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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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