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The Protein Paradox: How to Get All the Protein You Need Without Eating Meat

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Many experts agree that a meatless diet can provide all the nutrients the human body needs. Some plant-based foods can even contain significantly more protein than animal products.

So, for those individuals who want to cut back on meat, here are the top 12 protein-rich plant-based foods.

Leave a comment to let us know if you’ve tried any of these foods and what your thoughts are!



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Tofu originates from soybeans and is a staple of East Asian cuisine. The NIH says soybeans are a complete protein source, providing all the essential amino acids we need. Tofu is made from pressed bean curds, and while it tastes great, it also quickly absorbs the flavor of the ingredients it is prepared with. Tofu contains calcium, iron, and 12–20 grams of protein per 100-gram serving.

Hemp Seeds

hemp seeds

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Hemp seeds come from a plant called Cannabis sativa, and although they are not known as well as other seeds, they contain around 9 grams of protein per 30 grams. Hemp seeds also contain high amounts of iron, magnesium, zinc, calcium, selenium, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Healthline states that hemp seeds can help reduce inflammation.



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Providing 18 grams of protein per cooked cup, this legume is an excellent protein source. The CBC reports that lentils are also a great source of fiber, feeding the good bacteria in the colon and promoting a healthy gut. Lentils are rich in iron, manganese, folate, and other health-promoting plant compounds.



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Seitan is a popular protein source among vegans and vegetarians. It is made from gluten, the leading wheat protein, and unlike many soy-based types of meat, seitan closely resembles the texture and look of meat when properly cooked. Also known as wheat gluten or wheat meat, seitan provides phosphorus, calcium, iron, and nearly 25 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, making it one of the richest plant-based protein sources.


green peas

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Green peas contain around 9 grams of protein per cooked cup, which is surprisingly more than a cup of dairy milk. According to Healthline, a half cup of green peas contains 4 grams of fiber as well as high amounts of manganese, thiamine, folate, and vitamins C, A, and K. These little veggies are also a good source of iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and other B vitamins.

Amaranth and Quinoa

amaranth and quinoa

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Amaranth and quinoa don’t grow from grasses like other grains. They can be ground into flour, much like wheat. Bob’s Red Mill says these pseudocereals provide 8 to 9 grams of protein per cooked cup. They are also a great source of fiber, complex carbs, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Protein-Rich Veggies and Fruits

green veggies

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Although most fruits and vegetables contain protein, some have more than others. Veggies with the most protein include spinach, broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, which typically contain 4 to 5 grams of protein per cooked cup. Fruits generally have lower protein content, but those that contain the most protein are guava, blackberries, bananas, mulberries, nectarines, and cherimoyas, which have around 2 to 4 grams of protein per cup.

Soy Milk

soy milk

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Made out of soybeans and usually fortified with vitamins and minerals, soy milk can be a great alternative to dairy milk. It offers 6 grams of protein per cup, and soy milk is also an excellent vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium source. Opt for unsweetened and fortified versions.



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Spirulina is a nutritional powerhouse; 2 tablespoons provide 8 grams of protein, covering 22% of your daily iron requirements and 95% of your daily copper needs. Spirulina is also rich in magnesium, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, and small amounts of essential fatty acids. Healthline notes that spirulina consumption may provide other health benefits like reduced blood pressure, a more robust immune system, and improved cholesterol levels.



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Half a cup of dry oats provides around 5 grams of protein and minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and folate. According to Livestrong, although oats are not a complete protein, they contain higher-quality protein than commonly consumed grains such as wheat and rice.

Nuts and Seeds

nuts and seeds

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Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein. One ounce of nuts/seeds offers 5 to 7 grams of protein while providing healthy fats, fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin E, and B vitamins. According to Medical News Today, raw nuts contain more fiber and nutrients than roasted nuts.

Wild Rice

Wild Rice

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Wild rice contains around 1.5 times as much protein as other rice varieties. Cooked wild rice provides almost 7 grams of protein, in addition to fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, and B vitamins. Unlike white rice, wild rice is not bran stripped, which is excellent as bran contains plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.


This originally appeared on Planet Natural.

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