Top 7 Complete Protein Foods for Vegetarians

It is mistakenly believed that vegetarians have to compromise on protein sources. Read about top 7 complete protein foods for vegetarians to set your facts right.

The whole idea that vein-popping muscles can't be built without egg whites and chicken breast is a misconception. Each individual needs only 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight, which can be easily acquired from a vegetarian diet consisting of milk, nuts, soya and lentils. Moreover, to put it in perspective 100g roasted, broiled or boiled chicken breast (serving size comparable to a deck of cards) provides 164 calories and 31g of proteins.

Again, the basic drawback often highlighted with plant protein sources, is its inability to supply essential amino acids. This is not true. There are many complete protein foods that provide essential amino acids too, and very few people know about such proteins.  MuscleBlaze gets to enlighten you on protein sources required to be included in a vegetarian bodybuilding diet.


1.        Milk and Yoghurt

Milk is an excellent source of high-quality protein making it almost a complete food. The big deal about milk protein is that it is rich in lysine, which makes it an ideal accompaniment for whole grains and their products, many of which are low in this essential amino acid.

Protein Profile:

Whether you take full fat, low fat or non-fat milk, your protein content continues to remain at 8g or higher in a cup of milk including 18 amino acids, both essential and non-essential, only change is seen in the calorie count. Yoghurt instead of milk offers higher protein content; a cup (approx 245g) offers 13g proteins, along with probiotics, vitamin B12, potassium and zinc.

2.       Soy

Soy is high in protein and a lactose alternative for many foods. The key benefits of soya are its high protein content, vitamins and minerals and insoluble fibre. The best known soy product,  tofu  is easily available. Tofu also has 24g of unsaturated fats and a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that when people ate unsaturated fats post workout the blood flow in their arteries increased by 45 percent which led to faster recovery

Protein Profile

Serving Size




A cup (45g)

Soya chunks



A cup

Soya milk








3.       Lentils

Lentils are protein powerhouses. The best part about lentils is that they bring together generous doses of protein along with minerals and healthy fibre.  Enriched with soluble and insoluble fibre, lentils keep the dietary tract clean. Being a plant protein, lentils are short on two essential amino acids methionine and cysteine. Both these amino acids are found in abundance in grains. No wonder, lentils are intuitively paired with grains, which make them complete protein combinations, just like meat, but minus blood.  

Protein Profile per 100g of Lentils

  • Masur: 25.1g
  • Moong: 24.5g
  • Urad (Black gram): 24g
  • Rajma: 22.9g
  • Channa (roasted): 14g
  • Bengal gram: 17.1g

4.      Combo Packs

Each time you combine a legume with a grain, you get a complete protein package, replete with 9 essential amino acids that eggs and chicken have.  Whole grains offer methionine and cysteine, which are low in legumes, like beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. When the two meet they become a wholesome protein package. It seems our ancestors were intuitive about this protein deal of grains and legumes and that's the reason we have such interesting complete protein combinations like rajma chawal, roti daal and peanut butter sandwich. The healthier aspect about such combos is that they contain a rich dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants along with proteins and count as a wholesome meal.

Protein Profile:


Serving Size



Roti Daal

3 Roti and a cup of masur daal (uncooked)




A cup of rice with a cup of kidney beans



Peanut butter sandwich

A slice of bread smeared with a teaspoon of peanut butter




5.       Quinoa

Often people wonder is quinoa a complete protein food? A seed of a leafy plant, like spinach, quinoa is a whole grain and contains all of the essential nine amino acids, which makes it a beneficial food for non-meat eaters. Most whole grains do not contain amino acid lysine but quinoa not only supplies lysine, an essential amino acid, but also remaining eight other essential amino acids in a vegetarian package. You need to rinse quinoa before you cook to remove the bitter coating.

Protein Profile: One cup provides 220 calories and 8g high-quality proteins.  

6.        Buckwheat

Buckwheat flour, popularly known as kuttu ka atta is a staple food during fasting in India. Did you know buckwheat serves as an excellent meat substitute? The protein quality of buckwheat is of high quality with a very good nutritional profile.

Protein Profile: 100g Buckwheat flour serves 12.6g proteins and 10g fiber, though the carb content is on the higher side. 

7.        Spirulina with Nuts

Spirulina, a blue-green algae's is a high-quality protein source for vegans and provides vitamin B12, a nutrient that often goes missing from a vegetarian plate. Your body does not make vitamin B12 on its own. You need to get it from foods and supplements on a regular basis. Vitamin B12 helps make your DNA and red blood cells. Contrary to popular belief, spirulina is not a complete protein source rather the protein content is in between 55 to 70 percent. Spirulina lacks methionine. Therefore this plant-based protein powder needs the support of any grain or nuts to transform in a complete protein package, along with vitamin B12.

Protein Profile: 4g per tablespoon

As a vegetarian bodybuilder, you need to create your own high vegetarian protein recipes by making the most of the plant foods that offer good source of proteins, like spinach, sundried tomatoes and peas. A cup of cooked spinach has 5g proteins, an equivalent of the protein content in an egg.  A cup of peas has 8g of proteins and the similar quantity of sun-dried tomatoes offer 6g proteins. Additionally, these plant foods contain a whopping dose of vitamins and antioxidants, which make them preferable protein-rich snacks. Going by the research of University of Michigan, it?s not required that you eat all your proteins in one go. Rather, eat a variety of foods with incomplete proteins throughout the day to get the amino acids you need from the diet and don?t forget to pair these proteins with complete sources like soy, tofu, cheese, paneer, yoghurt to get the double whammy.

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