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10 Protein Sources for Vegans & Vegetarians

1. Seitan

Seitan is a popular protein source for many vegetarians and vegans.

It’s made from gluten, the main protein in wheat. Unlike many soy-based mock meats, it closely resembles the look and texture of meat when cooked.


Also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, it contains about 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams), making it one of the richest plant protein sources available.Seitan is also a good source of selenium and contains small amounts of iron, calcium, and phosphorus.


You can find this meat alternative in the refrigerated section of many grocery stores, especially at health food stores. You can also make your own version with vital wheat gluten.


Seitan can be pan-fried, sautéed, and even grilled, making it easy to incorporate into a variety of recipes.

However, because it contains wheat, people with gluten-related disorders should avoid eating seitan.

A plate of broccoli, vegan meat alternatives, and white rice with chopsticks.



2. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame

Tofu, tempeh, and edamame all originate from soybeans and are especially popular in East Asian cuisine.

Soybeans are considered a whole source of protein. This means that they provide your body all the essential amino acids it needs.


Edamame are immature soybeans with a sweet and slightly grassy taste. They need to be steamed or boiled before you eat them. Then, they can be enjoyed on their own or added to soups, salads, sushi, wraps, stir-fries, or rice rolls.


Tofu is made from bean curds pressed together in a process similar to cheesemaking. Meanwhile, tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans, then pressing them into a block.

Tofu doesn’t have much taste on its own, but it easily absorbs the flavour of the ingredients it’s prepared with. Comparatively, tempeh has a characteristic nutty flavour.


Both tofu and tempeh can be used in a variety of recipes, ranging from burgers to soups, stews, curries, and chilis. All three soy-based proteins contain iron, calcium, and 12–20 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving


Edamame is also rich in folate, vitamin K, and fibre, which can help support digestion and regularity.

On the other hand, tempeh contains probiotics, B vitamins, and minerals, such as magnesium and phosphorus



3. Lentils

With 18 grams of protein per cooked cup (198 grams), lentils are a great source of protein

They can be used in a variety of dishes, ranging from fresh salads to hearty soups and spice-infused dahls.

Lentils are also a great source of fibre, providing over half of your recommended daily fibre intake in a single cup (198 grams)


Furthermore, the type of fibre found in lentils has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon, which can help promote a healthy gut. Lentils may also reduce your chance of heart disease, diabetes, excess body weight, and certain types of cancer.

In addition, lentils are rich in folate, manganese, and iron. They also contain a hearty dose of antioxidants and other health-promoting plant compounds.

Lentils are popular around the globe, and they’re the basis of Indian dishes known as dal or dahl. If you eat South Asian food often, chances are you’re already a fan of lentils.



4. Beans

Kidney, black, pinto, and most other varieties of beans are extremely important staple foods across cultures and contain high amounts of protein per serving.


Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are another type of bean with a high protein content.

Most types of beans contain about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup (170 grams). They’re also excellent sources of complex carbs, fibre, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, and several beneficial plant compounds.


Several studies show that a diet rich in beans and other legumes can help decrease cholesterol levels, manage blood sugar, lower blood pressure.

Add beans to your diet by making a tasty bowl of homemade chilli, or enjoy extra health benefits by sprinkling a dash of turmeric on roasted chickpeas



5. Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, which is sold commercially as a yellow powder or flakes.

It has a cheesy flavour, which makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like mashed potatoes and scrambled tofu.


Nutritional yeast can also be sprinkled on top of pasta dishes or even enjoyed as a savoury topping on popcorn.

Half an ounce (16 grams) of this complete source of plant protein provides 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fibre.


Fortified nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, and all the B vitamins, including vitamin B12.

However, keep in mind that not all types of nutritional yeast are fortified, so be sure to check the label carefully.



6. Spelt and teff

Spelt and teff belong to a category known as ancient grains. Other ancient grains include einkorn, barley, sorghum, and farro.

Spelt is a type of wheat and contains gluten, whereas teff originates from an annual grass, meaning that it’s naturally gluten-free.


Spelt and teff provide 10–11 grams of protein per cooked cup (250 grams), making them higher in protein than other ancient grains.

Both are excellent sources of various nutrients, including complex carbs, fibre, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. They also contain B vitamins, zinc, and selenium.


Spelt and teff are versatile alternatives to other grains, such as wheat and rice, and they can be used in many recipes ranging from baked goods to risotto.

In fact, flour made from teff is the key ingredient in injera, a flatbread commonly eaten in East Africa, such as in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan.



7. Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is sometimes maligned for belonging to the same family as the cannabis plant.

But hemp seeds contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that produces the psychoactive effects of cannabis.

Although hemp seeds aren’t as well-known as other seeds, they contain 9 grams of protein in each 3-tablespoon (30-gram) serving.


Hemp seeds also contain high levels of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and selenium. What’s more, they’re a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ratio considered optimal for human health.


Interestingly, some studies indicate that the type of fats found in hemp seeds may help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and certain skin conditions.


You can add hemp seeds to your diet by sprinkling some in your smoothie or morning muesli. They can also be used in homemade salad dressings, granola, energy balls, or protein bars.



8. Green peas

Green peas contain nearly 9 grams of protein per cooked cup (160 grams), which is slightly more than a cup (237 mL) of dairy milk.

What’s more, a serving of green peas covers more than 25% of your daily fibre, thiamine, folate, manganese, and vitamin A, C, and K needs.

Green peas are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and several other B vitamins.


You can use peas in recipes such as pea-and-basil-stuffed ravioli, Thai-inspired pea soup, or pea-and-avocado guacamole.



9. Spirulina

This blue-green algae is definitely a great nutritional option.

A 2-tablespoon (14-gram) serving provides 8 grams of complete protein, in addition to covering 22% of your daily requirements for iron and 95% of your daily copper needs.


Spirulina also contains high amounts of magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and small amounts of most of the other nutrients your body needs, including essential fatty acids.


According to some test-tube and animal studies, phycocyanin, a natural pigment found in spirulina, also appears to have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.


Furthermore, studies link consuming spirulina to health benefits ranging from a stronger immune system and reduced blood pressure to improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels.


Still, we need more human studies before we can draw conclusions on all of spirulina’s health claims.



10. Amaranth and quinoa

Although amaranth and quinoa are often referred to as ancient or gluten-free grains, they don’t grow from grasses like other cereal grains do. For this reason, they’re technically considered pseudocereals.


Nevertheless, similarly to more commonly known grains, they can be prepared or ground into flours.

Amaranth and quinoa provide 8–9 grams of protein per cooked cup (185 grams) and are complete sources of protein, which is uncommon among grains and pseudocereals.


Plus, amaranth and quinoa are good sources of complex carbs, fibre, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium

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