Plant-based foods are a complete protein source and as useful as animal protein for weight loss.
Here we discuss 15 such foods which are rich in protein, fiber, and other nutrients, which make them ideal for weight loss by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Dietary habits play a vital role in determining the weight of a person. Certain foods can help in increasing or decreasing body weight.
Thus, for losing weight, it is imperative to pay attention to eating patterns and the food consumed.
Protein is an essential nutrient for persons who are aiming at weight loss.
Consumption of a high-protein diet is associated with weight loss as it helps in reducing the food intake by increasing satiety and decreasing hunger.
Also, protein metabolism requires more energy which results in more calories burnt.
People often prefer animal sources of protein for weight loss as it is considered high-quality.
However, research has now proven that plant-based protein sources are as useful as animal protein in weight management.
Many plant-based foods are protein-rich and provide us with the essential amino acids required by the body from the diet.
Therefore, it can be said that one can successfully achieve weight loss goals by opting for a vegetarian diet.
In studies, it was shown that a vegetarian diet is capable of providing the body with all the essential nutrients in the required amount at all stages of a person’s life and is also beneficial in the prevention of certain diseases.
A study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association states that vegetarians have a lower BMI than non-vegetarians due to their eating habits.
Vegetarian diets are not only nutrient-rich but also more beneficial than a non-vegetarian diet for weight loss.
This is because a diet containing animal protein does not lower the cholesterol levels and increases the risk of heart diseases.
In contrast, a plant-based diet consisting of more proteins and fewer carbohydrates has lipid-lowering effects in addition to assisting in weight loss.
The efficacy and advantage of a plant-based diet over a non-vegetarian diet can be inferred from the fact that in several trials involving over a thousand individuals, it was found that people on a vegetarian diet experienced a significantly higher weight loss than persons on a non-vegetarian diet.
Let us now discover 15 plant-based foods having a high protein content which will benefit you in your weight loss regime.
15 High Protein Vegetarian Sources for Weight Loss
Here is the list of 15 awesome vegetarian sources of high protein:
1. Soy milk
Protein content: 7g in one cup serving
An excellent alternative to regular milk, soy milk offers a decent amount of protein for vegans.
It is prepared from soybeans which are considered to be the best quality protein source amongst the plant-based foods.
Soybeans are first soaked in water and then ground to a fine paste to obtain soy milk.
It can be easily substituted for regular cow’s milk in any dish, smoothies, and shakes, without compromising on the nutrient quality.
It has a lesser content of fats and carbohydrates than cow’s milk and an added advantage of dietary fiber, which makes it ideal for weight loss.
Apart from protein, it is loaded with several vitamins and minerals.
Unsweetened soy milk is preferred for weight loss to cut down on the calorie intake.
In a study, soy milk, fortified with calcium helped in weight loss by reducing the body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio in obese women.
In other studies, soy milk was found to be as effective as skimmed milk in promoting weight loss.
What does this mean? Soy milk is rich in protein and an extremely healthy alternative to regular milk to enhance weight loss.
Protein content: 22g in one cup serving
Tofu is prepared from soy by coagulating soy milk.
It is a great alternative for cottage cheese to promote weight loss.
The protein in tofu is of high-quality and consists of all the essential amino acids required by the body.
It also contains significant amounts of iron and calcium.
Protein from soy is known to help in weight management and improve muscle mass.
In studies, it was found that protein in soy products is as useful as any other dairy protein to promote weight loss and improve cardiovascular health.
It can easily be used in breakfast, dinner, lunch or dessert recipes.
What does this mean? Tofu consists of a high-quality protein which promotes weight loss.
3. Green Peas
Protein content: 8g in 1 cup
Green peas are widely used all over the world in numerous recipes.
They are loaded with proteins and fiber, the two nutrients which increase satiety and help in reducing food intake.
They contain most of the amino acids required by the body from the diet.
Moreover, they contain various vitamins such as vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, thiamine, and niacin.
Also, minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc are present in green peas in significant amounts.
These nutrients make green peas a healthy nutrient to take for weight loss.
Studies have shown that consumption of peas helps in weight management by improving satiety.
What does this mean? Green peas are full of protein, vitamins, and minerals which increase satiety and reduce hunger.
Protein content: 18g in one cup cooked lentils
Lentils are rich in protein and fiber which makes them a highly satiating food.
One cup of cooked lentils provides the body with about half of the daily recommended quantity of fiber.
Other nutrients contained in lentils include folate, iron, calcium, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium.
The carbohydrates present in lentils take a long time to digest which does not increase the blood glucose levels.
They aid in reducing the body mass index (BMI) and the risk of obesity, and are thus, recommended for weight loss.
In studies, consumption of a diet containing lentils showed immediate weight loss results and an improved lipid profile.
Lentils are readily available and quite versatile. They are usually consumed in salads and soups.
What does this mean? Lentils are excellent sources of protein for vegetarians are come with several health benefits.
5. Dry Beans
The protein content of some cooked beans in one cup serving:
- Soybeans: 31g
- Kidney beans: 15 g
- Black beans: 15g
- Chickpeas: 15g
Dry beans and legumes are high-quality protein sources for vegetarians. Due to their low cost and high protein composition, they are often called the poor man's meat.
They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber which not only promotes weight loss but also helps in the prevention of many health disorders.
Beans are also rich in carbohydrates, but they contain complex carbohydrates, which digest slowly and do not contribute to an immediate increase in blood glucose levels.
Beans are a storehouse of many other vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.
In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, several trials conducted on 940 individuals revealed that the inclusion of beans in the diet was beneficial for weight loss.
Various beans and legumes also help in improving the lipid profile by decreasing the cholesterol levels.
Beans can be consumed in salads, soups, and other recipes.
What does this mean? Dry beans which are cooked properly are the best sources of plant-based protein and fiber which promote weight loss.
Protein content: 64g in 1 cup dried
Spirulina or Anthrospira is edible blue-green alga which is widely used as a nutritional supplement.
Spirulina is cultivated in natural waters or laboratory and usually dried for use as powder or flakes.
It has a very high protein content, consisting of all the amino acids.
It contains vitamins like folate, vitamin A and Vitamin K. Minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium are also present in significant amounts.
It has immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and glucose lowering properties that help in the prevention of many diseases.
It is also available in the form of pills and tablets. The powder can be added in recipes and smoothies.
What does this mean? Nutrient-dense Spirulina is consists of all essential amino acids and also boosts the immune system.
The protein content of some nuts in one cup serving:
- Peanuts: 38 g
- Almonds: 30g
- Cashew nuts: 22g
- Pistachio nuts: 25g
Nuts make up for great snacks and are good protein source for persons aiming at weight loss. They are also rich in dietary fiber and help in increasing satiety.
The nutrient content varies in different types of nuts.
Most of the nuts have a high content of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals like folate, zinc, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.
In studies, nuts have been included in the dietary pattern as an energy-restricting food for weight loss and prevention of metabolic disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and fatty liver diseases.
Consumption of almonds has also been associated with decreased body weight, blood pressure and the risk of obesity.
What does this mean? Nuts provide us with significant amounts of proteins, vitamins, minerals and healthy fatty acids and help in lowering the body weight.
8. Chia seeds
Protein content: 17g in 100g serving
Chia seeds are small poppy-sized seeds, a native of South America and used for centuries for their health benefits.
They are extremely rich in proteins, fiber, healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals.
The seeds, obtained from the Salvia hispanica plant, are rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, and niacin.
Due to its high fiber content, they absorb lots of water, expand and form a gel inside the gut, which promotes a feeling of fullness.
They can be added to soups, smoothies and baking dough.
In a study conducted on 77 obese persons over a six-month period, it was found that chia seeds helped in controlling the blood glucose levels and promote weight loss, thereby decreasing the risk of various diseases like diabetes and obesity.
What does this mean? Chia seeds offer dual advantages in weight loss with high contents of both protein and fiber.
9. Pumpkin seeds
Protein content: 39g in 1 cup serving
Shelled pumpkin seeds are highly nutritious and healthy food for weight loss.
Eating just a small serving is also beneficial as it is loaded with protein, healthy fatty acids, fiber and minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
They also contain all the essential amino acids in the proper ratio.
Pumpkin seeds help in maintaining the normal blood glucose levels, which decreases insulin secretion and fat storage in the body.
Moreover, they are full of antioxidants and phenolic acids, which help in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and cancer.
What does this mean? Shelled pumpkin seeds are very nutritious and healthy snacks for persons aiming at weight loss.
10. Nutritional Yeast
Protein content: 53g in 100g serving
Nutritional yeast is available commercially as yeast powder and used in a variety of dishes.
It provides a high quantity of protein in even small servings and beneficial also when sprinkled on foods as toppings.
Yeast is a complete protein source and contains all the essential amino acids.
The species of yeast found in markets is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is full of many nutrients.
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture reports a study in which it was found that the polysaccharides present in this yeast help in improving the body weight in obese individuals.
What does this mean? Nutritional yeast is great in flavor and beneficial in even small amounts as it contains protein at quite high levels.
Protein content: 32g in 100g serving
Hemp seeds are obtained from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa and are rich in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They contain all the essential amino acids in optimum ratios.
Some people may be averse to consumption of this seed as it comes from the same family of plants as marijuana, but the fact is that they contain little amounts of the substances that create the drug-like effects.
Thus, they are completely healthy and safe for use.
These seeds are used for weight loss due to their high fiber and protein content, which helps in feeling satisfied early and decreasing hunger.
Hemp seeds can be consumed with salads, breakfast cereals or added to smoothies.
What does this mean? Hempseeds increase satiety and decrease the energy intake which helps in weight loss.
12. Amaranth grains
Protein content: 9g in 1 cup serving
Amaranth seeds are tiny gluten-free grains with a significant content of protein and fiber. The fiber apart from helping in losing weight, also improve digestion.
Calcium, iron, and magnesium are some minerals present in these grains which increase their nutritional status.
They can be substituted for other grains like wheat and rice, and amaranth flour can also be used to prepare various foods.
What does this mean? Amaranth grains are healthier as compared to other grains due to its high content of protein and fiber.
Protein content: 8g in 1 cup cooked quinoa
The popularity of quinoa is increasing day-by-day due to its benefits in weight loss.
These are also gluten-free grains, which makes them ideal for consumption in persons with gluten-sensitivity.
These foods provide complete nutrition due to the presence of proteins, fiber, lipids, vitamins, and minerals in proper amounts.
It is a high-quality protein food as it contains amino acids in optimum levels.
The amino acid L-arginine in quinoa helps in promoting muscle growth and reduces fat gain.
Quinoa can be added to salads, soups and quinoa flour can be added to bread and other baked products, to increase their nutritional quality.
What does this mean? Quinoa is a complete protein source for vegetarians and can be consumed in a variety of ways.
Protein content: 6g in 1 cup cooked oats
Oats and oatmeal are healthy foods for weight loss as they are a complete protein source.
They also contain fiber and minerals which increase their nutritional quality.
Oats help in improving the lipid profile, glucose balance and insulin sensitivity, which helps in the prevention of metabolic and cardiovascular disorders and promotes weight loss.
In studies, it was found that treatment with oats assisted in reducing body fat and obesity and improved the lipid profile.
Oats can be added to soups, puddings and breakfast cereals.
What does this mean? The efficacy of oats in weight loss has been proved by many studies. They are rich sources of protein and fiber.
15. Vegetables and Fruits
The protein content of some cooked vegetables in one cup serving:
- Asparagus: 4g
- Artichokes: 5g
- Broccoli: 3g
- Spinach: 5g
- Soybean green/edamame: 22g
The protein content of some fruits in 100g serving:
Some of the vegetables contain a high protein amount as compared to other foods. They are also rich in dietary fiber and several vitamins and minerals.
Fruits have lower protein levels as compared to vegetables, but a high amount of vitamins and minerals.
To benefit more from vegetables and fruits, they should be consumed fresh and along with the skin, whenever possible.
It is also advantageous to consume whole fruits and vegetables compared to juices as they have fiber which also promotes weight loss.
Many studies have recommended the use of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet to promote weight loss and prevent various diseases including obesity.
What does this mean? Some vegetables which are rich in proteins, fiber and vitamins make up for healthy foods for weight loss.
Veg Protein as Good As Meat Protein? - A Study
It is commonly thought that those who eat vegetarian diets don’t get enough protein. Animal meat is synonymous with dietary protein for the general crowd.
We tend to forget dairy protein and plant-based protein sources.
Animal protein does provide a complete range of amino acids but a combination of plant proteins can also serve the same person.
Keeping the quality aside, what do you think about the satiating properties of plant protein?
The idea of eating only salads for lunch generally makes you think that won’t you feel hungry.
Does this apply to plant protein? Interestingly this study shows that vegetarian diets are as satiating as meat-based diets.
What happened in this study?
The study was designed with the purpose of understanding appetite control in response to meat protein based diet and vegetarian protein based diet.
For 3 days the participants were given a maintenance diet after which they were given with meat high protein diet or vegetarian (soy based) high protein diet for 2 weeks.
Diets were made of 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrates. Satiety tests were recorded 30 minutes post meal.
What was the outcome?
Over 2 weeks individuals lost on average 2.4kg with soy-based diet and 2.3 kg with meat based diet.
There was a decrease in fat mass and muscle mass was preserved. Ratings for hunger and fullness did not differ in both diet groups.
An activity of appetite-related hormones was also similar with both types of protein.
How did this occur?
Protein is the most satiating food group. Peptides (smaller units of proteins) interact with certain receptors in the gut which send satiety signals to the brain.
The brain in response stimulates the release of glucose and appetite controlling hormones to suppress hunger.
Usually, high protein diets that are studied consist of mixed meat sources which are not supported much due to its side effects on gut health.
Interestingly soy protein also serves as a great protein source that is as satiating as meat.
What does this mean?
Vegetarian protein diets especially soy protein-based diets are as satiating as meat-based diet and result in similar weight loss outcomes.
This comes as great news for vegetarians and researchers feel that it is a healthier alternative to meat-based weight loss diets.
This study busts the myth of vegetarian diets being deficient in protein and not being satiating enough.
Read the full paper here: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/2/548.full.pdf+html
There are several sources of plant-based proteins which can be utilized by vegetarians and vegans for weight loss.
These vegetarian sources are more efficient than animal protein for weight loss, as many of these foods also constitute fiber and other nutrients which have health benefits.
These foods include soy, beans, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, algae and yeast which are full of proteins and should be contained in the diet to promote weight loss and prevent various diseases.