Top 5 Vegan Protein Sources

Hannah O’Shei


October 19, 2020
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Vegan and plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular in the US. With more and more people cutting animal products out of their diet there is a growing concern from the public and even some health professionals about getting adequate and high-quality protein from plants.

Many people are under the impression that plants are incomplete proteins therefore inferior to meat, dairy, and eggs. When people say plants are incomplete protein, they are somewhat correct. Most plants do not contain enough of each amino acid to be considered “complete” but thankfully our body has the incredible ability to store amino acids in a pool and build protein as needed. 

Are all plants “incomplete” proteins? 

No, plant foods like soy, quinoa, buckwheat, hempseed, and even spinach can all be classified as complete proteins because they have enough of each essential amino acid. 

It’s important to note that when you begin cutting meat and other animal-based foods from your diet it becomes more important to focus on eating a wide variety of foods each day. Vegans and plant-based eaters must be sure to incorporate a variety of nuts, seeds, beans and legumes, fortified non-dairy products, plant-based meats, vegetables, whole grains, and fruit in order for their body to have enough of the nutrients it needs each day. /;


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Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Soy foods like tempeh have many health benefits because they contain polyunsaturated fats, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Soybeans are also a complete protein meaning foods like tofu, tempeh, and soymilk have all the amino acids present in large enough quantities. Tempeh itself is relatively bland but if you whip up a delicious BBQ sauce or marinade it becomes a very delicious replacement for meat. 

½ cup of tempeh has 16 grams of protein


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Lentils are a staple food around the world. This nutrient dense little legume is incredibly versatile, affordable, and easy to cook with. Lentils are not only packed with protein but also a good source of gut loving dietary fiber. They are a great heart healthy alternative to ground beef in dishes like Shepard’s pie, chili, and sloppy joes but also go great in salads, wraps, stews and soups. 

½ cup of lentils has 9 grams of protein


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Chickpeas are a tasty legume associated with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisine. They are affordable, easy to use and delicious prepared hot or cold. You can add whole chickpeas to things like salads, curries, wraps, stews, and soups but you can also mash and blend them with other ingredients to create delicious sandwich fillings, hummus, veggie burgers, falafels and more.

½ cup of chickpeas has 7 grams of protein


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Vital wheat gluten is what you get when you remove the starch from wheat flour by doing this you are left with the wheat gluten which is the main protein found in wheat. For those who do not have celiac disease, or a wheat allergy vital wheat gluten can be a fun way to add protein into your diet. Vital wheat gluten is an ingredient that can be used to make all sorts of vegan meat products like deli slices, roasts, sausages, and burgers.

¼ cup of vital wheat gluten has 21 grams of protein


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Products like the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger have shaken up the food industry – and for good reason. Plant-based meat alternatives are a delicious and environmentally friendly alternative to beef, poultry, and pork. You may be surprised to know that many of these alternatives are aimed to mimic meat, so they also contain similar saturated fat, sodium, and protein content. 

Most of these products are made from a mixture of things like pea protein, vital wheat gluten, soy, whole grains, and vegetables – but this is what makes them such a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. There is some backlash against these products because they are processed foods but, in my opinion, plant-based meat alternatives are fun, delicious and can easily be part of a healthy and balanced diet. 

1 serving (1 burger) of dr. Praeger’s ‘The Perfect Burger’ contains 20 grams of protein

1 serving (1 burger) of Beyond Meat “Beyond Burger” contains 20 grams of protein

1 serving (5 nuggets) of Gardein “crispy golden chick’n nuggets’ contains 14 grams of protein

1 serving (1 link) of Field Roast “Frankfurters” contains 20 grams of protein per servings 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my top 5 vegan protein sources and I hope it inspires you to look up new recipes and try more plant-based protein in your diet. 


Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group-

Hannah O’Shei

Hannah O’Shei

Hello! My name is Hannah O’Shei and I’m a senior dietetics major at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Some of my nutrition interests include community and public health nutrition, plant-based nutrition, and intuitive eating. I would love to work in a community or public health role and one day I am interested in opening a private practice with a focus on plant-based and vegan nutrition. In my free time I enjoy hiking, cooking and baking, going to farmer’s markets, and having fun with my fiancée and our three-year-old daughter.