There are many reasons to switch to a plant-based diet. Some look to this type of diet to reverse or improve many chronic conditions, from obesity to type-two diabetes. Other people are motivated by the diet’s positive effects on the planet. No matter what moves you, we’re here to tell you that a plant-based diet can be fulfilling and nourishing – especially when you include these 17 top plant-based proteins.
It might be overwhelming to switch to this type of diet – as our own blogger, Eric O’Shea, has shared in some of his posts. For Eric, it was learning which plant-based proteins would be filling and satisfying, along with stocking up with a few pantry essentials. But, before we get into the specific plant-based proteins, let’s take a minute to talk about a plant-based diet and the benefits of switching to a vegan lifestyle.
Plant-Based Diet Basics
What can you eat on a plant-based diet? Well, anything that comes from plants! That means whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and tubers. The diet doesn’t require that you restrict carbs, fats, or calories: you just need to cut out animal-based products. So, yes, you’ll have to give up your bacon – but you’ll find that you won’t miss it in a few short months. Plant-based diets also remove dairy products and eggs, and many recommend that you avoid refined foods (like sugar, bleached flour, and oil).
Making the change to follow a plant-based diet has not only led to serious weight loss for followers, but it also comes with many health benefits, too. Because these diets are low in saturated fat, low in sugar, and high in fiber, they have been linked to a reduction in heart problems (including lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk for heat disease). Studies also show that this diet can improve blood sugar, improving or reversing type-two diabetes conditions.
Before you jump in, know that switching to a plant-based diet will require a lifestyle change. That could take a few weeks (or as long as a month) until it feels normal, so be patient with yourself along the way. If it sounds like an impossible feat, don’t worry: we have a ton of resources for you! Our plant-based shopping list will help you get familiar with all the new foods you can eat, and we have a 7-day meal plan to help you jump right in.
Top Plant-Based Proteins
Almonds pack 6 grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving, and they make a tasty addition to rice bowls and salads. If you’re looking for a quick-and-easy snack that’s protein-filled, try these no-bake almond energy bars.
2. Black Beans
In addition to their 7.6 grams of protein (per 1/2 cup cooked beans), black beans are also filled with fiber and other beneficial phytonutrients. That makes them a plant-based superfood! Try switching up taco Tuesday with this vegan, gluten-free mango and black bean taco recipe.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds pack a powerful punch of protein – 6 grams with every 2 tablespoons! They’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and they’ll keep you feeling full and satiated after a meal. Spread some of this mixed berry chia seed jam on your favorite whole-grain toast to get your morning started right.
Whip up a batch of hummus without feeling any guilt – this tiny bean packs 6 grams of protein for every 1/2 cup serving. Or, skip the hummus entirely and eat tasty, textured chickpeas as a meat replacement on your favorite salad (we like this spicy kale salad tossed with one of our plant-based, oil-free dressings).
Edamame is quite possibly the healthiest appetizer ever! Each cup has 18 grams of protein with almost no calories. Just make sure to look for organic, non-GMO edamame for the most nutritional benefits.
These low-calorie legumes are full of protein. You’ll get 9 grams for every 1/2 cup serving, and their meaty texture means you won’t miss the meat, either! Give it a try with this easy lentil vegetable loaf (psst: the leftovers will make an excellent “meatloaf” sandwich!).
There are so many reasons to add spirulina to your diet, and protein is just one of them. This algae superfood is a complete protein with 4 grams of protein per tablespoon, along with a number of other beneficial vitamins and minerals.
These fermented soybeans bring 16 grams of complete protein for every 3-ounce serving. It cooks up similar to tofu, but it’s easier to digest since it is a fermented product. Try whipping up this maple-glazed tempeh if you’re new to the product!
9. Wild Rice
This protein-rich grain has a nutty flavor and a satisfyingly chewy texture. Each 1-cup serving provides 6.5 grams of protein, and it makes a great dairy-free stuffing for baked potatoes.
You just got another reason to eat everyone’s favorite toast topping! Avocados are filled with beneficial fats and 2 grams of protein for every half avocado. Combine it with white beans for this toast recipe to really amp up your protein intake.
You might be surprised to learn that broccoli has 2 grams of protein for every 1/2 cup serving. No wonder it’s such a popular ingredient for vegan stir-frys!
12. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts have a bad rap for tasting bitter, but they’re really quite delicious when you cook them properly (like this spicy Asian Brussels sprouts recipe). They also are filled with potassium, vitamin K, and 2 grams of protein for every 1/2 cup.
This sweet and crunchy nut might be expensive, but oh man, is it worth it! You only need 1/4 cup of cashews to get 5 grams of protein. You can even use them to make dairy-free cheeses (follow this recipe if you’re missing some creamy sour cream in your life).
Everyone talks about sweet potatoes these days, but each medium-sized potato contains 4 grams of protein. Not bad! That’s a good reason to eat these easy roasted garlic potatoes for breakfast this weekend.
15. Pumpkin Seeds
Make some homemade, heart-healthy granola with pumpkin seeds this year to give it a boost of protein. They’ll provide you with 5 grams of protein for every 1/4 cup used, and they taste crunchy and delicious.
There are so many reasons to love spinach – it tastes great, it’s packed full of iron, and you’ll get 3 grams of protein for every 1/2 cup used. That’s a good reason to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
17. Steel-Cut Oats
This low-glycemic index grain is a perfect way to start your day. Oats slowly release glucose into your system, making them diabetic friendly, while also providing you with 5 grams of protein for every 1/4 cup serving.