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How to Get Enough Protein as a Vegan

April 24, 2019

The number one thing vegans get asked is “How do vegans get enough protein?”

What the people asking this question don’t know is that there are countless sources of protein besides meat, eggs and dairy products. Believe it or not, even vegetables contain protein. If you are vegan or have reduced animal products in your diet, getting your daily intake of protein shouldn’t stress you out!

If there are countless sources of plant protein, why does everyone seem to be so stressed out about getting enough protein without animal products?

That’s a great question and a great topic worth discussing.

Yes, vegan-friendly foods are packed with protein, but the majority of plant-based foods aren’t complete proteins.

Complete Proteins: What They Are and Why You Need Them

A complete protein is a food source that contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Your body takes the protein you eat, breaks it down into amino acids and then uses them for different processes and functions. There are 20 different amino acids that your body requires, and they are divided into two main types: essential and non-essential. Nine of the 20 are classified as essential, as your body cannot produce them on its own, making it “essential” for you to consume them through your diet. Both chicken and nuts contain protein, but while eating a piece of chicken will give you all the amino acids you need, eating a handful of nuts won’t.

Consuming enough complete proteins is important for repairing your muscle fibers after they have been broken down during your workouts, as well as for helping reduce your soreness. They also are essential for building lean muscle mass, helping you see better results from your workouts.

How Vegans Get Enough Complete Proteins

Incomplete proteins can combine with other incomplete proteins to create complementary proteins, which provide the same benefits as complete proteins. Nuts contain different amino acids than beans, and beans contain different amino acids than grains, but when combined, they fill each other’s gaps. Plus, they don’t need to be eaten in the same meal to form a complete protein.

Let’s look at an example. Eating oatmeal with almond butter is a great protein-filled breakfast that provides you with 18 grams of protein. But grains (oatmeal) and nuts (almond butter) are missing the same amino acids, so it’s not yet a complete protein. This means that at lunch, it would be best to eat legumes to complement your breakfast.

Don’t overthink it! Legumes and grains form a complete protein, as do legumes and nuts/seeds. Therefore, if you consume nuts/seeds, legumes and grains as a part of your daily diet, you’ll successfully provide your body with the protein it needs.

There are a few plant-based complete protein sources you should definitely know about if you have eliminated meat from your diet. These complete protein sources include nutritional yeast, hemp seeds and quinoa, as well as edamame, tempeh, tofu and other soy products. Tofu and other soy products are up for debate with many nutritionists and dietitians as to whether or not they are healthy and should be included in our diets. If you decide to include tofu into your diet, as with all things, eat it in moderation and ensure you are buying organic, non-GMO options. It’s important to note that edamame and tempeh,  unlike tofu, have not been heavily processed and do not contain a long list of ingredients. Tempeh especially is a healthy option, as it’s been fermented, making it a great source of prebiotics and fiber—which is amazing for your gut health. You can read more about tempeh, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast here.

Here’s a breakdown of the top vegan protein sources:

Beans and Legumes

(Per ½ cup)

Chickpeas – 6g

Lima beans – 7.5g

Black beans – 7g

Lentils – 9g

Peas – 4g

Edamame – 8.5g

Tempeh – 15g (4 oz.)


(Per 1 cup cooked)

Brown rice – 5g

Wild rice – 7g

Quinoa – 8g

Buckwheat – 6g

Oats – 6g

Millet – 6g


(Per ¼ cup)

Almonds – 7g

Cashews – 5g

Walnuts – 4g

Pistachios – 6g

Hazelnuts – 4g


Sunflower seeds – 7g (1/4 cup)

Pumpkin seeds – 10g (1/4 cup)

Tahini – 7g (2 tbsp.)

Hemp seeds – 10g (3 tbsp.)

Chia seeds – 6g (2 tbsp.)

Flaxseed – 4g (2 tbsp.)

Plant-based Complete Proteins

Hemp seeds – 10g (3 tbsp.)

Nutritional yeast – 12g (¼ cup)

Tempeh – 15g (4 oz.)

Edamame – 8.5g (½  cup)

Tofu – 12g (4 oz.)

Quinoa – 8g (1 cup cooked)

Looking for delicious vegan recipes? Look no further!




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