Plant-based and vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular these days. Some start one for dietary reasons, while others just want to avoid animal products... whatever the reason, a plant-based diet is healthy – and doable even if you're weightlifting or training hard at the gym!
Your protein intake may be harder to hit than someone consuming a regular diet, but don't fret, it's totally possible to get quality high plant-protein sources in your diet and still build or maintain muscle.
In this article, we'll be covering the best plant-based protein sources that anyone following a plant-based diet should include in their diet – even those that are not following a plant-based diet can benefit from these nutrient-dense foods!
At the top of our list is an underrated plant protein source! Seitan is a soy-free product that resembles meat – that's why it's known as wheat meat! Although there are various great processed high-protein meats, like Beyond Meat, seitan is an even better option because it's minimally processed, it's simply derived from wheat gluten. Not only that, but it's extremely high in protein!
Seitan contains 25 grams of protein per 100 grams serving! It's also low in carbs (ideal for those trying to cut down for weight-loss reasons) and a good source of minerals, including iron and selenium. You can find seitan in the refrigerated section next to the tofu, tempeh, and other plant-based meats.
Tips for cooking with seitan:
- Pan-fry it, or grill and saute it with soy sauce to make it a complete protein, or use other sauces to add more flavor like teriyaki, barbeque, or coconut aminos.
- Grill it and make seitan kebabs with your favorite veggies.
- Use it as a ground meat substitute for burrito bowls, taco salads, or pasta dishes.
Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are a staple in plant-based diets, and for good reason! They have a high protein content (various depending on the kind), contain a variety of amino acids, and are an excellent source of fiber, iron, potassium, and more.
The protein content varies on the kind of beans, but here's the breakdown of the best kind and the protein per one-cup serving:
- Lupini beans: 26 grams of protein per serving.
- Lentils: 18 grams of protein per serving.
- Black beans: 15 grams of protein per serving.
- Pinto beans: 15 grams of protein per serving.
- Kidney beans: 15 grams of protein per serving.
Tips for cooking with beans and lentils:
- Make a hearty and delicious lentil soup mixed with kale or other protein-rich greens.
- Add cooked black beans to salads and burrito bowls.
- Make chili with your favorite beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and other vegetables – and don't forget the spices!
Soy is another widely known and popular plant-based protein in the vegan community. It's amongst the most popular because it's considered a complete protein since it contains all essential amino acids, plus it's extremely versatile! Soy products are derived from soybeans which are rich in protein, iron, magnesium, and various B vitamins.
However, consuming too much soy (specifically unfermented soy) can come with negative health effects. This includes stomach issues, impacting thyroid function, and it can even mess with your body's ability to absorb protein! So, just be mindful about how much soy you consume. Keep your soy intake between 15-25 grams per day, or 2-4 servings of soy foods per day.
To maintain an adequate intake of soy and avoid its potential dangers of it, consume no more than 15-25 grams per day, or 2-4 servings of soy foods per day. Also, opt for fermented soy or the less processed unfermented soy, like tofu and edamame.
Here is a list of the best soy foods to consume:
- Natto (fermented soybeans): 18 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, and high in vitamin K2.
- Tempeh: 15 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving.
- Edamame: 9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.
- Tofu: 8 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving.
Tips for cooking with soy foods:
- Mix natto with wild rice, soy sauce, and your favorite grilled veggies.
- Make a stir-fry with tofu or tempeh and your favorite veggies.
- Roast some edamame for a salty delicious snack, or add it to your salads and stir-frys!
Whole grains are considered to be mainly a carbohydrate source, but several kinds are actually pretty high in protein! Knowing which ones are will help you sneak more protein into your diet, to help, here are the best high-protein whole grains:
- Quinoa: 8 grams of protein per cup.
- Wild rice: 7 grams of protein per cup.
- Oats: 6 grams of protein per 1/2 cup.
- Ezekiel or sprouted grain bread: 4-5 grams of protein per slice.
Tips for incorporating whole grains:
- Make a fresh quinoa salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon, and top it with your favorite dressing for more flavor.
- Have a cup of oatmeal for breakfast with a chopped banana (or berries) and add nut butter for even more protein.
- Make an avocado toast with sprouted grain bread.
Peas are similar to beans and lentils in that they're a member of the legume family, high in protein and fiber, and provide the same vitamins and minerals – making them an excellent vegan protein!
Here are three peas you should incorporate into your diet (serving size is per cup):
- Split peas: 16 grams of protein per serving.
- Chickpeas: 15 grams of protein per serving.
- Green peas: 9 grams of protein per serving.
Tips for cooking with peas:
- Roast chickpeas for a salty snack or make homemade hummus to eat with some pita chips.
- Make a vegan split pea soup.
- Add cooked chickpeas to your salads or burrito bowls.
Plant-based protein powders
Whole foods should always be your priority, but there may be times when you need a boost to help you hit your protein intake for the day... and that's when plant-based protein powders come in! Don't believe the rumors... vegan protein powder is just as beneficial as whey or other animal protein powders! It all comes down to knowing what to look for.
So, what is the best plant-based protein powder?
There are several to choose from, but the top vegan protein sources are brown rice, split peas, soy, and pumpkin seed protein. We recommend going with a protein powder that contains a different blend of plant protein sources to ensure that you're getting all the essential amino acids needed. For example, 373 Lab's Vegan Protein Isolate contains 20 grams of a completely plant-based blend of Pea Protein, Brown Rice Protein, and Pumpkin Seed Protein. We've selected these three vegan protein sources because research has shown them to be comparable to whey protein in terms of muscle-building and muscle-recovery! The best part about it is that it doesn't have that usual chalky and chemical taste that vegan protein powders do! Plus, we use all natural flavors!
Even if you're not trying to build muscle or achieve a fitness goal, it can be beneficial to have a plant-based protein powder in your kitchen to help boost your protein intake and also to just have a tasty high-protein snack!
Tips for incorporating plant-based protein powders:
- Make a healthy and delicious iced protein coffee! Simply add a scoop of protein powder to iced coffee, and add any other add-ins, like creamer or stevia.
- Use it for baking healthy cookies, brownies, or muffins, or use it to make pancakes or waffles.
- Make a healthy protein shake.
Hit your protein goals with high plant-based protein foods
As you can see, there are various excellent high plant-based protein foods that you can include in your diet. This will ensure that you're getting enough protein in your diet, not only to achieve a fitness goal but to keep your body running at optimal levels!
Who are we?
We're 373 Lab Supplements – nice to meet you! Founded by Iulia Danilova (Fit With Iulia), and with a team filled with fitness enthusiasts, we've worked hard to bring a trustworthy supplement to the market! Supplements that are designed to help you achieve your fitness goals by giving you only the nutrients you need – no unnecessary fillers or additives!
Find what your pantry is missing at 373 Lab Supplements.