, contain 9g of protein per 100g / 18g of protein per cup. They are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as thiamine, manganese, folate, and fibre.

Lentils are another versatile plant-based protein, easy to add to salads, dhal, soup, and pasta.

9. Kidney beans

Kidney beans contain 9g of protein per 100g / 15g of protein per cup, and are rich in vitamins B and C, fibre, and calcium.

Kidney beans are the perfect form of protein to add to a chilli, pasta, salad, and soup.

Other forms of beans that are protein rich include: black beans, borlotti beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and butter beans.

10. Tofu

Tofu, derived from soybean, is a complete protein which contains 8g of protein per 100g. Tofu is also packed full of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, copper, calcium, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, zinc, thiamine, phosphorus.

Tofu is extremely versatile food as it takes on whatever flavour of the dish you are cooking. This plant-based protein can be used as a meat substitute in stir fries, sandwiches, soups, and curries.

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