What's Plant Protein, and How Can You Eat Enough of It? Here's What an RD Had to Say

The term "plant protein" gets thrown around a lot in the fitness community, and it's natural to get a bit confused about it. Vegetables are incredibly nutritious, and we all can stand to eat a lot more of them, but they don't exactly have a reputation as a high-protein food.

"When we talk about the best sources of plant protein, we usually are referring to things like beans, quinoa, legumes, and soy," said registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick of the Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute. Vegetables have protein, but not enough to be your sole source of it. If you only ate vegetables on a strictly vegan diet, Kristin told POPSUGAR, it's unlikely that you'd get enough protein to meet your daily needs. That doesn't mean you have to turn to protein standbys like chicken, eggs, and fish, if you're dedicated to staying vegan; there are plenty of non-vegetable, plant-based options that can get you the protein you need.

Which Vegetables Have the Most Protein?

It's ideal to have at least one full serving of vegetables at each meal, and grabbing protein-rich ones keeps you full for longer while providing more nutritional bang for your buck — many of them are rich in fiber, which is filling, too. Here are some of the highest-protein vegetable options per 100 grams (according to the USDA) to look for next time you're in the produce aisle.

  • Corn: 9 grams of protein
  • Spirulina (seaweed): 6 grams of protein
  • Green peas: 5 grams of protein
  • Broccoli: 3 grams of protein
  • Potatoes: 3 grams of protein
  • Mushrooms: 3 grams of protein
  • Asparagus: 2 grams of protein

With snacks like seaweed chips, sides of parmesan and basil grilled corn, and vegan split pea soup for a hearty main course, it's a lot easier than you'd think to make these protein-dense veggies a part of your diet.

Best Sources of Plant Protein

For vegans, plant protein is essential, but it's also a great choice for people trying to eat more plant-based foods or looking for a new source of protein to mix up a monotonous daily diet. Here are some great choices to give you a dose of energizing, muscle-building, plant-based power, recommended by Kristin.

  • Soy (edamame, tofu, or tempeh)
  • Beans
  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Hemp seeds
  • Peanuts

Ready to get cooking? Hit the kitchen with our favorite recipes for tempeh tacos, creamy chickpea curry, and one-pan tofu, cauliflower, and broccoli roast.