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My Top 7 Sources of Plant-Based Protein

By April 19, 201210 Comments

Below is an article I recently wrote for MindBodyGreen  – the destination for all things PLANTPOWER, yoga, meditation and just plain wellness.  It seemed to be a rather popular post — tons of great comments — so thought I would reprint it here in case you missed it.  I hope you enjoy it.

I say it all the time. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not only possible to optimize your health on a  plant-based diet ; when done right, I actually recommend it.

But where do you get your protein?

I field this question constantly. Despite deeply ingrained but misleading conventional wisdom, the truth is that you can survive without meat, eggs and dairy. Believe it or not, you can actually thrive, and never suffer a protein deficiency. Because no matter how active your lifestyle, a well-rounded  whole food  plant-based diet provides more than enough protein to satisfy the body’s needs without all the artery-clogging saturated fats that dominate the typical American diet.

I speak from experience. As a  vegan  endurance athlete, I place a high tax on my body. And yet my plant-based diet has fueled me for years without any negative impact on building lean muscle mass or recovery. In fact, at age 45 I continue to improve and am as fit, healthy, and strong as I have ever been.

Here’s a list of my top-7 plant-based foods high in protein:

1. Quinoa: 11g Protein / Cup

A grain like seed,  quinoa  is a high protein alternative to rice or pasta, served alone or over vegetables and greens. It provides a good base for a veggie burger and is also a fantastic breakfast cereal when served cold with almond or coconut milk and berries.

2. Lentils: 17.9g  Protein / Cup

Delicious, nutritious and super easy to prepare. Trader Joe’s sells them pre-cooked and I’m not afraid to just eat them cold right out of the package for lunch or a snack on the run.

3. Tempeh: 24g Protein / 4 Ounces

A fermented soybean-based food, tempeh is a healthy protein-packed alternative to it’s non-fermented cousin tofu. It makes for a great veggie burger and doubles as a tasty meat alternative to meatballs in pasta, or over brown rice and vegetables.

4. Seitan: 24g Protein / 4 Ounces

An excellent substitute for beef, fish and soy products, one serving provides about 25% of your RDA of protein. But not for those with  gluten  sensitivities, as it is made from wheat gluten.

5. Beans (Black, Kidney, Mung, Pinto): 12-15g Protein / Cup

I love beans. Great on a veggie burrito, in chili and soups, on salads or over rice with vegetables, beans of all varieties are a daily staple of my diet.

6. Spirulina: 6g Protein / 10 grams

A blue-green algae, spirulina is a highly bioavailable complete protein containing all essential amino acids. At 60% protein (the highest of any natural food), it’s a plant-based protein powerhouse that finds it way into my Vitamix blends daily.

7. Hemp Seeds: 16g Protein / 3 Tbsp

With a perfect ration of omega-6 and omega-3 EFA’s, hemp seeds are another bioavailable complete protein rivaled only by spirulina. A simple and great addition to a multitude of dishes, from breakfast cereal to salads to smoothies to vegetables and rice.

For copious recipes that include the above sources of protein — and much more, don’t forget to check out our digital e-cookbook JAI SEED !  A beautiful coffee-table style cookbook for the digital iPad set that contains 77 glossy pages of plant-based nutrition information and easy to prepare recipes certain to satisfy even the most finicky family member.

Now through May 21, if you pre-order 5 copies of FINDING ULTRA, the JAI SEED eCookbook ( and other goodies ) is FREE.  Pre-order 1 copy, and get a free 7 RECIPE JAI SEED DOWNLOAD.  For more information on a whole array of FINDING ULTRA pre-order giveaways, click HERE. 


  • Great article Rich. I love throwing sprouted quinoa and hemp seeds into my vitamix with coconut nectar to make my morning protein shakes. What do you normally put in your morning shakes? -Robert

  • Love this! I eat most of these on a regular basis and am particularly partial to tempeh. Mm… Could eat that stuff forever. 

    Thank you for being so eloquently outspoken about the benefits of veganism. It helps to have someone with your credentials out there showing you can get mucho energy from plant foods. I’ve been vegan for one year and have WAY more energy than before. I don’t run marathons, but I do bikram yoga, which burns tons of calories, so I always aim to get more healthy calories in. 

    Looking forward to buying your book!

  • Toby Martin says:

    Moringa is also an excellent source of plant protein. I wonder if youve ever included it in your regular diet.

  • Barend Esterhuizen Pr Eng says:

    Where was the nutritional values used in this article sourced from? e.g. (Quinoa 11g/cup) and is it based on COOKED or UNCOOKED values?

  • Nobundo says:

    Buckwheat – my favorite breakfast cereal, is 10-15% proteins, lots of magnesium, iron etc, and is gluten-free. Also tastes great 🙂 and is far cheaper than quinoa

  • Belen Molina-George says:

    I’ve never tried spirulina, but now I want to try it. I’m curious though… how and where do you buy it? I did a quick google search and could only find it in the form of a supplement (tablet) or powder…Any suggestions?

  • Stacey Kensley says:

    I am very curious to know why rich does not eat eggs. I understand why we do not eat factory farmed eggs pumped with hormones and things. What is the reason for not eating true free range eggs? I am so curious to know the facts around it.

  • Thomas Jones says:

    Normally it refers to uncooked values.

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