Protein-rich foods of animal origin have been the standard in the fitness world for years. At the same time, we notice that there are more and more people who want to reduce, or even stop altogether, eating animal products. In such a case we are talking about a vegetarian or vegan way of eating. In the field of vitamins, minerals, fibers and other important nutrients, vegetable dietary patterns undoubtedly score well and even offer certain health benefits over a diet with animal nutrition. Only with a plant-based diet can you always come up against one thing: proteins. Because how do you get the proteins that are so important for strength and muscle mass when you can no longer eat meat, fish, eggs or cottage cheese? Because we notice that many people have difficulty with this, we started looking for the best vegetable proteins!
Of course you can also use the content of this article if you do not want to eat vegan immediately, but simply want to replace meat more often with vegetable protein.
The difference between vegetarian and vegan
To begin with, in this article we will focus on a vegan way of eating. A vegetarian (even though the definition differs from a vegetarian) will in fact have a lot less difficulty in getting enough protein from dairy products, eggs and in some cases even fish.
We therefore focus exclusively on vegetable foods that must provide us with our daily requirement of protein.
But why is that so difficult?
There are three sides to the reason why it is difficult to get enough protein with plant-based foods:
- First of all, the proportion of protein in vegetable products is often a lot lower than in animal products. Because of this you will by definition have to eat more to get an equally high protein intake. That only brings us to point 2.
- Vegetable protein sources never consist of pure protein. Where a chicken fillet contains around 22 grams of protein and furthermore only a low amount of fat, this is very different for vegetable foods. This is often accompanied by significant amounts of carbohydrates, which can be undesirable if fat loss is your goal.
- Finally we have the amino acid profile. This tells us something about the content and quality of our protein. A complete amino acid profile that has all the essential amino acids (which the body cannot make itself) will help you more in building muscle mass than an incomplete profile. Plant products often do not have a complete profile of their own and different sources have to be combined.
The best vegetable proteins
With the above in mind, we started looking for the best vegetable proteins so that you can get the most out of your strength training without eating a single gram of animal products!
Psst, do you only want to see an overview with the best vegetable proteins? Then scroll all the way down!
Vegetable protein powders
Easily the most protein-rich product in our list is naturally vegetable protein powder. As with the dairy variant, we are talking about a concentrated product, but then entirely from vegetable origin. Green protein is made from pea-protein isolate, rice protein and hemp protein to achieve a protein content of no less than 76,7 grams per 100 grams!
The mix of vegetable sources guarantees a complete amino acid profile and with one portion you have 20 grams of protein in no time.
An honorable mention goes to other vegetable powders (in the absence of a better name) such as hemp powder, cocoa powder or spirulina powder. Below is a list of protein-rich vegetable powders that you can easily add to, for example, a shake.
Spirulina powder - 65,9 grams of protein per 100 grams
Pumpkin seed powder - 65 grams of protein per 100 grams
Hemp powder - 47 grams of protein per 100 grams
Cocoa powder - 29 grams of protein per 100 grams
The next food that immediately caught our eye is seitan. You have probably never heard of it, especially if you have not yet made the move to a vegan diet.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten, this is the elastic protein substance from wheat flour (although seitan can also be made from other grains). As a result, seitan has a fibrous structure that resembles meat and that makes it the perfect meat substitute. To make it even better, seitan contains no less than 24,8 grams of protein per 100 grams, more than chicken fillet!
Tempé and Tofu
Soy products have received much criticism in the past because of the proportion of isoflavones and anti-nutrients. However, this appears to be especially the case with processed soy products. When we talk about natural, unprocessed soy products, the benefits are worth more than the disadvantages! Tofu and tempeh are perfect examples of this.
Both are made from soybean with different production methods. As a result, no unnecessary ingredients have been added and they can be combined well in dishes due to a neutral taste.
Tofu contains 13 grams of protein per 100 grams and tempeh contains 12 grams.
We now know that seeds are real powerhouses. They are full of good fats, including often Omega-3 fats, contain an enormous amount of fiber and are also a source of minerals.
But did you know that seeds also contain an enormous amount of protein? Hemp seed strains the crown with no less than 31 grams of protein per 100 grams, with linseed (22,3 grams) and chia seed (20 grams) behind it.
So enrich your salad or hot meal with some seeds to boost the nutritional value and add extra flavor.
Even though nuts and seeds differ greatly in structure and taste, the nutritional values are usually close to each other. We have written about this before all the benefits that nuts have to offer and the protein content is also part of that.
Dry roasted almonds are at the top of the list with no less than 19,5 grams of protein per 100 grams and we find at the bottom of the list Dry roasted walnuts with a still very respectable 15,9 grams. The cashew nuts en mixed nuts fall in between and are therefore also great ways to increase your protein intake.
The only drawback here is that nuts mainly consist of fat. To get 30 grams of protein from almonds, you would need to eat for over 900 kilocalories and 75 grams of fat in nuts. We don't recommend that you, so consider nuts just like seeds as a good addition to your meal.
Finally, we should not forget the peanut butter here! Yes, technically a legume, but for most people it is considered a nut so that's why it is here. Natural peanut butter contains no less than 27,1 grams of protein per 100 grams and say: who doesn't like peanut butter ..? ?
We are approaching the end and the next turn is quinoa! Years ago quinoa has gained popularity as a gluten-free alternative to commonly used grains. Quinoa is the perfect variation on rice with a somewhat crunchy texture and nutty taste. But of course that is not all, because then quinoa would not be here.
Quinoa contains 12 grams of protein per 100 grams and therefore offers the perfect basis for a hot meal.
With quinoa behind us, we should of course not forget the well-known grains. Grains such as oatmeal, rice and pasta have been popular building blocks for fitness enthusiasts around the world for years, but not just for the reason why they are here. They are usually eaten as a source of complex carbohydrates but also contain significant amounts of protein!
For example, oatmeal already contains 14 grams of protein per 100 grams. A perfect basis for a nutritious oatmeal porridge, but in finely ground variant also an ideal addition to your (vegetable) protein shake.
Most other grains are close to this and can be found at the bottom of the overview.
Legumes are usually known for their relatively low calories, proportion of complex carbohydrates and large proportion of fiber. But did you know that legumes are also an excellent option to get some extra protein? No, they will not form the basis of your protein intake, but both chickpeas, lentils and garden peas all contain 6,5 grams of protein per 100 grams. Enough to complete your meal and create some extra diversity in the amino acid profile.
Hummus made from these legumes is also a great addition to a sandwich or corn waffle, for example, but keep in mind that the percentage of fat is higher due to added oils.
An overview of all vegetable proteins
Below you will find the complete list of all foods from this article, sorted by protein content per 100 grams.
Green protein - 76,7 gram
Spirulina powder - 65,9 gram
Pumpkin seed powder - 65 gram
Hemp powder - 47 gram
Hemp seed - 31 gram
Cocoa powder - 29 gram
peanut butter - 27,1 gram
Seitan - 24,8 gram
Flax seeds - 22,3 gram
Chia seed - 20 gram
Almonds - 19,5 gram
Mixed nuts - 18,5 gram
Cashew nuts - 18,2 gram
Walnuts - 15,9 gram
bulgur - 14 gram
Oatmeal - 14 gram
Pasta - 13 gram
Tofu - 13 gram
couscous - 12 gram
tempeh - 12 gram
Quinoa Salad - 12 gram
Rice (basmati) - 8 gram
Lentils - 6,5 gram
Chickpeas - 6,5 gram
Garden peas - 6,5 gram
hummus - 6 gram
Please note: these values may differ per brand / producer.