8 Plant-Based Foods That Provide Protein to Your Diet

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Perhaps because we’ve joined a community-supported agriculture program, Dad’s and my meals have increasingly revolved around vegetables. I’ve found that eating more veggies has made me feel much better, but Dad still wants protein on his plate (which he thinks of as beef, chicken, or seafood). But that got me thinking – what types of plant-based protein are available for those who want to make an even bigger dietary change?


    Whole Living magazine's April 2011 issue identified eight plant-based foods that are good sources of protein – seitan, lentils, tofu, black beans, quinoa, pistachios, vanilla soy yogurt and Brussels sprouts. So let’s learn more about these plant-based foods.

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    • Seitan, which is wheat gluten, provides 31 grams of protein in a three-ounce serving, according to Whole Living. On The Vegetarian Resource Group website, registered dietician Jill Nussinow notes that seitan has been a staple in many cultures, including China’s monks who are vegetarian, Russia’s wheat farmers and Mormons. There are commercially prepared forms of seitan in marinades which can be found in tubs or vacuum packs in many natural food stores or in Asian markets by the name of Mi-Tan. “Seitan's versatility lies in the myriad forms it assumes during the cooking process,” Nussinow stated. “I find simmering to be the most effective and efficient preparation method. But it can be oven-braised, baked, cooked in a pressure cooker, or deep fried. Each version yields a different texture. Oven braising produces a texture similar to the chewy texture derived from simmering. Baking produces a light texture that works well when grinding or grating seitan….Fried gluten turns soft and slippery when cooked with a sauce and absorbs flavor well.” Additionally, seitan can be pressure cooked and will result in a soft texture.
    • Lentils provide 18 grams of protein in a cooked one-cup serving, according to Whole Living. Beans&lentils.com stated that these foods were consumed by our ancestors in the Eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hungary, Britain, Switzerland, Peru, the Middle East and East India. Lentils have to be combined with a complementary protein such as nuts, seeds, rice or grains that to become a complete protein that contains the nine essential amino acids. Lentils also are excellent sources of potassium, fiber, folic acid and B vitamins.
    • Tofu has 17 grams of protein in a one-cup serving, according to Whole Living. Dr. David Katz, the director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, reported on Oprah.com that tofu is a complete protein, but is not considered as high-quality as animal sources because it has a lower proportion of amino acids. “While there may be some variation in the nutrient content of fresh versus packaged tofu—omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, can degrade with exposure to light and air—the quantity and quality of amino acids should be the same,” Dr. Katz said. “Using soy products as a source of protein lets you reduce your intake of meat, which may well confer a net health benefit—especially if the meat being replaced is high in saturated fat.”
    • Black beans offer 15 grams of protein in a cooked one-cup serving, according to Whole Living.  The George Mateljan Foundation states that one-cup of beans also provides nearly 15 grams of fiber, which is well over half of the daily value. Consuming black beans regularly also benefits the digestive tract, blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular health, and also may help prevent some forms of cancer.
    • Quinoa, which provides eight grams of protein in a cooked one-cup serving according to Whole Living.  “Although not a common item in most kitchens today, quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked,” the Mateljan Foundation notes. Quinoa has large amounts of the amino acid lysine, which is necessary for tissue growth and repair. It also is a good source of manganese, magnesium, folate and phosphorus. The foundation notes that this grain may especially benefit people who have migraine headaches, diabetes and atherosclerosis.
    • Pistachios offer six grams of protein in a one-ounce serving, according to Whole Living. Livestrong.com’s Beth Celli reports that a one-ounce serving of pistachios(49 kernels) has 30 different nutrients and only 170 calories. Pistachios also have more than 10 different antioxidants, which have been found to help fight a variety of illnesses, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and age-related macular degeneration.
    • Vanilla soy yogurt has five grams of protein in a six-ounce serving, according to Whole Living. Livestrong.com’s Lisa Thompson reports that soy yogurt is created by adding bacteria to soymilk. Soy yogurt does not contain dairy, lactose or cholesterol. “Soy yogurt is lower in protein than dairy yogurt, which contains more than 8 g per 6 oz. serving, deriving a significant amount of protein from milk,” Thompson stated. “Fruit flavors tend to contain less protein than vanilla. Both peach and blueberry soy yogurt contain 4 g of protein per serving." Soy yogurt also is a significant source of calcium and is higher in iron and vitamin C than dairy yogurt.
    • Brussels sprouts have four grams of protein in a cooked one-cup serving, according to Whole Living. I’ve recently written a sharepost on Brussels sprouts that provides a lot of information about these little globes.

    Dad and I periodically eat lentils, black beans, Brussels sprouts and pistachios so making these foods a more regular part of our diet won’t be too difficult. And I’ve wanted to try quinoa and vanilla soy yogurt, so knowing that these foods are a good source of protein provides added incentive to add these to my shopping cart.  However, tofu and seitan are completely new to me and may be a little strange for Dad. But I may try them in a meal to see what we both think. Just don’t tell Dad!

Published On: March 05, 2012