the best plant-based foods rich in protein

Dietitian Belinda Neville shares 10 plant-based foods, rich in protein, you should pick up on your next groceries run. For if you’ve powered through Veganuary and are sticking with it – or if you’ve simply decided to eat more plants in 2021.

Switching to a more plant-based diet doesn’t mean you need to compromise on protein. While you may be used to thinking of meat and eggs as the protein on your plate, there’s an abundance of fresh and tasty plant foods able to fill that gap.

Simply swapping just three per cent of your daily intake from animal protein to plant protein has been shown to improve your chances of living longer. In particular, protein from nuts and seeds has been shown to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 40-60 per cent. More trail mix anyone?

So, to help you get to know the sources of plant protein, here’s how 10 common supermarket staples rate:

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1. Seeds

Up to 26g plant protein per 100g / 8g per serve

Don’t overlook these tiny tidbits. Pumpkin and sunflower seed are bursting with nutrients and protein. Try adding a mix to homemade muesli or sprinkle them on salad for an extra protein hit.

2. Nuts

Up to 20g protein per 100g / 6g per serve

Nuts are often thought of as a great source of healthy fats, but they’re a major source of plant protein. Simply snacking on a handful of nuts (a 30g serve) or blending them into a smoothie will provide up to 6g of protein. These tasty morsels also provide iron, calcium, zinc and omega-3 fats which are important nutrients for those on a vegetarian diet. And yes, nuts butters will work too, especially pure nut butters, with no added salt or oil.

3. Kidney Beans

14g protein per 100g/ 21g per serve

Kidney beans are a deliciously affordable source of plant-based protein. Cook them from scratch or buy them ready-to-go in a can. They’re an excellent swap for meat in meals like plant-based burger patties, chilli con carne and nachos. (Also, a handy and cheap staple to keep in the pantry.)

4. Soybeans

14g protein per 100g / 20g per serve

Soybeans are one of the few known plant foods to contain all nine essential amino acids – the building blocks of protein. Whether you eat them from the pod or in soy foods such as tofu and tempeh, you’ll still get a protein hit. Soy milk is also a good go-to providing around the same amount of protein as dairy milk (about 9.5g a cup).

5. Breakfast cereals

Around 12g protein per 100g/ 4g per serve

There’s no need to fuss with a fry-up. Whole grain wheat is a source of amino acids, with something as simple as whole wheat breakfast biscuits containing 3.6g per serve and rolled oats providing around 4g. Add your favourite milk and you’ll be well on the way to hitting your protein target for the day.

6. Bread

Around 11g protein per 100g/ 9g per serve

That’s right, the humble loaf contains protein. An average serve of wholemeal bread (two slices) provides 9g of plant protein, and white bread isn’t far behind at around 6g.

7. Lentils

7g protein per 100g / 11g per serve

Lentils make a wonderful substitute for mince meat in recipes. Think lasagnas, pies, chilli and pasta sauces. They are also a really easy way to get a lot of protein in one meal with a cup of cooked lentils providing 11g of protein, as well fibre to help keep your gut happy.

8. Chickpeas

6g protein per 100g/ 9g protein per serve

Hummus fans rejoice. The humble chickpea is a great source of plant-based protein with one serve providing around 9g. You can also add them to your favourite curries, blend for dips or even use them for baking for a protein-packed treat.

9. Baked beans

5g protein per 100g/ 7g per serve

All the beans make the list, even good old fashioned baked beans on toast is an excellent choice for a protein-packed brekkie. Just one cup of baked beans will provide you with more than 7g of protein. Try and choose a salt reduced variety that’s also low in sugar.

10. Potato

3g protein per 100g / 2g per serve

The humble spud should not be dismissed with a medium sized potato providing around 4g of protein. Try baking them in the oven and loading them up with more plant goodness like your favourite slaw or chilli. Pro tip: leave the potato skin on for extra fibre and B group vitamins.

Belinda Neville is an accredited practising dietitian and program manager at Nuts for Life, Australia’s independent authority on tree nuts and health. You can connect with her on Instagram @nuts_for_life.