Six Surprising Sources Of Plant-Based Protein

Plant-based protein products and diets are on the rise. Here are some surprising sources of plant-based proteins that can easily be incorporated into your daily diet. 

By Alaina Smith, Registered Nurse

A quick internet search will deliver a plethora of scientific evidence on the benefits of a plant-based diet. However, making the transition to a plant-based diet, whether it is just “Meatless Mondays,” or going full vegetarian or vegan can be hard. And removing meat from the meal may leave you thinking you are not eating a balanced meal.


That said, it may surprise most people to find out that many vegetables contain a small amount of protein. When properly combined in a meal, it can be easy to ensure the proper amount of protein is consumed. However, not all protein sources are created equal. Here are six surprising ways to add some protein to your meatless meals.


Daily Protein Requirements for Adults


We all know we need protein, but exactly how much do we need in a day? Protein requirements do change depending on lifestyle and stage of life; however, on average, the following formula is a good place to start. First, convert your weight in pounds to kilograms by taking your weight in pounds and dividing by 2.2. This will give you your weight in kilograms. Then use the following formula and add your weight in kilograms in the “kg” 0.8g x kg/day. For example, someone weighing 140 pounds would take 140 divided by 2.2, which equals 63.6 kg. Now, to calculate such person’s daily minimum protein intake, use the 63.6 multiplied by 0.8, which equals 50.9, and then divide that number, 50.9, by three (three meals a day average) and it equals about 17g of protein for each meal. 




By now it is well known that kale is a superfood and a great source of essential nutrients. It has over 100% of your daily requirement of Vitamins A and C. It may be surprising to find out that one cup of chopped kale has 3 grams of protein. Kale is a versatile vegetable with many different varieties widely available in grocery stores and farmers markets alike. Kale can be blended into a smoothie, be added to a salad, wilted into a pasta dish or baked in a casserole. With so many ways to use the dark, leafy green it is easy to add extra protein to a meal without meat.




This cruciferous vegetable boasts many health benefits. Broccoli is a significant source of Vitamins C, K, B9 (or Folate which is very important for pregnant women) and iron. Also, studies have linked cruciferous vegetables to the prevention of some cancers. Broccoli is also one of the few vegetable sources of zinc. One cup has two percent of the daily-recommended value. These little trees also contain 3.3 grams protein in each one-cup serving. Served steamed as a side dish, tossed in with some pasta or blended into a mash, broccoli is a smart addition to any meal.




Peas are used in many forms of vegan and vegetarian protein sources due to a large amount of protein in each serving. One cup of peas boasts a whopping 9 grams protein! Adding peas can help achieve your protein goal for a meal. Ensuring adequate protein in each meal keeps us full for longer. Peas are also a great source of fiber with 4.5 grams per serving; this also can help keep you feeling full for longer. It is easy to keep a bag or two of frozen peas on hand adding them to a curry dish, pasta recipe or as a side dish to bulk up a meal.




Over the last several years potatoes have garnered a bad reputation for being too carbohydrate heavy. However, potatoes have numerous health benefits. One medium potato has 4.3 grams of protein, 25% of our daily requirement of potassium, 30% of our vitamin B6 requirement and 70% of our daily vitamin C requirement. Potassium is considered an essential electrolyte; we need it for our cells to perform properly. Aside from helping prevent cramping, potassium also aids in heart function, fluid balance and may also help reduce blood pressure. Vitamin B6 is important for the creation of neurotransmitters as well as the creation of our red blood cells. Not only is the potato a great source of protein but a large source of essential nutrients and vitamins as well.




Beans are a better-known source of plant-based protein. They pack a ton of protein in each serving. For a one-cup serving, beans on average have about 15 grams of protein. There are a variety of ways to add these foods to meals to pack on the protein. Adding beans to a pasta dish can replace the ground meat that traditionally may accompany it. Try adding beans to a salad or even sautéing them in your favorite marinade or sauce and serving them as the main protein in a dish. These are all easy ways to create a satisfying meatless meal.




Lentils are a very inexpensive source of protein and can be used in a variety of ways as well. For a one-cup serving, lentils have 18 grams of protein. They also are a great source of fiber in any meal. They can be used as the base for a meal like a curry, or in a soup. Lentils are easy to prepare and available year-round. They do, however, take a bit of time to prepare. If you are short on time you can also buy lentil pasta at your local grocery store. Lentil pasta tastes very similar to traditional pasta while adding about 14 grams of protein per serving.


When trying to reduce your animal protein consumption, it may seem hard to figure out how to make sure you are attaining the proper amounts of protein. Adding the above-mentioned foods to a meal can help boost the protein content of a meal as well as provide tons of essential vitamins and nutrients. Remember that most vegetables have a small amount of protein. When combined with the sources listed above it is easy to meet our daily-required intake of protein even without the traditional sources of meat. Using this guide can make the transition to a more plant-based diet easier and more maintainable.

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