The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources

The days of depending on meat for protein are long gone. In fact, meat is actually causing more harm than good—not just from what it goes through before getting on your plate, but also because of what it’s doing to your body after you eat it.

Research has shown just how detrimental animal protein can be to human health, whether that’s putting you at risk of breast cancer or a shortened lifespan. While the belief used to be that it’s impossible to get all the essential amino acids you need from plants (something your body can’t make itself), the myth has been disproven for years. In reality, you can get more than enough protein from a well-rounded diet of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. And get this: those who get their fix from plants actually tend to take in twice the average daily protein requirements. No big deal, right?

Want more background info on plant vs. animal protein?
First read: Plant-Based Protein 101: How to Get Your Fix Without Meat

If you’re looking to add more plant-based protein into your diet and kick the meat off your plate once and for all, these are some of the best options to start with. Considering a 140-pound person’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is around 50 grams and one measley cup of lentils is exactly that, it’s safe to say you’ll be just fine. (To figure out how much protein you need in a day, use this simple formula: take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.36.)

1. Tofu

Photo: Yummy Beet

Amount: 20 grams of protein per cup

How to Use It: Bake it and add it into stir-fries, blend it into creamy sauces (like Alfredo!), scramble it, bake it and slather it with BBQ sauce for vegan wings, or blend it to use it as a dessert.

Recipe to Try: Vegan Penne Alfredo

2. Lentils

Amount: 50 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Add them into your soups and stews, toss some in your pasta sauce (like Bolognese!), or make a lentil salad.

Recipe to Try: Vegan Sloppy Joes

3. Chia Seeds

Amount: 4.4 grams of protein per two Tbsp

How to Use Them: Put them in your smoothies, make pudding, or use them as an egg substitute.

Recipe to Try: Basic Chia Seed Pudding

4. Chickpeas

Amount: 39 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Roast them in the oven for a snack, turn them into a homemade hummus, or use them in sandwiches and salads.

Recipe to Try: Chickpea Salad Sandwich

5. Black Beans

Photo: Minimalist Baker

Amount: 39 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Put them in your tacos and burritos, toss some in your chili, or make burger patties.

Recipe to Try: Smoky BBQ Black Bean Veggie Burger

6. Edamame

Amount: 17 grams per cup

How to Use Them: Add them into your salads, boil them in their pods with sea salt, or purée them for a dip.

Recipe to Try: Edamame Hummus

7. Nutritional Yeast

vegan cheesy pasta

Amount: 9 grams of protein per two Tbsp

How to Use It: Sprinkle it on roasted veggies, add it into your smoothies, sprikle it on popcorn, or use it in “cheesy” vegan pasta dishes.

Recipe to Try: 4-Ingredient Vegan Mac and Cheese

8. Tempeh

Photo: Making Thyme for Health

Amount: 31 grams of protein per cup

How to Use It: Make a tempeh sandwich, turn it into bacon, put it in your stir-fries, or use it in your tacos.

Recipe to Try: Tempeh Bacon

9. Almonds

Amount: 20 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Eat them plain as a snack, turn them into nut butter, roast them, or use them as a healthier crust for your desserts.

Recipe to Try: Chipotle Roasted Almonds

10. Broccoli

The best high protein plant foods

Amount: 17 grams per bunch

How to Use It: Bake it, add it into pasta dishes, make a salad, steam it, or purée it into soup.

Recipe to Try: Apple Broccoli Salad

Other MVPs

  • Mushrooms: 3 grams per cup
  • Jackfruit: 2.8 grams per cup
  • Cauliflower: 11 grams per medium head
  • Peas: 8 grams per cup
  • Quinoa: 8 grams per cup
  • Artichokes: 4.5 grams per medium artichoke

Yep, as you can see, no meat is needed up in here.

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