Best Plant-Based Protein Sources: A Full Guide

Plant-based proteins are rising since more and more people are limiting or stopping eating animal-based foods. Protein intake is one of the challenges of plant-based nutrition. That's why protein-rich products such as tofu, soy meat, and pea protein powders are becoming extremely popular. However, some people prefer limiting or not consuming packaged and processed foods. Luckily, there are natural plant-based foods that are rich in proteins. In this article, you'll learn the best plant-based protein sources.

Key takeaways:
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    Plant-based protein sources can help meet your nutritional needs while promoting a sustainable and balanced lifestyle.
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    Legumes, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain a good amount of plant-based protein.
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    Incorporating plant-based protein sources into your diet can help diversify protein intake and support a well-rounded, plant-based eating plan.

Protein is an essential part of the diet. Your body needs protein for physiological functions, including synthesizing hormones and building and repairing tissues.

Dietary protein comes from either animal or plant sources. People choose plant-based eating plans for various reasons, including being vegan or vegetarian, diversifying protein sources, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Plant-based proteins are also superior to animal proteins in regard to affordability and sustainability.

Let's look at the best plant-based protein sources to incorporate into your diet.

Legumes and pulses

Legumes and pulses provide a good amount of protein. They are low in glycemic index and cholesterol free. Protein content changes slightly between different legumes and pulses (the dried seeds of legume plants). The highest protein content is found in:


Soybeans are rich in protein. A cooked cup of soybeans (185 grams) contains 32 grams of protein. They are also considered a complete protein, providing all essential amino acids. The ratio of essential amino acids determines bioavailability.

Incorporate natural soybeans into your diet by cooking them and enjoying them as a nutritious snack or side dish. You can add them to salads, stir-fries, and soups or make homemade soy milk for a plant-based protein boost.


Many pulses, including chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans, contain around 9 grams of protein per 100 g of cooked pulses.

Pulses are highly versatile ingredients. You can boil, steam, and pressure cook them or use canned pulses for your meals, such as salads and soups. Remember, canned pulses can be high in sodium. You can look for low-sodium or salt products to lower sodium intake.

Most people avoid legumes and beans because they think they'll be bloated. Keep in mind that soaking them overnight can help with digestibility. It also reduces cooking time.

Whole grains

Whole grains are complex carbohydrates rich in fiber and B vitamins. They also contain a good amount of protein, especially quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. The highest protein content is found in oats, teff, and brown rice.


Oats are a type of whole grain that are highly versatile and commonly consumed as oatmeal or baked goods. They are rich in dietary fiber, particularly a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has been associated with various health benefits.

The protein in oats is considered high-quality, containing all essential amino acids. However, it is lower than in some other grains. Oats can be incorporated into your diet in various ways, including overnight oats, oatmeal cookies, granola bars, or added as a thickener to soups and stews.


Teff offers around 10 grams of protein per cooked cup (252 grams). It is a gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia and Eritrea. Besides being cooked as porridge, teff flour can be used in baking for making pancakes, bread, or muffins.

Brown rice

Brown rice is a whole grain that retains its bran and germ layers, making it more nutritious than white rice. You get 5 grams of protein when eating a cup of cooked brown rice (195 grams). Brown rice is a staple in many cuisines and can be used as a side dish, in stir-fries, or as a base for grain bowls. It is a versatile grain that complements various flavors and cuisines.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fatty acids and protein. They are a great source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, known for their cardiovascular benefits. Nuts and seeds also provide vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium The highest protein content is found in:

Almonds and pistachios

Almonds and pistachios are nutritious nuts packed with protein, healthy fats, and minerals. An ounce (28 grams) of almonds or pistachios contains approximately 6 grams of protein.

They are packed with healthy fats, which can help promote heart health. They're a good source of antioxidant vitamins that protect against oxidative stress.

Hemp seeds and flaxseed

Hemp seeds and flaxseed are tiny nutritional powerhouses rich in protein and healthy fats. They provide around 2 grams of protein per tablespoon (10 grams).

They are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), beneficial for heart health and inflammation reduction. Also, they provide fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and other essential minerals.

You can make energy bars from various nuts and seeds. Adding them to salads, smoothies, and bowls is very convenient.

Leafy greens and vegetables

Although protein content is not the strength of vegetables, they contain smaller amounts of proteins that still add to daily protein intake. They have many vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, folate, and vitamins C and K.

Leafy green vegetables such as artichokes, brussels sprouts, and broccoli contain 4 grams of protein per cooked cup.

Remember to choose fresh, vibrant, and crisp leafy greens for the best flavor and nutrient content. Incorporating green leafy vegetables into your meals allows you to enjoy their numerous health benefits while adding color, texture, and freshness to your dishes.

If you're following a vegetarian or vegan diet or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based options, these protein sources can help meet your nutritional needs while promoting a sustainable and balanced lifestyle.

You should explore the abundance of natural plant-based protein sources, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. You can experiment with different recipes, cooking methods, and combinations to enjoy their nutritional benefits and delicious flavors.


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