There's a wide array of plant-protein sources to choose from. Below are some fan favorites, but there are plenty of others, too—you can mix and match based on your preferences and dietary needs. Add those you like best to meals, smoothies, and snacks to keep you satiated and energized all day.
(*signifies a complete protein)
Tempeh, 31 grams of protein per cup*
Tempeh is made from fermented whole soybeans and provides iron, calcium, and B vitamins. Because it's fermented, the nutrients are better absorbed from tempeh than they are from tofu. Tempeh also contains prebiotic fiber that feeds the good bacteria in our gut, improving gut health and reducing inflammation in the body.
Lentils, 16 grams per ½ cup
These legumes deliver complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and balanced blood sugar levels. The soluble fiber they contain feeds good bacteria in the gut to help keep us healthy and may lower total and LDL cholesterol (often called "bad" cholesterol). Lentils are rich in iron, too.
Beans, 12 to 15 grams per cup
Legumes including black beans, mung beans, pinto beans, and others are good sources of minerals and B vitamins (including folic acid—especially crucial during pregnancy). They also contain polyphenols, which are antioxidants associated with protection against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases.
Quinoa, 11 grams per cup
This seed can be cooked and eaten as you would other whole grains, although it has some advantages over those foods. Quinoa is gluten-free and higher in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients than most grains. It's a good source of fiber, too.
Walnuts, 10 grams per ½ cup
Unlike other nuts, walnuts contain a significant amount of the omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which benefits the heart and brain. They also boast more antioxidant power than other nuts, helping to protect the body from free radical damage. Walnuts have even been shown to improve cognitive function.
Pumpkin seeds, 10 grams per ¼ cup
These tasty seeds contain health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids associated with maintaining a healthy heart. You'll get a healthy dose of fiber, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and other nutrients when you snack on them too. Additionally, studies have shown that eating pumpkin seeds can help boost testosterone levels for men.
Nutritional yeast, 5 grams per tablespoon*
This vegan stand-in for cheese is a member of the fungi family that's rich in B vitamins, including vitamin B12—an important one for anyone eating a plant-based diet because plant sources of it are few and far between.
Spirulina, 4 grams per tablespoon*
Beyond its protein content, spirulina (aka blue-green algae) is rich in iron and other minerals as well as vitamins, antioxidants, protein, and gamma-linoleic acid, a beneficial fatty acid. It's a complete protein and a great source of vitamin B12, particularly important for vegans and vegetarians. Spirulina has also been found to lower "bad" cholesterol and raise "good" cholesterol in some studies.
Almond butter, 4 grams per tablespoon
Almonds and almond butter are rich sources of minerals (calcium, magnesium, selenium) as well as folic acid, potassium, vitamin E, and selenium, helping to cover your nutritional bases. According to research, almonds may reduce LDL (aka "bad") cholesterol and heart disease risk. They're also reputed to keep blood sugar levels in check and protect against colon cancer.
Hemp hearts, 3 grams per tablespoon*
Hulled hemp seeds, called hemp hearts, are high in fiber, vitamin E, potassium, and several minerals. In addition, they contain a perfect ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs, which we need for heart and brain health, immune system support, energy production, and other healthy functioning.
Maca powder, 3 grams per tablespoon*
This superfood energizes without being a stimulant and boasts substantial vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. As an adaptogen, it has a balancing effect on the body. Maca helps to maintain equilibrium and balance stress levels, and it may alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is recommended if you do enjoy this superfood to do so in the morning and not at bedtime.
Chia seeds, 2 grams per tablespoon*
The high-fiber content of these itty-bitty seeds will help keep you regular and might keep you feeling full longer. They're high in heart-healthy omega-3s and also provide vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants to combat free radical damage that can lead to disease.
Flaxseeds, 2 grams per tablespoon
These seeds have the highest level of omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) of all plant foods, as well as an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Flaxseeds help balance estrogen levels, alleviate menopausal symptoms, and appear to offer prostate-cancer protection. In patients with coronary artery disease, they've been found to improve triglyceride levels and blood pressure.