A top view of five bowls, each containing a vegan protein source: chia seeds, red beans, lentils, peas, and almonds.

Five Foods That Are Great Vegan Protein Sources

A vegan protein powder is an easy (and tasty) way to add extra protein to your day. But experts agree – a food-first approach to daily nutrition is the best way to get all the macronutrients your body needs. With that in mind, let’s look at some protein, vegan food sources you can add to your meals and snacks. Protein can be found in a variety of foods beyond meat and dairy. However, it’s important to understand that not all proteins are created equal. Depending on the source, the quality and amount of protein per serving can differ. Let’s take a closer look at five vegan foods that pack a protein punch and see which ones are best for you:
  1. BEANS, beans, beans - lima beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and navy beans. Each offers protein, but soybeans are the bean king! They’re the only plant-based food that is considered a complete protein – meaning they contain all nine of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. And there’s a wide variety of soy products to choose from, such as edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy yogurt, or soy milk.
    • Tofu (1/2 cup) 10 grams of protein
    • Pinto (1/2c cooked) 20 grams of protein
  1. LENTILS are a type of legume that contain protein and provide other essential nutrients such as folate and dietary fiber. There’s a rainbow of lentils to choose from, but the main types are red, brown, and green lentils. Add to that, they’re more versatile than you might think. Sure, lentils are amazing in soups. But you can even use lentils in desserts! Mind. Blown.
    • Lentils (1/2c cooked) 9g protein
  1. PEAS are also a type of legume. (We’re starting to see a theme here.) And while you might immediately think of garden variety green peas (classified as a starchy vegetable), there are more options than you might realize – split peas, snap peas, snow peas, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas.
    • Green peas (1/2c cooked) 4g protein
  1. NUTS are a favorite among many, vegan or not. They provide protein and contain vitamin E, and the choices seem endless almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamia, Brazil nuts, and more. They’re also a great whole food you can add to salads and baked goods. Nut butters are terrific as a spread on bread or an addition to oatmeal, fruit bowls, or paired with fruits and veggies.
    • Walnuts (1oz.) 4-5g protein
    • Almonds (1oz.) 6g protein
  1. SEEDS are wee things, but they are yet another source of protein. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds are all excellent choices. Flax seed is one of our favorites because it contains a healthy fat known as unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. More specifically, it provides omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential - meaning it cannot be made in the body and must be consumed through foods.
    • Flax (1 tbsp) 2g protein
    • Chia (1oz.) 4-5g protein
    • Pumpkin seeds (1oz.) 5g protein
Again, of the vegan protein sources listed above, only soybeans are considered a complete protein source. Other beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds are incomplete – meaning they are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Therefore, it’s important to consume a variety of foods throughout the day to help meet protein needs. That’s the food-first approach, and it’s important.

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