10 Most Underrated Sources of Plant-Based Protein

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plant based protein sources

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There is a common misconception that animal products are the only source of plant-based protein. This could not be further from the truth, as plant protein alternatives exist in abundance.

In fact, plant proteins contain many benefits over meat and other animal byproducts: they’re easily accessible to those who cannot afford meat and also provide more fiber and less fat than their animal counterparts.

The most underrated plant protein sources include various types of legumes and nuts.

Whether you’re vegan or simply looking for other options, consider these plant sources of plant-based protein next time your meal prep needs an overhaul.


1) Lentils – 19g per 100 g serving

plant-based protein sources - lentils

Lentils fit perfectly as the first entry on this list as they are very high in total plant protein content while low calorie and high fiber. Lentils are often used as an animal-meat alternative, commonly for vegetarian burgers. They’re also part of the legume family, including peas and beans.

These protein-rich plant options can be boiled or steamed; try them with other vegetables to make a complete meal.


2) Quinoa – 24g per 100 g serving

Quinoa is considered one of the plant-based world’s superfoods due to its high protein content and numerous health benefits.

This gluten-free carbohydrate has enough plant protein to act as an entire meal by itself but can take on many other flavors easily when combined with meats or other plant sources of plant-based protein.

Try making quinoaaf – it goes great alongside plant proteins like lentils or chickpeas, and it’s gluten-free!


3) Soy – 31g per 100 g serving

Soybeans are the main ingredient in tofu, which is plant-based protein at its finest. By itself, soy contains all of the essential amino acids that plant-based eaters must get from plant sources of plant protein.

While organic fermented soy may be healthier, you should always choose non-GMO options to ensure there aren’t any hidden pesticides.

This plant protein also makes a good meat alternative and a healthy drink base for smoothies or homemade protein shakes.


4) Hemp Seed – 36g per 100 g serving

Hemp seed has been used to produce plant protein powders that are typically used in plant-based protein shakes.

Hemp seed is also an excellent nut option when making plant-based chili, and combined with quinoa makes an excellent plant source of plant-based protein for vegans.


5) Chia Seed – 39g per 100 g serving

chia seeds

Chia seeds can be eaten whole or ground into a plant-based powder to make plant-based protein smoothies similar to hemp seed powder.

They have a high fiber content, which will help you feel full faster while maintaining the plant-based protein benefits of other chia derivative products such as chia oil.

Chia can also be used to replace eggs in vegan cooking by creating a gel that has been shown to lower blood pressure.


6) Spirulina – 55g per 100 g serving

Spirulina is a plant protein taken to the extreme. This blue/green algae contains plant protein and plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, which are known for their positive effect on cardiovascular health.

While spirulina can be used as plant-based protein powder, it’s also commonly consumed by eating the raw plant or adding to plant-based smoothies. Don’t worry; spirulina has a very briny taste that other flavors like vanilla extract can easily mask!


7) Algae Oil – 58g per 100 g serving

Algae oil is largely composed of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids; however, many companies are beginning to plant their seeds in the plant-based protein market.

If you’re looking for plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, algae oil is a great plant source. In-fact, you can take in liquid or pill form.

You’ll find algae oil hidden in plant-based milk at your local grocery store. This shows how widespread these products are becoming.


8) Buckwheat – 18g per 100 g serving

Buckwheat contains more plant protein than many other cereal grains, making it another gluten-free option to add to your list of plant sources of plant-based protein.

This grain also contains plant chemicals called rutin and quercetin, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Buckwheat plant protein is commonly found in plant-based vegetable burgers, so why not try one out tonight?


9) Amaranth – 20g per 100 g serving

Amaranth plant protein is also used to make plant-based veggie burgers and has a high calcium content.

Its nutrient-dense plant proteins are actually comparable to meat in terms of essential amino acid profile. This gluten-free plant protein can be found at your local health food store or ethnic grocery store.


10) Artichoke – 14g per 100 g serving


Artichoke plant protein contains carbohydrate soluble fiber like other trendy prebiotics, which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent in the digestive system.

Adding fresh artichokes to plant protein salads is a great way to add plant-based protein and prebiotics to your plant-based diet.


Other Underrated Plant-Based Protein Sources

a. Mushrooms

One of the most underrated plant-based protein sources is actually not a plant at all, but rather fungi!

Although it may sound strange to eat a mushroom for breakfast instead of a piece of toast, mushrooms provide 8 grams of protein per cup and can be eaten cooked or raw.

Mushrooms also contain plant sterols and antioxidants that may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.


b. Lupin Seeds

Another source of plant protein with an egg-like consistency is made from a plant called Lupin seeds. This plant produces legume seeds known as lupins which can be dried and crushed into flour for baking purposes.

Replacing up to half the wheat flour in baked goods with this plant can give them a larger percentage of plant-based protein (8%).


Final Thoughts

Additionally, there are many plant-based meat alternatives on the market today. They include “beef-less,” “chicken-less,” and “turkey-less” products, which often contain plant proteins. These plant products have been developed using soy or wheat gluten as a base for structure and taste enhancement.

All these sources of plant protein provide adequate amounts of amino acids. When combined with other plant food sources, they form a complete protein profile. So go ahead and eat plant-based foods and forget the meat!

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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