The Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

Finding good vegetarian protein sources seems to be the issue people worry about most when becoming vegetarian. No need.

Protein deficiency is extremely rare as long as you eat a sensible diet. In fact, most people tend to eat far more protein than they need. The best vegetarian protein sources are outlined here.

Nuts and Seeds

e.g. hazelnuts, brazils, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, peanuts and pine nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds.


e.g. peas, beans, lentils.

Soy products

like tofu, tempeh, soy meat substitutes and soy milk. These form a distinct group of foods although they are technically part of the pulse group as they are derived from the soy bean.

Dairy products

e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt



and their derivatives e.g. wholewheat bread, pasta, barley, rye, oats, millet, maize, rice.

But it's important to balance your diet.  Here's how..

Getting The Balance Right

Protein is essential for healthy growth and the repair of cells, to fight infection and for reproduction. So obviously we all want to make sure we are getting enough of it. The good news is that protein deficiency in the West is extremely rare whether you are a vegetarian or not. In fact, many of us eat far too much protein.

So far so good... I think when people start to get confused about vegetarian protein sources is when they hear about "complementary proteins" and balancing amino acids. Sounds scary but it's actually quite straightforward and really tends to take care of itself if you are eating a healthy balanced diet.

Protein And Amino Acids

Basically protein is made up of twenty different amino acids. Eight of these cannot be made by the body and have to be obtained from the diet. These eight are known as the essential amino acids. Plant foods do not tend to contain all eight essential amino acids in one source. However, foods eaten over the course of the day naturally combine to provide all of the essential amino acids. Classic examples of foods naturally combining proteins are rice and beans, lentil soup and bread, beans on toast.

So don't worry. Provided you are eating a good range of healthy foods from a variety of vegetarian protein sources you can be sure that you are getting enough protein and getting the best protein.

If you are a new vegetarian and want to know more about eating a balanced vegetarian diet, do also take a look at this page about the best sources of vegetarian iron for vegetarians. Also make sure you are getting enough Vitamin B12.

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