The Best Non-Meat Sources of Protein

Over 500 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Non-Meat Sources of Protein
Voting Rules
Vote up your favorite nutrient-rich, low-calorie vegan sources of protein. No nuts or nut butters.

Protein: a buzzword in the 21st century conversation about health and nutrition, especially when it comes to weight loss. Though the concept of "protein" has erroneously become synonymous with "meat," any person can consume more than enough protein from a plant-based diet. This is a list of good vegan sources of protein, including information about the amount of protein each vegetable has per serving. After all, you might not need to eat nearly as much protein as you think - and your quest for meat to "fill you up" can quickly derail your diet.

"How much protein do I need?" The standard formula to determine protein needs is: body weight (in lbs.) x 0.36 = # of grams or protein per day. Therefore, a person who weighs 120 lbs. should shoot for 43g, a 150 lb. person needs 54g, a 180 lb. person should eat 64.8g, a 210 lb. person needs 75.6g, etc. As any body-conscious person knows, weight loss can only happen when the body uses more calories than it consumes. Unfortunately, meat and other-animal based products—while high in protein—are also very dense in calories. A single chicken nugget may contain 3g of protein, but it is also nearly 60 calories. On the other hand, a whole cup of Brussels sprouts contains the same amount of protein, but only 38 calories. 

Are you picturing this math? "Great," you might be thinking. "I can get the same amount of protein while eating less food." That is, you can eat one chicken nugget instead of eating a whole cup of Brussels sprouts. Maybe this is a bad example, because life is not all McNuggets or Brussels sprouts... Anyway, here is the real question: Do you hate food? Do you hate eating? Why would you want to eat less food? Why would anyone? Food is great! Eating food is one of the best things about being alive. If anything, you probably want to eat more food. Just as much food as you can manage to shove into your face.

How can you eat MORE FOOD without destroying your body? Eat whole plant-based foods. Get your protein from nutrient-rich, low-calorie vegetables, legumes, nuts & nut butters, and whole grains. "But but but," you are saying, "carbs!!!" Well, just as "protein" does not mean "meat," "whole grains" does not mean "processed whole grain bread or bagels or delicious Triscuits." Whole grains are actual plants, like quinoa and oats and wild rice. These foods are high in fiber, which means it is easy for your body to, ahem, use the calories in them. Whole grains have protein AND fiber in them. So do leafy greens, beans, seeds, cruciferous vegetables, and pretty much every other edible plant under the sun. Go ahead and fill your whole plate with raw or steamed plants, eat them all, and then go back and get seconds. If you are still not ~full~, go get thirds. Skip the carne asada, the shawarma, and the pepperoni. You really don't need it. (Also, don't drown your good, healthy vegetarian proteins with ranch dressing. That is not even food, and you know it.)

Most divisive: Black-Eyed Pea
Ranked by