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Plants that contain protein are essential for vegans and vegetarians, and many people who eat meat also seek out these alternatives to reduce their reliance on animal products. Plant proteins offer a variety of amino acids — protein building blocks — and protein density, along with lots of other nutrients. The FDA is a great source for discovering the protein content of plant-based products.

Black Beans

A half-cup serving of canned black beans contains about 7g of protein, roughly the same amount as in an ounce of chicken. Black beans are also a great source of fiber and carbohydrates while being low in sugar, making them a good choice for people with diabetes.

A serving of black beans contains plenty of other nutrients, too, including folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin, and manganese.

black beans in a wooden bowl

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Chickpeas

One cup of cooked chickpeas contains 14.5g of protein, which is about the same amount you would find in two ounces of beef. Chickpeas are also high in folate and manganese. They are affordable, easy to find, and extremely easy to incorporate into many recipes and diets.

boiled chickpeas nzfhatipoglu / Getty Images

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Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a grain, and although it sounds like it is related to wheat, it is actually gluten-free. A half-cup serving has about 11g of protein and contains a variety of minerals, including iron, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium.

Buckwheat is low in vitamins, so pair it with a mix of colorful fruits and vegetables to make a balanced meal.

Wooden spoon filled with buckwheat grain Elenathewise / Getty Images

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Lentils

There are a few types of lentils, brown being the most common. People often add them to soups because they hold their shape well and add texture and an earthy flavor.

Each type of lentil has its own nutrition profile, but generally, a one-cup serving of boiled lentils provides about 18g of protein. Lentils are also high in fiber and a good source of thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, and potassium.

boiled lentils in a bowl

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Tofu

Tofu is a great alternative to animal-based proteins, made from soy milk pressed into small blocks and solidified. A half-cup of tofu packs nearly 22g of protein as well as generous amounts of manganese, copper, iron, selenium, and vitamin A.

Tofu is also gluten-free, low in calories, and lends itself to a variety of recipes.

Organic Raw Soy Tofu bhofack2 / Getty Images

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Nuts

Nuts have long been known as a good source of protein, but how much you get per serving depends on the type of nut you choose. For a standard one-quarter cup serving, almonds have about 7.5g of protein, pistachios about 6g, and peanuts pack an impressive 9.4g.

Other good options are cashews, hazelnuts, and walnuts.

assorted nuts margouillatphotos / Getty Images

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Spirulina

Spirulina comes from blue-green algae that grow in salty lakes and oceans. A tablespoon of dried spirulina has 4g of high-quality protein and all ten essential amino acids. It is also a good source of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, plus omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.

Spirulina is easy to incorporate into many foods. Just add a spoonful to a smoothie, guacamole, hummus, or other dips, and enjoy.

Raw Green Organic Algae Spirulina bhofack2 / Getty Images

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Millet

Millet is a small, firm grain that resembles a seed. Although it is rich in carbohydrates, millet is gluten-free, which is one reason why it is becoming more popular.

In addition to fiber, folate, iron, and phosphorus, millet is a good source of plant-based protein, offering about 6g in a one-cup serving.

Hulled millet on wooden spoon and bowl clemarca / Getty Images

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Quinoa

Quinoa is a seed, but it behaves like a whole grain in the body and is often prepared and served similarly to brown rice, lentils, or barley.

A one-cup serving of this ancient grain delivers about 8g of protein and, though it contains about 39g of carbs, it has a low glycemic index and does not cause blood sugar spikes.

Cooked Quinoa Grain With Parsley DebbiSmirnoff / Getty Images

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Natto

Natto is a unique food with an astounding 34g of protein in a one-cup serving. This traditional Japanese dish is made of fermented soybeans and has a memorable sticky, stringy, and slimy texture.

While the smell is somewhat strong, natto has a nutty flavor and is often served topped with seasonings and soy sauce, with a side of rice.

Natto KPS / Getty Images

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Tempeh

Tempeh, a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans, is a fantastic source of protein, packing a punch with its dense nutritional profile. Unlike tofu, tempeh has a firm texture and a nutty flavor, making it a favorite in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to sandwiches. Tempeh is also a good source of calcium and iron, essential nutrients for bone health and energy levels. Its fermentation process adds beneficial probiotics, making tempeh a powerhouse in both nutrition and flavor.

Raw tempeh or tempe. tempeh slices in white ceramic bowls and on a marble table. raw soybean seeds in a white ceramic bowl. Tempe is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermented soybeans.

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Seitan

Seitan, or wheat gluten, has a chewy texture and versatility that makes it a high-protein, plant-based alternative to meat. Often used in vegan and vegetarian recipes, seitan can be grilled, sautéed, or baked, absorbing flavors well, making it an excellent option for those looking to reduce their meat consumption without sacrificing taste. High in protein and low in fat, seitan is an excellent choice for meals where you're looking for a meaty texture without the meat.

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Diverse Plant Milks

In the world of plant-based diets, soy milk has been a long-standing favorite for its high protein content. However, almonds, rice, and oat milk are also popular choices, offering their own unique nutritional benefits. While these alternatives may not naturally contain as much protein as soy milk, many are fortified to provide additional nutrients. They can be a great way to add variety to your diet, especially for those with specific dietary needs or preferences.

Various vegan plant based milk alternatives and ingredients. Dairy free milk substitute drink, healthy eating.

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Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a staple in many plant-based kitchens, known for its cheesy, nutty flavor that adds a punch to dishes without the dairy. It's a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, and is often fortified with B vitamins, including B12, which is particularly important for vegans and vegetarians. Sprinkle it over popcorn, stir it into soups, or use it in sauces to boost your protein intake while enjoying its delicious flavor.

Nutritional Yeast, Vegan Cheese.

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Edamame

Edamame, or young soybeans, are a delightful and nutritious addition to any meal. Packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins, these green gems are a great snack on their own or a tasty complement to salads, pasta, and many other dishes. Their slightly sweet and nutty taste, combined with a satisfying crunch, makes edamame a popular choice for those seeking healthy, protein-rich food options.

Fresh steamed edamame sprinkled with sea salt on a rustic tabletop.

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Green Peas

Often overlooked in discussions about protein, green peas are a surprising source of this essential nutrient. With a sweet flavor and versatile use, they can be added to a variety of dishes, from soups and stews to salads and pasta. Green peas not only provide protein but are also rich in fiber and vitamins, making them a nutritious choice for adding depth and flavor to your meals.

hearthy fresh green peas and pods on rustic fabric background

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Exploring Soy Products

The world of soy products extends far beyond tofu and soy milk. Soy yogurt and soy cheese are just the beginning, offering delicious alternatives to their dairy counterparts. These products not only cater to those following a plant-based diet but also provide essential nutrients, including protein. Whether you're enjoying a bowl of soy yogurt with fruit for breakfast or melting soy cheese on your favorite vegan pizza, these soy products are versatile, nutritious, and an excellent way to diversify your protein sources.

Soy bean, tofu and other soy products

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.