9 Dietary Sources of Plant-Based Protein

Even if you're a self-identified carnivore, there are promising health benefits to diversifying your intake of the important nutrient.

A plant-based approach to eating places an emphasis on minimally processed foods from plants, with modest amounts of fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy (red meat is designated to the “eat sparingly” category).

One of the major concerns—and myths—directed towards a plant-based diet (especially one sans animal products like vegetarian and vegan diets) is how you get enough protein. But this common misperception is neglecting to recognize a slew of plant-based foods that offer up an impressive amount of the important nutrient.

And even if you identify as a carnivore (a life without burgers is just not one you want to live, we get it), research makes a strong case for incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, and cutting back slightly on animal sources.

The most recent nutritional guidelines released by the USDA urged people to cut back on saturated fats (which red and processed meats are high in) and “shift towards other protein foods”—including more nuts and seeds. And research shows that plant-based diets can help lower BMI, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high consumption of plant-based foods like fruit and vegetables, nuts, and whole grains is associated with a significantly lower risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

Convinced that it’s about time to swap some of that meat and dairy for plant-based alternatives? Here are nine delicious, easy-to-prepare, plant-based foods that deliver a significant amount of protein.

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Nuts

Just one ounce of nuts offers up a solid dose of plant-based protein: almonds (6 grams), walnuts (4.5 grams), cashews (5 grams), and pistachios (6 grams) all make great snacks on their own, or added to salads, smoothies, stir fries or homemade trail mix.

Try It In: Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

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Seeds

This versatile ingredient not only has ample amounts of protein, but also offers up fiber and healthy fats. And the options are endless: Sprinkle sunflower (seven grams per quarter cup), sesame (1.6 grams per tablespoon), chia (five grams per ounce), hemp (three grams per tablespoon), ground flax (three grams per two tablespoons) or pumpkin seeds (nine grams per ounce) onto salad or avocado toast, or blend into smoothies.

Try It In: Chia Seed Pudding

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Lentils

Half a cup of cooked lentils contains almost nine grams of protein (and only 115 calories and under a gram of fat), making them an extremely lean source of protein that is a great way to imitate a meaty taste and texture in recipes like meatloaf, tacos, and sauce.

Try It In: 30-Minute Spicy Lentil Bolognese

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Quinoa

While referred to as a super grain, quinoa is actually the seed of a grain plant—and it is one of the few plant-based sources of complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids. One cup cooked contains eight grams of protein, and other minerals like magnesium that help combat high blood pressure.

Try It In: Quinoa Pancakes

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Beans

From black to kidney to cannellini, beans (like nuts and seeds) offer a wide variety of options and contain anywhere from seven to 10 grams of protein per half cup. Plus you can’t get much easier: grab can from pantry, open, eat.

Try It In: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Veggie Burgers

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Edamame

A cup of soybeans has almost 19 grams of protein per cup (with under 200 calories). They may be one of the easiest, tastiest, and most satisfying snacks out there. Simply toss them in the microwave for a few minutes to steam, and sprinkle them with sea salt for a snack that will subdue any potato chip cravings. They also make a great addition to salads, stir fries, and veggie burgers.

Try It In: Garlic & Ginger Edamame

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Nutritional Yeast

When your vegan friends whisper about nooch, they aren’t doing some undercover drug deal. They’re throwing around the slang term for nutritional yeast, a strain of yeast that has been heated (to deactivate it) and dried, that boasts eight grams of protein per quarter cup. Sprinkle it on popcorn, kale chips or veggies for cheesy flavor or use it to make mac and cheese.

Try It In: Vegan Pasta Alfredo

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Green Veggies

Yes, vegetables do contain protein. Broccoli boasts an impressive amount: four grams per cup. Plus, 30 percent of your daily calcium needs, and a dose of vitamin C, fiber, and B vitamins for a measly 30 calories. Other veggies that have protein bragging rights: Peas (eight grams per cup), artichokes (four grams per half cup), asparagus (four grams per cup) and spinach (five grams per cup).

Try It In: Broccoli Soup with Ginger and Lemon

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Oats

A quarter cup of raw oats contain seven grams of protein, and they are also a great source of fiber, magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins. Keep good ol’ oatmeal in the breakfast rotation, and use oats to pump up the protein count of breads, smoothies, and desserts. And savory oatmeal is officially a thing—experiment with oats at the dinner table.

Try It In: Savory Oatmeal with Sautéed Mushroom, Onion & Thyme