Protein is the building block of our bodies and a vital nutrient for all humans, and vegan protein sources are the healthiest form of protein available.
Choosing vegan protein sources allows you to maintain a high level of protein per meal, without the negative side effects of consuming too much meat.
I personally am not vegan or vegetarian, but I do work my best to consume as many vegan protein sources each day instead of animal protein and limit my overall consumption of meat.
One of the major concerns about vegan and vegetarian diets is the insufficient supply of protein overall, however, there are tons of vegan sources of protein to choose from. There are many vegan foods that are high in protein, and vegan protein powder is available online just as readily as traditional whey protein powder.
Keep reading below to find the best vegan sources of protein, and more information about why you should choose plant protein over animal protein!
Why Should You Eat Plant-based Protein?
There are several reasons why it is beneficial to eat meat-free, plant-based protein. Plant-based protein can easily provide you with the required amount of protein your body needs, are better for the environment and are generally lower in calories.
Along with that, plant-based protein is better for your health in a variety of ways.
For example, studies have reported that consuming plant protein instead of animal protein can reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. According to a study published in Cancer Research,
“Diets rich in plant-based proteins and scarce in red and processed meat may provide a cancer-preventive metabolic environment in the gut and thus decrease the risk for colorectal cancer.”
Furthermore, one of the main risks of protein intake is that some animal sources of protein also contain high amounts of saturated fat. Saturated fat intake is strongly associated with a risk of developing cardiovascular disease, and protein-rich foods such as whole-milk products and red meat are common choices for protein intake, while also being high in saturated fat content.
Therefore, it is important to choose as many plant-sources of protein as possible. Although white meat contains lower amounts of saturated fat than red meat, both have shown to increase LDL cholesterol more than plant protein (Bergeron, Chiu, Williams, M King, & Krauss, 2019).
Although in this article I am focusing on the health benefits of vegan protein sources, both high animal protein and high plant protein diets both have shown to be associated with having a lower body weight and lower amounts abdominal fat (Berryman, Agarwal, Lieberman, Fulgoni, & Pasiakos, 2016). If eaten in excess, protein will still convert to body fat like carbohydrates and dietary fat. However, protein has a higher thermogenic effect in the body and is also more satiating, which might explain the apparent link between a high-protein diet and body composition (Pesta & Samuel, 2014).
For those who are very active and looking to build muscle mass while maintaining low body fat, a diet high in vegan protein can assist with muscle synthesis and enhance recovery, which is why supplements such as whey protein powder are both popular and beneficial (Devries & Phillips, 2015).
Furthermore, supplemental amino acid intake is a very perplexing concept. When looking through research studies on the topic, I seem to find as many studies claiming that BCAA supplements, such as Scivation Xtend, have positive effects on lean muscle mass and body composition as studies demonstrating potential adverse health effects. Studies indicate that amino acid supplementation, leucine, in particular, was associated with positive effects on lean muscle mass (Fujita & Volpi, 2006).
Contrarily, other studies show harmful impacts of elevated BCAA intake, such as how high-BCAA diets promote excessive eating, obesity, and can reduce lifespan through the effects of amino acid intake imbalance (Solon-Biet et al., 2019).
Although there may be some benefits of using supplemental amino acids, it appears that the best advice is to intake protein from quality vegan protein sources within well-balanced meals.
I will explain more about this product below, but if you wish to use a protein supplement, I suggest the vegan protein supplement Sunwarrior Illumin8:
Lastly, switching to vegan sources of protein could even lower your risk of death! According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
“High animal protein intake was positively associated with cardiovascular mortality and high plant protein intake was inversely associated with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, especially among individuals with at least 1 lifestyle risk factor. Substitution of plant protein for animal protein, especially that from processed red meat, was associated with lower mortality, suggesting the importance of protein source.”
The 8 Best Vegan Protein Sources for Your Diet!
If you want to switch to vegan protein sources instead of animal protein, or you are a vegan or vegetarian looking to simply find more unique sources of protein, here are some of your best options:
Foods that belong to the legume family are always a great source of protein for vegetarians, and peas are no exception. A cup of peas contains 7.9 grams of protein, which is about the same as a cup of milk.
One of my favorite ways to consume peas in a healthy and tasty fashion is by blending your peas into a pesto sauce.
You can blend toasted pine nuts, olive oil, vegan cheese and fresh mint along with your peas, to make a protein and nutrient filled sauce!
Although most grains contain only a small amount of protein, quinoa is technically a seed and is unique because it contains over 8 grams of protein per cup!
This also includes all nine of the essential amino acids that the body requires for growth and repair, but cannot be produced by the body.
Quinoa is amazingly versatile because it could be added to soup, served with brown sugar and fruit as a hot cereal breakfast, and it can be tossed with vegetables and a vinaigrette to produce a refreshing summer salad; amongst many other ways of consuming!
Nuts and Seeds
All nuts contain healthy fats and protein which makes them a valuable part of a meat-free diet. Considering the fact that they are high in calories; (cashews, pistachios, and almonds all contain 160 calories and about 5 or 6 grams of protein per ounce), I recommend that you select varieties that are raw or dry roasted.
Peanut and almond butter are also great sources of protein from the “nut” family.
In regards to “nut butters,” always search for brands that have as few ingredients as possible; preferentially the ones with only salt and nuts as ingredients. Apart from the fact that nuts and seeds provide you with healthy fats and fiber, they are also a great source of other minerals such as selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants.
Remember that blanching and roasting may damage the nutrients in the nuts, this makes the raw and unblanched nuts better.
There are several varieties of beans including: heirloom, pinto, black, white, kidney, etc. One thing that they all have in common is the high amount of protein they have! For example, two cups of kidney beans contain about 26 grams of protein!
Several studies have shown that diets which are rich in bean protein and other legumes almost always decrease cholesterol, help to reduce belly fat, lower blood pressure, and help to control blood sugar levels.
One of my favorite ways to add beans to your diet is by simply making a tasty bowl of homemade chili! Making chili in a slow cooker is extremely easy, and can be an affordable meal that you will eat for a few days!
I will be posting many slow cooker recipes in the future so if you don’t already have one, I highly recommend you find a quality slow cooker or multi cooker online!
Hemp comes from the cannabis Sativa plant, the plant which is notorious for being a part of the same family as the marijuana plant. Although it belongs to the same family as marijuana, it contains only trace amounts of THC (the compound that produces the marijuana-like drug effects).
Hemp seed, though not as well known as other seeds, contains 10 grams of easily digestible and complete protein per ounce (28grams). That is about 50 percent more than flaxseeds and chia seeds!
Hemp also contains a good amount of iron, zinc, selenium, and magnesium; and it is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in a ratio which is considered optimal for human health.
To completely meet daily protein requirements, a vegan athlete can consume hemp protein as their primary source of protein. Due to its complex nature and micro-nutrient composition, hemp protein is the best source of protein completely obtained from plant sources.
It is perfect for vegans, and non-vegans alike!
There has been a wide range of research done on hemp protein to determine its benefits, including an article in The Journal of Food Chemistry from 2008 with results which,
“suggest that the protein isolates from hempseed are much more nutritional in amino acid nutrition and easily digestible than SPI, and can be utilized as a good source of protein nutrition for human consumption.”
Furthermore, as stated in an published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry,
“results provide reference data in support of protein claims for hemp seed products and provide evidence that hemp proteins have a PDCAAS equal to or greater than certain grains, nuts, and some pulses.”
Through many thorough examinations, hemp protein benefits have proven to complete the necessary amino acid profile of vegan athletes, and non-vegan athletes.
Finding hemp protein seeds can be a bit difficult for some people depending on where you live, but luckily there are many excellent options for hemp protein powder online, such as Your Superfoods Skinny Protein. Regardless of whether you are a vegan athlete or not, the wide range of essential amino acids in hemp can benefit you!
Lentils are another great source of protein, with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup.
Lentils can be used in a variety of dishes from hearty soups and spice-infused dahls, to fresh salads. Lentils also contain great amounts of slowly digested carbs, as a single cup (240ml) provides approximately 50 percent of the daily fiber intake that is recommended for you.
Furthermore, the type of fiber that is found in lentils has shown to be food for the good bacteria in your colon, thereby promoting a healthy stomach. Lentils have been shown to help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, some types of cancer, and excess body weight.
Lentils are also rich in manganese, iron, and folate, and contain a good amount of antioxidants and other plant compounds that promote quality health overall!
Edamame, Tofu and Tempeh
These three originate from soybeans, and soybeans themselves are regarded as whole sources of protein.
Edamame is immature soybeans that have a sweet and slightly grassy taste, and need to be boiled or steamed before consumption. Edamame can be eaten tastily as a standalone or can be added to soups and salads for consumption.
Tofu is made from bean curds that are pressed together in a process that is similar to cheese making, and tempeh is also made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans before pressing them into a patty.
Although tofu does not have much taste, it easily absorbs the flavor of the ingredients that it is prepared with.
These three contain calcium, iron, and about 10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100grams)
Moringa is a relative newcomer to the health market but it has entered and appears to be here to stay! It is a plant that is native to the Himalayas in India but is now being cultivated across the world.
Dubbed as the “Tree of Life,” moringa is often supplemented in countries where malnutrition is prevalent in order to supplement nutrients.
According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy Research,
“Moringa oleifera Lam. (Moringaceae) is a highly valued plant, distributed in many countries of the tropics and subtropics. Moringa is nature’s medicine cabinet. It is best known as excellent source of nutrition and a natural energy booster. Different parts of this plant are being employed for the treatment of different ailments in the indigenous system of medicine.”
Moringa is considered to be a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. One gram of moringa has twice the amount of protein as yogurt and is equivalent to a full serving of vegetables. It is a wonderful way for vegans and vegetarians to include protein into their diets, and it is one of the best vegan protein sources. According to a research study published in the Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology and Life Sciences,
“Moringa leaves contain all of the essential amino acids in a good proportion, which are the building blocks of proteins. These leaves could be a great boon to people who do not get protein from meat. Moringa even contains arginine and histidine two amino acids especially important for infants,who are unable to make enough protein for their growth requirements [12-18]”
Moringa is one of the best vegan protein sources because along with its protein content, it contains tons of other valuable nutrients as well.
Moringa has high levels of Vitamins A, C, E, and B complex which are essential vitamins for better skin.
Vitamin A is necessary for the repair of skin tissue. Having a Vitamin A deficiency can cause skin to become flaky and dry.
Vitamin B complex contains biotin, which is the basis of your nails, skin and hair cells. Supplementing with Vitamin B can give a healthy glow to your skin.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that has been shown to reduce wrinkles, improve skin texture and reduce skin damage.
Vitamin E is believed to have the ability to reduce the appearance of scars, rough and dry skin.
Moringa is an all encompassing skin care supplement that can make a significant improvement to your skin. According to a study which was published in Advances in Dermatology and Allergoloy,
“The results suggested that moringa cream enhances skin revitalization effect and supports anti-aging skin effects.”
Furthermore, although moringa is caffeine-free, it has high levels of nutrients including high levels of iron and calcium. These two nutrients support energy-yielding metabolism. Studies have found that patients who supplemented their diet with moringa felt a natural energy boost as opposed to those taking a placebo.
Taking a moringa supplement can help with building muscles, and it will help increase your basal metabolic rate.
If you are interested in using moringa, one excellent product I suggest you try is Your Super Power Matcha. Along with moringa, Your Super Power Matcha also contains maca root, wheatgrass, matcha, and barley grass. Combined, this is an excellent product that contains vegan protein, and you can drink it in the morning as a replacement for your typical cup of coffee.
The Best Vegan Protein Supplement
Although I always recommend people to eat whole foods instead of using supplements whenever possible, supplements are much more convenient. If you want to use vegan protein supplements instead of whey protein, I think that is a great choice!
Although whey protein will probably always be the most commonly used type of protein, plant-based protein powders are far more effective in my opinion.
By using high-quality plant-based protein sources for your supplements you not only get the protein and amino acids your body needs to recover, you are also getting valuable micronutrients that you don’t get from other sources.
Another crucial factor to me is that protein powders should not be sweetened with artificial sweeteners or flavorings. There are a lot of companies that claim to produce plant-based protein products, but they ruin them by adding too many other ingredients which are unnecessary.
If you’re looking for the best vegan protein supplements, Sunwarrior Illumin8 is one of the best options I have found.
Sunwarrior Illumin8 powder contains:
- Whole Grain Brown Rice
- Holy Basil
- Healthy Fats
- Gluten-Free Carbohydrates
- And more!
If you want an excellent vegan protein source that contains the macronutrients and micronutrients that you need in your diet to be fit and healthy (which you obviously do), Sunwarrior Illumin8 is for you!
For more information, you can read more about Research Verified Reviews to learn about how to distinguish between quality supplements and to help you find one that is safe and right for you!
Concluding Thoughts – The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources
Humans do not need every essential amino acid in each bite we take or meals we eat; what we need is a sufficient amount of each amino acid daily.
Most dietitians are now in agreeance that a plant-based diet contains such a wide variety of amino acids that it vegans can easily access all of the amino acids their body needs, with little effort.
By searching for vegan protein sources filled with plant-based proteins, you will assuredly be making strides towards improving your overall health in many ways!