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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

What are some of the top vegan sources of protein?

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A person with a vegan diet does not eat meat, eggs, or dairy. While some people may think this heavily restricts their sources of protein, there is still an abundance of vegan-friendly protein they can consume.

Having a vegan diet means that a person cannot take in protein from the same sources as a person with an omnivorous diet. An omnivore is a person who eats both animal and non-animal products.

However, there are many plant-based sources of protein that a vegan person can consume. Nuts, grains, and legumes are protein sources, and they also contain additional nutrients that are beneficial to the body. Certain vegetables and seeds also contain good amounts of protein.

This article will cover how much protein a person needs, why it is important, and what vegan foods are good sources for that protein.

How much protein do people need?

A person’s protein requirements are based on several categories, including age, sex, weight, and physical activity.

According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)Trusted Source, protein is required in the following daily amounts for different groups of people:

Age (years)-sex groupRecommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein (g)
M/F 2–313
M/F 4–819
M/F 9–1334
F 14–1846
M 14–1852
F 19–3046
M 19–3056
F 31–5046
M 31–5056
F 50+46
M 50+56

These RDAs are guidelines only, and a person may find that their personal requirement varies. In general, the RDA for a young and healthy person who does not do much exercise is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass per day (g/kg/d)Trusted Source.

A person who is quite active, or who wants to build muscle, may find that they require more protein per day. An article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports NutritionTrusted Source recommends 1.6–1.7 g/kg/d for strength athletes and 1.2–1.4 g/kg/d for endurance athletes.

Additionally, a person who is pregnant will need to consume more daily protein. According to an article in the online journal Nutrients, a pregnant or lactating person should increase their daily protein intake by 10%.

Vegan sources of protein

There are many foods that are good sources of vegan protein, such as:

Whole grains

A whole grain is a grain that contains the entire grain kernel, meaning that the grain is intact. Many whole grains are good sources of protein, including:


When cooked, quinoa contains 4.38g of protein per 100gTrusted Source. A cup of cooked quinoa has 7.45g of protein.


Raw oats contain a high amount of protein, with 13.2g per 100gTrusted Source. A cup of raw oats has 10.7g of protein. However, a person should soak oats before consuming them to make them easier to digest.


Although not a whole grain, seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. Seitan’s high gluten content means that it is not suitable for people who are gluten intolerant or celiac.

When fried, seitan has 11.28g of protein per 100gTrusted Source.


Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is very high in protein. One tablespoon of spirulina, which is about 7g, contains 4.02g of proteinTrusted Source, which is 57.5g per 100g.


Certain vegetables are good sources of protein, such as:


Although not high in protein by itself, when used as part of a meal, broccoli can increase the protein content. Raw broccoli contains 2.82g of protein per 100gTrusted Source, and 2.84g per 100g Trusted Sourcewhen cooked in oil. A cup of raw broccoli only has 2.54g of protein, whereas a cup of cooked broccoli contains 4.54g.


When cooked with oil, mushrooms contain 3.74g of protein per 100gTrusted Source, and 5.98g per cup.

Additionally, mycoprotein is a source of protein derived from fungi. People often use mycoproteins in meat substitutes. Mycoprotein contains 11g of protein per 100g.

However, certain products that contain mycoprotein also contain egg, which makes them non-vegan. A person should be careful to check the ingredients in a mycoprotein dish before eating it.

Pulses and legumes

Certain pulses and legumes are good sources of protein, such as:


When boiled, lentils contain 9.02g of protein per 100gTrusted Source. A half cup of cooked lentils contains 8.95g of protein.


Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, contain 8.86g of protein per 100gTrusted Source when boiled. Per cup, boiled chickpeas contain 14.5g of protein.

There are many dishes that use chickpeas as an ingredient, such as curries and hummus. Hummus is also a good source of protein, containing 8.18g per 100gTrusted Source.


Peanuts are very protein-rich, containing 25.8g of protein per 100gTrusted Source. An ounce of peanuts contains 7.31g.

Additionally, peanut butter contains 22.5g of protein per 100gTrusted Source, and 7.2g per 2 tablespoon serving.


People use soybeans to make many products, such as tofu and tempeh. These products make protein-rich ingredients for many dishes.

Soybeans themselves contain 12.95g of protein per 100gTrusted Source when raw, or 16.92gTrusted Source when cooked. Half a cup of raw soybeans has 16.6g of protein, whereas half a cup of cooked soybeans contains 15.65g of protein.

Fried tofu contains 18.81g of protein per 100gTrusted Source, and 5.34g per ounce.

When cooked, tempeh contains 19.91g of protein per 100gTrusted Source, which is about one serving.

Nuts and seeds

Many nuts and seeds are valuable sources of protein, including:

Chia seeds

Chia seeds are very protein-rich, containing 18.29g per 100gTrusted Source. A serving of 20g contains 3.65g of protein.


Raw, unsalted almonds are another protein-rich food, containing 20.33g per 100gTrusted Source, and 5.76g per ounce.

Almond butter contains 20.96g of protein per 100g, and 6.71g per 2 tablespoon serving.

Hemp seeds

Hemp seeds are a good source of protein, with 31.56g per 100gTrusted Source. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 9.47g of protein.

Why is protein important?

Protein is an important nutrient present in various foods. Protein provides the body with energy, and is necessary for:

  • proper growth and development
  • building and repairing body cells and tissues
  • hair, skin, nails, muscle, bone, and internal organs
  • almost all body fluids
  • many body processes, such as blood clotting

Are all proteins equal?

Proteins contain strings of smaller units called amino acids. The order of the amino acids determines the protein’s function and structure.

There are 20 types of amino acid, which fall into two categories:

Essential amino acids: These are amino acids that the body needs but cannot produce. There are nine essential amino acids that the body can only get through food.

Nonessential amino acids: The body can produce these amino acids via the consumption of essential amino acids, or through breakdown of body proteins.

The proteins taken by different foods also fall into separate categories:

Complete proteins: These foods contain all the essential amino acids in acceptable amounts. Foods such as quinoa, soy products, and mycoprotein are complete protein sources.

Incomplete proteins: These are foods that only contain some of the nine essential amino acids. Nuts, beans, seeds, and vegetables are incomplete proteins.

Complementary proteins: These are incomplete protein sources that, when eaten together at a meal or over the course of a day, combine to provide all nine essential amino acids. When people eat peanut butter with whole wheat bread, they form a complete protein.

Click here to learn about the difference between animal and plant proteins.

Can someone eat too much protein?

It is possible for a person to have too much protein in their diet. Research suggests that for most people, eating more than 2g/kg/d could cause long-term health problems.

A person with too much protein in their diet may have the following symptoms:

  • intestinal discomfort
  • excess amino acids in the blood
  • excess ammonia in the blood
  • high levels of insulin
  • dehydration
  • irritation
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • liver and kidney failure
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • seizures
  • increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Overconsumption of protein can also increase a person’s risk of developing:

  • diabetes
  • cancer
  • osteopenia
  • osteoporosis


There are many protein sources available to a person with a vegan diet. It is important that a person eats a good mix of protein sources. The amount of protein a person needs can depend on their age, sex, and level of activity.

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