10 Top Sources of Vegan Protein



The Food and Nutrition Board’s daily recommendations for protein are about 46 grams for women (adults) and 56 grams for men (adult).

Vegetarians and Vegans can easily meet this quota, ensuring the complete protein intake they need. 

Here is a list of 10 Great Vegan Sources of Protein based on the quality of the protein and ranked in no specific order. As usual, Organic is best.


#1: Spirulina and Chlorella

Protein: 4 grams per 1 Tablespoon Serving. 

Researchers often consider these green algae to be the ultimate “Superfoods” and for good reason: Aside from containing high levels of iron and chlorophyll, Spirulina and Chlorella contain 12 times more digestible protein than beef. 100 grams of Spirulina contains 58 grams Protein! Spirulina tablets and powders are the protein source of choice for many vegetarian and vegan body-builders seeking to improve muscle mass. You can take it in tablet form or sprinkle the powder in your Smoothie. Sprinkle in some Brazil nuts, Hazelnuts or Almonds if you want to make it a complete protein.

58 g Protein per 100 grams   | 4 g Protein per Tablespoon (7 grams)| 5 Calories per 1g of Protein


#2. Tempeh 

Protein: 15 grams  per ½ cup serving. 

Tempeh is made by fermenting Soy Beans, which is a complete protein and deserves its place in the list, provided that you avoid the processed varieties. While beans are normally low in the amino acid methionine, Soy is a complete protein and can also be consumed in Natto (15 grams Protein per 1/2 Cup) and Tofu (10 grams per 1/2 Cup).  Tempeh is chewy and delicious, even to die-hard meat fans.


#3.  Quinoa

Protein: 8 grams per 1 cup serving.

A food so healthy that NASA has plans to grow it on interplanetary space flights, Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids and is one of the best non-animal sources of protein around. Quinoa also contains iron for healthy red blood cells, lysine to help with with tissue growth and repair and magnesium to help with detoxification and migraines. It is also a wonderful option for those on a  a gluten free diet, since it is completely gluten free.


#4. Black Beluga Lentils 

Protein: 12 grams per 1/2 Cup Serving.

A cup of iron-rich Lentils provides 18 grams of protein, which is almost  as much as three ounces of steak. Black beluga lentils, named after the small, shiny beads which resemble caviar, are rich in protein and fiber like all varieties of lentils. A half cup of cooked black lentils equates to about 12 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber and is a powerful way to help keep you full and energized. Unlike starchy beans, dried lentils don’t require pre-soaking and cook up in about 15 to 20 minutes!


#5. Pumpkin Seeds

Protein: 12 grams per 1 Cup serving (64 grams).

Pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses; providing a wide variety of nutrients such as Magnesium (helps with blood pressure and preventing sudden cardiac arrest), Zinc (boosting immune system, eye and skin health and male sexual function), Omega 3’s (help to support a healthy heart, bones and brain) and research suggests Pumpkin Seed oil may be beneficial in supporting prostate health. Pumpkin Seeds are highly portable and make an excellent snack on the go.

19 g Protein per 100 grams   | 12 g Protein per cup (64 grams)| 15.8 calories per 1g of Protein


#6. Buckwheat 

Protein: 6 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked.

First cultivated in China and the Himalayas centuries ago, Buckwheat was the go-to dish long before rice and other cereal grains took over. Although offering less protein than Quinoa, Buckwheat contains all the indispensable amino acids, including lysine and has more B vitamins, including riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3). Gluten-free, Buckwheat is packed with healthy nutrients; with some studies showing that it may improve circulation, lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose levels [1] [2].


#7. Chia Seeds

Protein: 4 grams per 2 tablespoon serving

Chia Seeds top the list of plant-based sources of Omega-3 and are also a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Chia Seeds are great for supporting a healthy heart, immune system, nervous system, healthy hair and strong bones. On the downside, they are not that easy to eat. For ways to make Chia Seeds more palatable click here.

17 g Protein per 100 grams   | 4,7 g Protein per handful (28,4 grams)| 28 Calories per 1g of Protein


#8. Almonds 

Protein: 15 grams, per 1/2 Cup serving. 

Although Peanuts do have a higher Protein content, certain varieties can be toxic (aflatoxin). Add a handful of Almond nuts to give your salad some protein. Almond butter is also a great way to get all the nutty-nutrient goodness and is less toxic and allergenic than peanut butter, although the protein amounts are similar by comparison. For those interested, a handful (28.4 grams) of whole almonds will give you roughly 6 grams of Protein. Even with that being said, it’s about quality protein, not necessarily the amount.


#9. Spinach 

Protein: 7 grams per 1 Cup serving. 

Greens pack a protein punch. One cup of cooked spinach has about 7 grams of protein. Spinach is low in calories, high in fiber and packed with heart-healthy nutrients like potassium, folate, and magnesium — key ingredients for lowering and maintaining blood pressure levels. For an easy way to eat more of this great green; try mixing fresh Spinach leaves into salads, adding them to sandwiches or add frozen chopped spinach right into veggie burgers to give your kids a huge blast of vitamins and minerals.

Other notable Veggies for Protein: French beans has about 13 grams and one cup of boiled peas, Nine grams.


#10. Kale

Protein: 3 grams per 1 Cup Serving. 

A dark, leafy green member of the cabbage family, Kale offers a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. At just 33 calories, one cup of raw kale has nearly 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber (which helps manage blood sugar and appetite), Vitamins A, C, K and Folate (a B vitamin that’s key for brain development). Kale is great for supporting healthy eyes, bone health and avoiding osteoporosis and one Harvard study even found it slowed age-related decline in memory [3].

4 g Protein per 100 grams   | 2.9 g Protein per cup (67 grams)| 16.6 Calories per 1g of Protein


As with anything, a balanced protein intake is important. Let your body guide you to find which foods work best for you and be sure to check any diet changes with your healthcare provider.


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Be delighted to hear any Vegan Protein Sources you would recommend which aren’t featured here?  


Article References: 

  1. Insoluble fraction of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) protein possessing cholesterol-binding properties that reduce micelle cholesterol solubility and uptake by Caco-2 cells. Metzger, B.T., Barnes, D.M., Reed, J.D. Department of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2007 Jul 25;55(15): 6032-8. 
  2. Buckwheat concentrate reduces serum glucose in streptozotocin-diabetic rats. Kawa, J.M., Taylor, C.G., Przybylski, R. Department of Human Nutritional Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2003 Dec 3;51(25): 7287-91 
  3. The Association of Antioxidants and Cognition in the Nurses’ Health Study E. Devore*, Kang, J. Stampfer, M and  Grodstein, F. Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Initially submitted February 10, 2012; accepted for publication April 5, 2012.

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Christopher Drummond
For Simple Ways To Live A Healthy Life, Visit: www.organichealth.co.za