Whether you’re vegan, currently a vegetarian, or practicing any other diet consisting of no meat, the plant based community’s most frequently asked question is:
“Where do you get your protein from?”
You might be tired of being asked this same question time and time again. With the help of this article, you will be able to respond to that question with 10 different answers of 10 different sources of protein.
How does that sound? 😀
First and foremost, lets discuss how much protein is needed to ensure the best results? Whether you’re trying to build lean mass or hold on it as you lower body fat, protein is vital. The optimal amount of protein to consume per day is about 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of body weight.
For example, a 170 lb man would be consuming about 136 to 170 grams of protein per day.
There are quite a number of great foods you can get your protein needs from. When you’re new to being vegetarian, it’s frustrating to find good sources of protein. If that’s the case, then you my friend are in luck, because I’m providing you with 10 sources of Vegetarian and Vegan protein, that will help you stay on track with your macro nutrients!
The 10 protein sources we are going to be breaking down are:
- Green Lentils
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
- Black Beans
- Red Lentils
- Split peas
- Nut sources like peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc..
Before we get into the protein sources, here are some important words I’ll be including in this article, which have important definitions which you must know:
What are they?
–Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein. The essential ones for building muscle are L-leucine, Taurine, L-arginine, L carnitine, L-valine
What are they?
Calories are used to measure the amount of energy stored in food.
What is that?
Glycemic index (GI) is the number that is associated with a particular type of food that indicates the effect that food has on the persons blood glucose/blood sugar level.
1)Green Lentils (Vegan Option)
There is a reason Green Lentils are the first on this list, and that is because they’re my absolute favorite. The brand “Simple Truth” has the best Green Lentils in my opinion. During my last cut, I ate lots of Green Lentils, and it kept me satisfied and full for a long period of time. These are also easy to prepare. The protein amount in these lentils is anywhere from 45 -55 grams per cup, depending on the brand of lentils you get. These lentils provide you with all of essential amino acids necessary to build muscle. The Simple Truth Organic green lentils have about 55 grams of protein per cup and around 750 calories. These also have a significant amount of fiber which is a bonus, and according to Archives of Internal Medicine, eating high fiber foods significantly prevents heart disease. Also another study was conducted where they took one group of people who ate 24 grams of fiber a day and another group who ate 50 grams of fiber a day. The result of the group that ate 50 grams was that they had lower blood sugar (plasma glucose) and insulin (it’s the hormone that helps blood sugar get into the cells). Lentils also help replenish iron stores, which in result gives you more energy. Lentils are beneficial to those that struggle with iron deficiencies. There are also so many ways you can cook these, and use them strategically when dieting. I typically will cook about 1- 1.5 cups for dinner. I will be talking more about this in my upcoming book. All you vegans out there will love green lentils and should definitely give it a try!
Additional benefits of these are:
- Helps in optimal brain functioning
- Reduces blood pressure
- Aids in digestion
- Aids in muscle generation
2)Greek Yogurt (Vegetarian Option)
Yum! When you’re dieting, Greek yogurt is equivalent to ice cream and sometimes even better depending on what brand you buy. I like to get Greek yogurt in little cups which have typically anywhere from 13-15 grams of protein with about 110-14o calories. The Trader Joe’s brand of Greek Yogurt has a 0 total fat and high protein amount with mango flavor, which taste absolutely amazing! I l also like the Chobani brand of Greek yogurt, as they’re delicious as well. These are a really good source of protein and they’re absolutely delicious. For dinner I occasionally add 2-3 cups of these along with my green lentils to double up on protein! Greek yogurt typically has twice as much protein as any regular yogurt out there. Greek yogurt is different from other regular yogurts because it is thicker, creamier, and typically lower in carbs with higher protein content. Like regular yogurt, Greek yogurt also contains probiotics which is a good bacteria that helps with digestion. For you vegetarians, Greek yogurt is also a good source of vitamin B12 (Which is essential to have in your diet). Greek yogurt is also lower in lactose, which is good idea for those who are lactose intolerant. If you want have a delicious and healthy snack with good macros, then Greek yogurt is for you.
3)Cottage Cheese (Vegetarian Option)
Cottage Cheese! We can all agree that cottage cheese is packed with a solid amount of protein. Per cup of protein contains a whopping 27 grams of protein! 100 grams of cottage cheese typically contains about 4 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fat, and 12 grams of protein. Cottage cheese contains one of the three types of protein found in milk, which is casein. I recommend cottage cheese with about 2% total fat. The benefits of casein protein is that it digests slower and has the ability to provide a steady flow of amino acids to your blood stream. They did a study in the Netherlands where they doubled the participants’ casein intake, and in result found that they had a higher metabolic rate while asleep and satiety levels were also significantly higher (33% higher)! Cottage cheese contains a higher amount of casein, which you also find in milk. I was once a huge fan of cottage cheese and used to have it every night before bed! This is a very high quality kind of protein and there are a ton of benefits to cottage cheese. I would defiantly recommend this to all vegetarians looking to maximize lean muscle growth!
Additional benefits to cottage cheese include:
- Aids in digestion
- Helps Strengthens Bones
- Full of Antioxidant properties
- Reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Has lots of B-complex vitamins such as : Vitamin B12, Riboflaven, Thiaman, Niacen, Folate, and Pantothencic acid.
The main reason why I love tofu is that it is an easy replacement option for any restaurant that serves meat. When going out for dinners, they don’t always have a vegan or vegetarian option. However upon request, replacing any meat with tofu works great, but remember to tip accordingly. There are numerous ways you can implement tofu to your diet. Adding it to your fried rice, making chili Tofu bowls, and even tofu stir fry. All of these recipes are ones I currently make to stick to my macros which I will show more in detail in my upcoming book. Tofu is very high in protein. containing 45 grams of protein with only 9 grams of carbs in 1 block of tofu. Tofu is typically lower in calories containing 400 calories per block when compared to its protein content which is 45 grams. I typically have my carbs for the day with my tofu, making a stir fry with olive oil. Like the other protein sources on this list, tofu is known to lower the risk of heart disease. Many people try and avoid soy thinking it may decrease testosterone levels, but this isn’t quite true. A study conducted had 2o participants taking in different protein sources such as soy protein (which is contained in tofu) and whey isolate. Participants took these protein supplements along with a resistance program and the results at the end of the 3 month period was an increase in muscle mass with all protein supplemented groups. There was absolute no differences in testosterone, or body composition between the groups that correlated specifically with consuming whey or soy protein after that 3 month period. Also Tofu is a great source of calcium and other essential nutrients. For vegans, this is a solid source of protein. I would suggest choosing a firmer block of tofu since they typically have a higher protein content. Tofu is a solid source of protein for all vegans.
Additional benefits of tofu include:
- Contains all 8 essential amino acids
- Good source of magnesium, Zinc and B12
- Very good source of Iron
5) Chickpeas (Vegan option)
Chickpeas also know as garbanzo beans are great! I like to switch these back in fourth with my Green lentils. Some nights I have a cup of Green Lentils, and on other occasions I will have a cup of chickpeas. These are packed with protein. Chickpeas have 40 grams of protein per cup at around 700 calories. There are lots of recipes that include chickpeas. I enjoy a cup of them with onions, salt, pepper and a bit of lemon juice. You can also make delicious chickpea patties, which ill be showing you how to do in a future article and in my upcoming book. Chickpeas, like the other protein sources on this list contains essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein and muscle tissue. In particular, chickpeas contain amino acids such as histidine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, and phenylalanine. I highly recommend chickpeas to all vegans. Not only are they tasty, packed with protein, but you can also make a lot of different types of meals with them. Although chickpeas do not contain all the essential amino acids, it’s recommended you have these with another protein source on this list. For example you can have chickpeas with a couple cups of Greek yogurt or chickpeas with few servings of almonds to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids. One of the benefits of having chickpeas in your diet is that they have shown an ability to regulate blood sugar levels. When you’re eating in a low calorie diet, chickpeas can be beneficial, since they’re very filling. Even having a half cup of these is very filling, half cup of chickpeas is 350 calories. It would make a great low calorie snack.
Additional Benefits of Chickpeas include:
- Consumption of chickpeas supports bone health, since chickpeas contain iron, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, and zinc which are all good for bone health.
- omega-3 fatty acids are found in chickpeas, which is a beneficial polyunsaturated fat that our body requires.
6) Black Beans (Vegan Option)
These aren’t my main source of protein in my diet, but I like to include these every once in a while to change things up. Black beans taste amazing. My favorite way to eat these is by making black bean patties. These contain about 20 grams of protein in a 200 gram serving. These don’t quite contain as much protein as the other sources on this list, but they’re still very delicious and great to include in your vegan or vegetarian diet. Having a serving of these is very filling, and leaves me satisfied for a long time. Some of the benefits of black beans are that they’re very low in saturated fat, is a good source of calcium, and have high antioxidant activity. All the more reasons to include black beans into your diet!
7)Red Lentils(Vegan Option)
You can cook red lentils a lot faster than green lentils. I typically make a smaller serving of red lentils for lunch and have a bigger serving of green lentils for dinner. So for lunch I’ll make myself Indian dhal soup with about half cup of red lentils and for dinner I’ll have a cup and a half of green lentils. Red lentils, like the green ones, are very delicious. Per cup (200 grams), red lentils have about 20 grams of protein at about 230 calories. Like green lentils, red lentils have virtually no saturated fat and have a high amount of fiber. These lentils contain most of the amino acids that are required by your body, but they don’t contain an amino acid such as methionine. Adding another source of protein along with red lentils should provide you with all the essential amino acids your body needs. Some vegan sources that are high in methionine that you can add along with your red lentils are soybeans, sesame seeds, and Greek yogurt if you’re vegetarian. The only problem with these is that they don’t contain all the amino acids the body requireds. Some of the known benefits of red lentils are that they’re lower in the gylcemic index, resulting in steady energy levels, and also is a great source of fiber. (glycemic index is The Measure of that certain foods impact on blood sugar) Some additional benefits of red lentils include:
- Improves digestive health
- Improves immunity, since red lentils are high in fiber. High fiber diets result in less instances of heart disease, and digestive disorders.
8) Quinoa (Vegan)
zAlthough quinoa isn’t as high in protein as the other sources on this list, I still included it here because it’s very filling and delicious depending on how you prepare it. Quinoa is indeed a complete protein source, since it contains all nine essential amino acids. 1/4 cup of uncooked quinoa contains 170 calories at 5.5 grams protein and 30.5 grams carbs. Like rice and lentils, these expand in volume after cooking, which can be very beneficial when you’re eating at moderate caloric deficit when trying to get leaner and shed weight. I like to include quinoa once in a while in my diet when I feel the urge to change my carb sources. Quinoa is my go to for this, because its higher in protein and has the essential amino acids. Qunioa can be used in any meal replacing white rice. Although being brutally honest quinoa is one of those food where the taste can vary depending on how it is prepared. I typically have a 1/2 cup of quinoa with another protein source on this list red lentils. I make quinoa and have it over red lentil dhal. If you’re not familiar with dhal, its a an Indian soup made up of lentils, chillis, and spices. Putting these two together results in an amazing meal. Some of the benefits of quinoa is that they’re very filling, contain essential amino acids, and also high in fiber. All the more reasons to include quinoa into your vegan or vegetarian diet! Some of the additional benefits of quinoa is that:
- High in manganese, which keeps bones strong, and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.
- Gluten free
- Lower end of glycemic index
9) Green split peas(Vegan option)
Like lentils, these are a very good protein source. In a cup of green split peas there is 20 grams of protein and 40 grams of carbs for 200 calories. They have almost a 50-50 ratio of carbs and protein similar to the lentils on this list. I typically swap green lentils for green split peas for dinner if I want to change things up a bit. Like some of the other sources on this list green split peas are high in fiber and is very filling even with smaller serving. My favorite way to have this is, making green split pea soup! Some additional known benefits of green split peas are:
- Contains potassium, which helps lower blood sugar.
- High amount of fiber in Green split peas regulate blood sugar level.
- Make you feel full for long periods of time, helps you avoid snacking.
10) Nuts: Peanuts, Almonds, and Cashews
If you’re struggling being vegan or vegetarian, and you’re struggling to eat enough calories to support your fitness goals, then nut sources are perfect for you. On the other hand, if you have no problem eating enough calories, then I would simply be aware of how calorie dense some of these nuts are. That being said, whether you’re struggling to eat enough or you don’t have a problem with nuts, including almonds, cashews and peanuts can be beneficial for you. Once again when including these nuts into your diet, I would check the label on the back and be aware of the calories per serving. My favorite of the three above has got to be almonds. I typically have 20-25 almonds with my Greek yogurt as a post workout meal. The number of almonds per serving is 23, at 160 calories at 7 grams of protein. I don’t typically eat raw peanuts, but I will have a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter. I prefer the Trader Joe’s brand of peanut butter, and it has about 160 calories at 8 gram of protein per tbsp. As a snack I’ll typically have couple slices of bread and a tbsp of peanut butter on each, with few white chocolate chips on it. I’m not a big fan of cashews because they’re very calorie dense, but they’re delicious. As you may already know nuts like almonds, peanuts, and cashews are packed with protein and have a lot of benefits of there own and they’re good to have in your vegan or vegetarian diet. Some of the known benefits of almonds, peanuts, and cashews are:
- Almonds are high in mono saturated fats, fiber and protein. Almonds are also a good source for antioxidants. (which help protect against stress and aging)
- Peanuts contain vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin b6, and vitamin b9.
- Cashews help lower blood pressure, since they contain high amounts of magnesium.
What about a Vegan Protein Powder?
In past I have used several different protein powders such as rice, soy, and whey. I prefer to get my daily protein requirements from whole foods, but if you’re newly vegan or vegetarian and struggling to get enough protein then I recommend this protein powder. My experience with protein shakes is my hunger levels spike up after drinking them, making me eat a lot more calories then I initially planned on. Although a solid protein powder can be useful when you’re new to the plant based lifestyle.
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