Healthy Sources Of Plant-Based Protein That Will Keep You Full

According to 2019 research in Translational Psychiatry, plant-based protein greatly improves heart health and metabolism. If you’re worried about going hungry on a plant-based diet, don’t be. There are unexpected sources of plant protein, like a certain seed that is often mistaken for rice. Here are the healthiest sources of plant-based protein.

Kidney Beans Are One Of The Most Filling Legumes

Of all the beans, kidney beans have one of the highest protein levels. One cup offers a whopping 43 grams of protein and 46 grams of fiber. High protein and fiber are proven to increase satiety and aid people with weight loss, according to Current Development in Nutrition.

Kidney bean soup bubbles in a pot while cooking.
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

If you’re watching your weight, incorporate kidney beans into your diet. In 2008, a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that kidney beans are starch-blockers. They impair the absorption of carbs, which might prevent people from gaining weight. But kidney beans are delicious even if you aren’t monitoring your weight.

Quinoa Isn’t Just A Rice

Although quinoa is often treated as a type of rice, it is actually a seed with a good amount of protein. One cup contains eight grams of protein plus all eight essential amino acids. As such, it has more protein than most other grains.

A chef pours dried quinoa into a pot.
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Research reports that quinoa also benefits metabolism. During a 2004 study, researchers replaced gluten-free bread with quinoa-based bread in peoples’ diets. These participants had better blood sugar, triglyceride levels, and insulin. Quinoa is easy to incorporate into the diet, being served as a side dish or on top of salads.

Tofu Might Fill You More Than Chicken

Nobody can talk about plant-based proteins without at least mentioning tofu. One cup of tofu provides a whopping 20 grams of protein. According to a 2006 study in Appetite, eating tofu makes people feel fuller than eating the same amount of chicken.

Tofu is packaged in boxes and stacked in a factory.

While some people are worried that soy products degrade their health, researchers have found the opposite. During a Harvard University study, participants who eat tofu at least once a week decreased their risk of heart disease by 18%. Plus, tofu is a flavor sponge that you can season any way you’d like.

Chickpeas: Filling And Weight-Conscious

Chickpeas contain a lot of protein compared to other beans. Two tablespoons provide 2.4 grams of protein, which adds up to 39 grams per cup. In 2017, scientists compared snacks of chickpeas to white bread. When participants ate chickpeas before a meal, they felt much fuller and had a lower appetite.

A woman pours a bowl of chickpeas into a blender.
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Chickpeas can also help people maintain a healthy weight. According to a 2016 study in Nutrients, people who eat chickpeas (and other plant-based proteins) are 53% less likely to become obese. Add chickpeas to salads, rice dishes, or tacos.

Pea Protein Powder Is As Good As Whey

While whey and casein proteins are derived from milk, pea protein comes from yellow split peas. This protein powder offers 25 grams of protein for serving and is perfect for plant-based diets or people who are intolerant to lactose. In 2015, an animal study found that pea protein can make people feel as full as dairy-based meals.

Protein powder made from yellow peas is on a black table.
Shannon VanRaes/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Shannon VanRaes/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Like other protein powders, pea protein can help people build muscle. In 2019, a study in Sports compared pea powder to whey. The researchers concluded that both were equally effective in boosting muscle and endurance.

This Is How Healthy Peanut Butter Sandwiches Are

Peanut butter is a delicious source of plant protein that has a lot of flexibility. Two teaspoons of peanut butter provide eight grams of protein. You can add it to toast, a smoothie, oatmeal, baked goods, and many other meals.

A spoon of peanut butter sits on top of a jar surrounded by peanuts.
Corleto Peanut butter/Unsplash
Corleto Peanut butter/Unsplash

According to the Harvard Heart Letter, peanut butter is healthy and provides fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, and magnesium. In 2009, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that peanut butter can lower one’s risk of heart disease by 38%. It might also reduce your chances of early mortality by 21%.

Or Eat Peanuts Without The Butter

You don’t need peanuts in a butter form to get protein. Regular peanuts have 38 grams of protein in every cup. They also offer other vitamins such as copper, vitamin B3, folate, manganese, and vitamin E.

One open peanut shell is on top of a pile of peanuts.

Peanuts also have other health benefits. In the American Journal of Epidemiology, a 2004 study found that peanuts decrease the chance of gallstones. During another study in 2015, scientists reported that peanuts have the same heart-healthy effects as more expensive tree nuts. Add them to noodle dishes, salads, rice bowls, or baked goods.

Spirulina, An Algae Protein Powder

Spirulina is a type of algae that is often consumed as a powder or supplement. A single teaspoon offers many nutrients, including B vitamins, copper, iron, and four grams of protein. You can add it to smoothies, stir it into juice, or mix it into a salad dressing.

Spirulina powder sits on the bottom of a cup.

Spirulina has several health benefits. Eating half a teaspoon every day will lower unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, according to the Journal of Medicinal Food. Some people eat it as a protein powder. During a 2010 study, participants ate spirulina before exercising. They had more energy and built more muscle.

For A Filling Side Dish, Choose Edamame

Edamame is a soybean that many people eat as a side dish or snack for its high protein. A single cup of edamame supplies 18.5 grams of protein. Like other soy products, edamame also gives you all eight amino acids that your body requires, according to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

A plate has salted edamame.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Edamame is especially helpful for people with high cholesterol or diabetes. In 2006, research in Circulation concluded that eating 1/4 cup of edamame daily can lower your cholesterol by 3%. Only 1/4 cup! Plus, it does not raise blood sugar.

You Can’t Go Wrong With Lentils

Lentils are a type of legume with a high amount of protein, around 18 grams per cup. They are also filled with B vitamins, zinc, potassium, and fiber. According to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, studies have linked lentils to a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

A teaspoon holds red lentils next to other teaspoons of legumes.
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Thank lentil’s polyphenols, which are micronutrients that only exist in plant-based foods. In 2017, an animal study confirmed that these polyphenols can reduce blood sugar, although scientists still aren’t sure how. They do not lose their nutrients after cooking, either.

Make Sandwiches More Filling With Ezekiel Bread

While whole grain bread has some protein, Ezekiel bread contains much more. Ezekiel is a nutrient-dense bread with four grams of protein per slice. Every slice contains four types of grains (wheat, millet, spelt, and barley) and two legumes (lentils and soybeans).

A person holds out a packaged loaf of Ezekiel Bread.
Food for Life Baking Co./Pinterest
Bria Reinoso/Pinterest

As a sprouted bread, Ezekiel has more nutrients than other grains. According to a study in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, sprouted grains increase the amount of fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Imagine a super bread that you can use just as you would regular bread.

Want Some Spice? Dish Out Hummus

For delicious, healthy protein, eat more hummus. A single tablespoon provides 1.2 grams of protein or 19 grams per cup. Most containers of hummus are made with chickpeas, olive oil, and other vegetables and spices. In 2014, research in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences found that hummus-eaters tend to be healthier than those who don’t eat hummus.

A chef puts hummus onto a place with a spoon.
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Hummus also supplies a lot of fiber. In Beneficial Microbes, one study concluded that chickpeas and hummus encourage the growth of healthy bacteria and discourage unhealthy bacteria. Add hummus to sandwiches, toast, salad dressing, and more.

Along With Protein, Black Beans Have Potent Antioxidants

Black beans are another popular source of plant proteins. With 15 grams of protein per cup, it also supplies zinc, magnesium, calcium, and copper. These antioxidants and fiber can lower inflammation in the gut and boost your metabolism, according to a 2015 study in Nutrients.

A heart cookie cutter contains dried black beans.
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Black beans can also sharpen your vision. They offer a wide range of antioxidants which, according to the National Eye Institute, can lower the risk of macular degeneration by up to 25%. If you add black beans to salads, tacos, rice bowls, or veggie burgers, you may receive these benefits.

When Not Fried, Potatoes Are Healthy

Potatoes aren’t just starch. They also offer vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, and protein. A single potato offers 4.3 grams of protein and 4.7 grams of fiber. And although fried potatoes are condemned as unhealthy, regular potatoes have many health benefits.

Fresh potatoes sit in three baskets.
Eric Prouzet/Unsplash
Eric Prouzet/Unsplash

Potatoes supply resistant starch, which feeds healthy gut bacteria. Research in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that potatoes lower inflammation in the colon and protect it from cancer. Plus, its many antioxidants can ward off chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, according to a 2009 study.

Eat Almonds For Protein And Vitamin E

For such a tiny nut, almonds pack a lot of protein, about six grams in ten almonds. They are also high in vitamin E, a type of antioxidant. In the New England Journal of Medicine, a study found that vitamin E consumption lowers a person’s risk of heart disease.

Almonds spill out of a bowl.

Almonds are also proven to be quite filling. In 2013, study participants ate around 30 almonds a day over four weeks. These participants had much lower hunger and better appetite control, along with improved blood sugar. It makes a perfect snack and addition to a salad or yogurt.

Hemp Seeds Are Filling Anti-Inflammatories

Hemp seeds are one of the most protein-heavy seeds out there, with 11 grams of protein in two to three tablespoons. They also provide all nine amino acids, iron, B-vitamins, omega-3s, and fiber. According to research in PLoS ONE, hemp seeds are also strong anti-inflammatories.

A cup of hemp oil sits on top of seeds.
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Around 25% of all the calories in hemp seeds is protein. Not only that, but they are also easily digestible, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Easily-digested foods can improve gut health and relieve inflammation. You can eat hemp seeds raw or pressed into an oil or milk substitute.

For A Late-Night Snack, Eat Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are another healthy source of protein with 12 grams in each cup. These seeds are also high in antioxidants, specifically carotenoids and vitamin E. In Scientific African, researchers wrote that its antioxidants might guard against diabetes and tumors.

Green and white pumpkin seeds lie in a pile.

Oddly enough, pumpkin seeds can also enhance sleep. Its high levels of magnesium can improve sleep quality, reports a 2004 study. These seeds also have the same sleep-inducing chemical as turkey, tryptophan. If you need a late-night snack, try eating pumpkin seeds in a baked good, cereal, or yogurt.

Chia Seeds Are The Perfect Combination Of Protein And Fiber

While chia seeds do not provide as much protein as hemp seeds, they can still be quite filling. Two tablespoons supply 4.7 grams of protein and ten grams of fiber. This combination of protein and fiber makes people feel fuller for longer, according to 2015 research in Trends in Food Science & Technology.

Two glasses of blue chia pudding sit on a yellow table.
Toa Heftiba/Unsplash
Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

Chia seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which soothe inflammation. In 2007, researchers had diabetic patients eat chia seeds every day. After three months, their inflammatory markers decreased by 40%. You can make chia pudding or add it to smoothies, yogurt, baked goods, and soup.

Try Tempeh–Not For Probiotics, But Prebiotics

Tempeh is another fermented soybean product with 31 grams of protein per cup. It is nuttier than tofu, and people often pan fry it as you would bacon. Compared to a high-fat snack, high-protein snacks like tempeh make people feel fuller, according to a 2015 study in The Journal of Nutrition.

Squares of tempeh cook in oil.
Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post
Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post

Instead of probiotics, tempeh supplies prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds healthy bacteria in the gut. In 2017, researchers determined that prebiotics can lower inflammation in the digestive tract. They can also help people with constipation or other gastrointestinal issues.

Try An Ancient Aztec Grain, Amaranth

Amaranth is a seed that, like quinoa, is cooked and served as a grain. It was a staple in Aztec and Incan cuisine and is now making a comeback for its high protein. Every cup provides 9.3 grams of protein.

A small quinoa dish with amaranth is served on a small dish.
Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images
Eduardo Parra/Europa Press via Getty Images

Amaranth also offers protective antioxidants such as manganese, iron, phosphorus, and copper. In 2011, researchers tested the effects of amaranth on rats. The grain’s antioxidants were so effective that it partially guarded the liver against alcohol. Although more research is needed, amaranth has promising benefits for humans.