Here is the list of 16 plant-based protein sources for vegetarians and vegans along with the role of protein in our body.
Proteins play a vital role in the human biological system. These are large complex molecules that are building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilages, skin, and blood. This protein performs a large range of vital functions needed to keep us alive and healthy. This is a macronutrient and our body needs this in larger quantity.
Proteins are basically amino acid molecules linked to each other forming long chains. There are 20 amino acids that can combine to make such chains. So these are important components of every cell in the body. Our hair and nails are made of protein. It helps to build and repair tissues.
Functions of Protein In Human Body
These proteins act as catalysts and catalyze the reactions occurring in our bodies. They act as enzymes. Proteins read the genetic information stored in DNA. They bind and transport molecules like oxygen within cells and throughout the body.
They act as an antibody and bind to foreign particles to protect the body against the virus and bacteria. Protein acts as a messenger. It helps and transmits signals to coordinate biological processes between different cells, tissues, and organs.
Health Benefits of Plant-Based Protein
Weight loss:- High-protein diets increase satiety and decrease hunger. So when you are less hungry you will refrain from eating unnecessarily. This leads to significant weight loss.
Increase muscle mass:- these are building blocks of muscles. keeping protein intake high during weight loss to avoid muscle loss. Eating adequate protein helps in building muscle mass and also maintaining it.
Boosts Metabolism:- Protein boosts metabolism and helps in fat loss effectively.
Lowers Blood Pressure:- Protein is found to be good for heart health by decreasing blood pressure and maintaining good heart health.
Drawbacks of Excess of High Protein Diet
It has been found in many pieces of research and studies that high-protein diets typically excrete excess calcium in their urine. This suggests that the body is releasing stores of calcium into the bloodstream to counteract an increase in acids caused by protein consumption. Too much calcium loss may lead to osteoporosis.
But adequate protein is all good for bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. This is especially required for women during pregnancy and menopause.
This is harmful to kidney patients. In the case of kidney disease, one should restrict a high protein diet as it may affect adversely.
How Much Protein Intake Required For Healthy Life?
Protein should take up 1/4th of your plate, i.e. 5 - 6 ounces daily.
The calculation is, everyone should have at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight. Roughly 20-30 grams of protein per meal is a good portion for most healthy, moderately active individuals.
Sources of Protein
Normally animal products are considered to be rich in dietary protein. And if you are vegetarian and vegan you may struggle to find a good source of protein that will be adequate for your dietary requirement. But there are plenty of such proteins that are plant products only.
Again if you are vegetarian, then you can get lots of protein from dairy products and eggs. But since vegans can't eat that, they have to depend only on plant-based proteins.
However, in the research study findings, it is evident that plant proteins have more fibers and nutrients. So these plant-based proteins are healthier as compared to animal protein products.
Also, read a similar post on High Protein Breakfast Recipes on the blog.
Let's see the Plant-based protein sources
I. Soy Products - Edamame, Tofu, Tempeh, Soya Chunks
Soybeans are one of the richest sources of plant-based protein. So the products made from this are also rich in protein content and provides all essential amino acids needed for our body. All three are rich in protein, iron, and calcium. They contain more protein than that of lentils.
Edamame are immature soybeans and are green in color. This is a vegetable source of protein. Along with protein, this has a significant amount of folate, vitamin K and fiber.
Tofu & tempeh resembles that of meat in terms of texture. So these are also used for recipes to replace the original meat but looks like meat only.
Tofu is also a vegan replacement of paneer or cottage cheese (vegan paneer) since the method of preparation is the same and dairy-free. (Read: Vegan Chicken Nugget)
Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans. This is healthier among the three and contains the largest amount of protein.
Soya chunks are made from defatted soy flour, a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It has a protein content which is equal to that of meat. This best replace meat for vegetarians. (Read: Soya Chunks Patties & Soya chunks Curry)
Seitan is a meatless meat or mock meat made from wheat gluten. This is a popular vegan protein source. It is not only high in protein but also is a good source of other minerals like selenium, calcium, iron, and phosphorous.
However, since this is not gluten-free, it's not suitable for celiac disease patients and bad for gluten sensitivity.
Lentils are one of the best and nutritious legumes. These are rich sources of plant-based proteins. These are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. Also, these are low in fat and calories. Hence this is a magic food if you want to target to lose weight and belly fat.
These are gluten-free and provides enough protein required by our body in one serving. Per 250ml, you may expect approximately 18 - 20 gms of protein from cooked lentils.
This is a versatile legume and you can incorporate this in your diet in numerous ways. Make in any cuisine style, these are healthy and delicious. Read my Collection of Indian Dal Recipes on the blog.
4. Chickpeas & Other Beans
Chickpeas or garbanzo beans are legumes that are high in protein content. This is one of the major sources of plant-based protein.
Apart from garbanzo beans, other beans like fava beans, kidney beans, white beans, black beans, pinto beans all are natural sources of plant protein.
Each cup of beans provides 14 - 16gms of protein and 12gms of fiber. These are rich in other nutrients as well. Extremely useful if you are on a weight loss diet plan.
Amaranth is a nutritious grain. This is also known as a pseudocereal as this is not a cereal but it has equal nutritional values that of a cereal.
This is gluten-free and rich in protein, fiber, micronutrients, and other antioxidants that make it one of the healthiest. It has 9.3 gms protein per cup (246gms).
Because of protein and fiber, it helps in weight loss effectively.
Sorghum is gluten-free again. This is an ancient cereal that is high in dietary fiber and protein content.
Sorghum is a rich source of many vitamins and minerals like zinc, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, calcium, selenium, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin E, fatty acids and amino acids.
This has abundant vitamin B (thiamine, riboflavin & pantothenic acid) which are responsible for metabolism, skin and hair growth, healthy neural development.
Also, the high magnesium helps in bone formation, heart health, increasing metabolism.
It slows down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, and thus it helps regulate your blood sugar levels.
It is high in antioxidants that fight inflammation and protects our body.
Quinoa is a good source of protein, fiber, iron, copper, thiamin and vitamin B6. It's also an excellent source of magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and folate. One cup of quinoa contains 28g protein and 12g fiber.
Quinoa is gluten-free. This has high protein content than any other grains. Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids.
This is a versatile grain that is used in any type of cuisine and any form of food. Here I'll be making another complete post on the nutrition & health benefits of this superfood Quinoa.
Spirulina is a kind of blue algae that grows in both salt and freshwater. This is edible and consumed by animals and human beings. Spirulina is one of the most nutritious food
A single tablespoon of spirulina (7gms) contains 4gm protein only. It gives all essential amino acids to the body. This high protein content helps in rapid weight loss.
It's also rich in vitamin B1, B2, B3, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, etc.
8. Soy Milk
Soy milk or soya milk is one of the best "alternative milk" that has all the required nutrients. In comparison to almond milk and coconut milk, this is one of the best non-dairy milk. Almond milk does not have all the essential nutrients required by the body whereas coconut milk has no protein.
Soy milk is generally extracted from soya beans which are the protein-rich legumes. Hence this milk is one of the best plant-based protein sources along with other vitamins and minerals.
9. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein. These are rich sources of healthy fats, fibers, many vitamins, and minerals. Along with nuts, nut butter is also a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Here is a list of nuts & their protein content in each 100 gms.
- Peanuts - 25.8 g
- Almond - 21.15 g
- Pistachio - 20 g
- Cashews - 18 g
- Walnuts - 15 g
- Hazelnuts - 15 g
Like nuts, most seeds are also rich in protein, healthy fats, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc. These also contain vitamins B1, B2, B3, and vitamin E.
Due to the nutrient profiles of nuts and seeds, they provide several health benefits, including:
- helping with weight reduction and maintaining balance
- Keeps heart healthy by reducing coronary diseases.
- Reduces the risk of diabetes.
10. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein. These seeds are used to make hemp milk (non-dairy milk), hemp oil, hemp cheese, etc. This protein-rich milk also helps in weight reduction.
20 gms of hemp seed contains approximately 7 g of protein. These seeds are a complete source of protein, meaning that they provide all nine essential amino acids. This is low in carbohydrates. It also contains a large amount of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and folate along with vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin A & vitamin E.
Apart from a good plant-based protein source, hemp seeds are excellent plant-based sources for omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
11. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are rich in fiber and protein. Protein is the most weight loss friendly macronutrient and drastically reduces appetite and cravings. Hence this is one of the best food for weight loss and maintaining proper weight. This is one of the healthiest seed on this planet.
Each ounce (28 gms) chia seeds contain 11 g fiber and 4 g protein. Chia seeds are high in quality protein, much higher than most plant foods.
12. High Protein Vegetables & Fruits
When we are talking about plant-based protein sources, we can't ignore lots of veggies and fruits.
Vegetables and fruits are also full of proteins and essential to include them in our daily diet. Some of the high protein vegetables are watercress, spinach, cabbage, peas, bok choy, asparagus, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, etc.
Some fruits rich in protein are avocado, guava, jackfruits, apricots, kiwis, blackberries, apples, grapefruits, figs, etc.
13. Non-dairy Yogurt
Dairy-free yogurt is a great option if you are looking for a dairy alternative due to personal preference or lactose intolerance. These dairy-free yogurts are lactose-free but still contain a decent amount of healthy fats and proteins.
Soy-based yogurt contains around 10 g protein per serving, whereas others like almonds, cashews, oats, and flax seeds may contain up to 6gms of protein. Coconut yogurt is less in protein content.
14. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is vegan and gluten-free. This is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and high-quality proteins. Each 30g of nutritional yeast contains 8 g protein, 3g fiber along with other vitamins, minerals, etc.
This superfood has the potential ability in lots of health benefits like lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar, providing energy, and many more.
This yeast is different from those of the baker's yeast and brewer's yeast. Nutritional yeast is widely used in vegan dishes. This is one of the best sources to get plant-based protein in our vegan diet.
15. Oats & Oatmeal
Oats are whole-grain cereal that is a good source of fiber, protein, many vitamins and minerals. High protein and high fiber make it an excellent food for weight loss.
Whole grain oats are mostly called as oats groats. These are rolled and processed further to make oat flakes and oatmeals.
Each 100 gms oats contain 17 g protein and 11 g fiber. This is very low in sugar and hence good for diabetic patients. However, kidney patients shall consult on their protein intake.
16. Cracked Wheat/ Broken Wheat & Bulger Wheat
Raw wheat grains are crushed and broken into small pieces. This process involves minimal processing that helps to keep the husk and germs of wheat kernel intact.
Bulger is slightly different. This is parboiled and then broken whereas broken wheat is completely unprocessed. When cooked this cracked wheat is a little softer but bulgur comes with a bite to the grain.
Protein is broken wheat takes a long time to digest, suppresses hunger, boosts metabolism by activating weight regulating hormones. It is extremely low on calories, making it an ideal food choice for a weight loss diet.
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