7 Non-Soy Vegan Protein Sources

05/17/2012

Cauliflower photoI had a friend a few weeks ago make the claim that she couldn’t eat vegetarian or vegan because she feared soy wasn’t good in large quantities.

For many, the jury is still out on soy. For me personally, whole, organic soy is a good choice. Dr. Weir recommends 1 to 2 servings per day of whole soy. According to health guru Christina Pirello, they include phytoestrogens, which act like estrogen receptors in the body.

Estrogen receptors serve as a key to let estrogen out of the door of the body. Excessive estrogen in the body is one of the risk factors for certain kinds of cancers, namely breast cancer. 

But at the same time, a plant-based diet should not be based entirely on soy. If you’re not into soy, or would like some other vegan ways to get your protein, here are seven that you likely haven’t heard of before. 

1. Veggies 

That’s right--veggies have protein and some have a good amount like one of my favorites: cauliflower. A serving, which is a tiny 1/2 cup (I could eat triple that) has 3 grams of protein. Asparagus and broccoli are also good sources. 

2. Spirulina 

Early researchers were interested in Spirulina because of its protein, vitamins, essential amino acids, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Spirulina is 60-70 percent protein by weight and contains a rich source vitamin B12, vitamin A, and iron. It's also particularly useful for those with poor digestion and assimilation, poor vitality and anemia, those who are overweight or obese, and those with active, high energy life styles. 

3. Quinoa 

Quinoa has 8 grams of protein in a 1 cup serving. Quinoa is a complete protein and can substitute for less sustainable proteins. Quinoa is high in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc.

4. Bee Pollen 

Bee pollen photo
Photo: Martin Poole/Thinkstock 

Bee pollen is new to the protein scene, but it’s 25 percent protein. Bee pollen is extremely rich in carotenes, as well as B complex and vitamins C, D, E, and lecithin.

5. Beans

This one you likely know but even still, beans are one of the best foods you can add to your diet. Take cannelini beans for example--they have 8 grams of protein for 1/2 cup serving. They also provide a high quality source of magnesium, fiber, iron, and folate. They have twice as much iron as beef, carrying energizing oxygen to every cell in the body.

6. Lentils 

Lentils are a wonder legume that we often forget about. They have 8 grams of protein for 1/2 cup and that’s only part of their nutritional bliss. They control blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and boast two B-vitamins. One study, documented in WHFoods, found that regular consumption of legumes reduced your risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 82 percent, yes I said 82!

7. Hemp 

Hemp-seeds-inline
Photo: SRS/Westend61/Corbis

Hemp has omega-3 fatty acids, all 10 essential amino acids, 4 grams of protein, 46 percent RDA of calcium, no cholesterol, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, folic acid, vitamin D, magnesium, iron, and zinc. For some, hemp is supposedly a bit easier to digest than soy protein because unlike soy, it contains no oligosaccharides, complex sugars that can cause flatulence.

Photo at top: Thinkstock

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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