Protein is a vital nutrient that plays a key role in virtually everything our bodies do.
It helps build and repair tissues, makes enzymes and hormones, and is essential for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
The average adult needs about 50 grams of protein daily, but most of us need much more.
Knowing which foods will help you meet your daily protein needs is important if you’re a vegan or considering a vegan diet.
Luckily, you have plenty of options.
Types of Protein
There are two main types of proteins found in foods — complete and incomplete — and both play a major role in our bodies.
Complete proteins are the superstars of the protein world.
They contain all the essential amino acids our bodies need but can’t produce. Amino acids are like the building blocks of our bodies, helping us grow and repair tissues.
They’re usually found in animal products like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. But don’t fret if you’re vegan: Some plant-based foods like quinoa and soy are also complete proteins.
Your body absorbs most of the complete proteins you eat, making them a super-efficient source of protein. However, the amount absorbed can vary depending on factors like how well the food was cooked and what other nutrients were in the meal.
Incomplete proteins are missing one or more essential amino acids.
But don’t let the name fool you: they’re still important for our bodies.
Incomplete proteins are commonly found in plant-based foods like vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Even though they’re “incomplete,” you can combine different sources of incomplete proteins to get all the essential amino acids. For example, pairing rice and beans or peanut butter and whole grain bread can provide you with a complete set of amino acids.
Vegan Foods High in Protein
The little green spheres you used to push around your plate as a kid are a great source of protein for vegans, packing a whopping 8 grams per cup.
Edamame are young soybeans, and they’re a fantastic source of protein.
One cup of cooked edamame packs a whopping 19 grams of protein. They’re also a great source of iron and calcium.
Broccoli is another sneaky source of protein.
One cup of broccoli has about 2 grams of protein. But that’s not all. It’s also full of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber.
Spinach is a sneaky source of protein.
Guava is an exotic fruit that’s high in protein and packed with vitamin C.
This tropical treat provides just over 4 grams of protein per cup. That’s pretty impressive for a fruit.
Avocados aren’t just for nachos and toast.
These creamy, green fruits are a great source of protein, with about 3 grams in a single avocado. They’re also packed with heart-healthy fats and fiber, making them a great addition to any vegan diet.
If you’re looking for a fruit that’s high in protein, look no further than jackfruit. This fruit provides about 3 grams of protein per cup.
Kiwis are small but mighty when it comes to protein content.
A single kiwi fruit contains about 1 gram of protein. Plus, it’s packed with vitamin C and fiber, making it a nutritious choice for any vegan diet.
Blackberries are not only delicious but also high in protein.
A cup of these sweet, juicy fruits provides about 2 grams of protein. They’re also a great source of fiber and vitamin C.
A medium-sized banana provides an extra gram of protein for your daily intake needs.
Plus, they’re a great potassium and vitamin B6 source, making them a great choice for a quick, on-the-go snack.
Oranges aren’t just for juice.
These citrus fruits are a great source of protein, with about 1.5 grams in a medium-sized orange. They’re also high in vitamin C and fiber, making them a nutritious addition to any vegan diet.
Grains and Legumes
Quinoa is not only a delicious grain but also a protein powerhouse.
One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein. It’s also gluten-free, making it a great choice for those with dietary restrictions.
Lentils are legumes packed with protein.
A cup of cooked lentils contains a whopping 18 grams of protein. They’re also a great source of fiber, which aids in digestion and keeps you feeling full.
Also known as garbanzo beans, these versatile legumes are high in protein — one cup of cooked chickpeas has about 15 grams of protein.
Black beans are a tasty legume that’s high in protein.
One cup of cooked black beans contains about 15 grams of protein. Plus, they’re a great source of fiber, which can help keep your digestive system healthy.
Amaranth is a grain that’s often overlooked, but it’s a great source of protein.
One cup of cooked amaranth contains over 9 grams of protein. It’s also a good source of iron and calcium.
Teff is a tiny grain that packs a big protein punch.
One cup of cooked teff contains about 10 grams of protein. It’s also high in fiber, iron, and calcium.
If you’re looking for a protein-packed seed, chia seeds are the way to go. Just two tablespoons of these tiny seeds (about a 1-ounce serving) pack a hefty 5 grams of protein.
But that’s not all: They’re also a fantastic source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
Almonds are both tasty and packed with protein. A 1-ounce serving of almonds (that’s about 23 nuts) contains 6 grams.
Plus, they’re chock full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin E.
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are a tasty and nutritious snack.
A 1-ounce serving of these seeds offers 9 grams of protein. They’re also a great source of magnesium, iron, and antioxidants.
Don’t be fooled by their small size: Hemp seeds are a protein powerhouse.
Just three tablespoons of these seeds serve up 10 grams of protein, along with vitamin E, fatty acids, and other minerals.
Seitan, also known as wheat meat, is a popular meat substitute in many vegan diets.
Made from gluten, the main protein in wheat, seitan is incredibly high in protein. A 1-cup serving adds 19 grams of plant-powered protein to your meal.
Nutritional yeast, affectionately known as “nooch” in the vegan community, is a deactivated yeast that’s packed with protein and B vitamins.
Just three tablespoons provide 8 grams of protein and a host of other nutrients.
This blue-green algae might not sound appetizing, but it’s a nutritional goldmine.
One tablespoon of spirulina powder contains 4 grams of protein and a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Pack it into a smoothie to add extra oomph to your post-workout snack.