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Top 10 Low-Carb Vegan Protein Sources

Low-Carb Vegan Protein Source
James

One of the most common questions that vegans get asked is: ‘Where do you get your protein?’. The truth is; for anyone following a low-carb vegan diet, that might actually be a valid question.

It’s no secret that plant-based protein sources are often high in complex carbohydrates. Most beans, legumes and grains all contain significant amounts of starch that are strictly off-limits for most ‘low-carbers’.

Fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are a variety of low-carb vegan protein sources that will help you hit your macros without sending your blood sugar soaring.

Every food listed below is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and packed with nutrients. Not to mention they taste great, just like all plants do!

1. Tofu

Nutritional values (3.5oz, 100g)

  • Calories: 76
  • Protein: 8g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.9g
  • Net Carbs: 1.6g

Ahh yes, the traditional king of vegan protein sources. Are you really that surprised to see tofu appearing at the top of this list? Probably not…

However, before the inevitable eye-roll and scroll, it’s certainly worth basking in glory of tofu’s incredible properties. This sought after soybean derivative has serious bang for its buck.

With 8g of protein and just 1.9g of carbs per 3.5oz serving; it’s no wonder tofu is our favorite low-carb vegan protein source. Adding to this, it’s also recognized as a ‘complete’ protein, thanks to its well-balanced amino acid content.

It’s safe to say that tofu is probably the pinnacle of plant-based protein sources. Making it the cornerstone of your low-carb diet is undoubtably a great start.

Tofu Protein
Tofu is still the king of low-carb vegan protein sources

2. Seeds

Nutritional values (2tbsp, 20g)

  • Hemp Seeds: 6.3g protein, 1.7g carbs (0.9g net)
  • Chia Seeds: 4.7g protein, 12g carbs (2g net)
  • Flax Seeds: 3.8g protein, 6g carbs (0.4g net)
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 2.9g protein, 8.1g carbs (5.4g net)

Seeds are often viewed as the younger siblings of nuts, but the strength of their nutritional profile is far from inferior. In fact, we rate seeds as our second best low-carb vegan protein source thanks to their incredibly macro density in a surprisingly small package.

Every seed has a varying micro and macro nutrient profile, but our favorites in descending order are: Hemp, chia, flax and pumpkin. Each one possesses more than enough protein to help you reach your goals and possesses minimal carbs to help keep your blood sugar stable.

The reason hemp the top spot on our seed list is due to its complete amino acid profile, good fatty acid ratio and best-in-class protein content. Those looking to maximize their omega-3 intake for overall health should also be incorporating flax and chia seeds on a daily basis.

Seeds can be sprinkled in salads, blended into shakes and baked into low-carb brownies. They’re a delicious addition to any meal and a superb plant-based protein option.

Pumkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds provide plenty of protein in a small package

3. Nuts

Nutritional values (1oz, 28g)

  • Almonds: 6.2g protein, 5g carbs (2.5g net)
  • Walnuts: 4.3g protein, 4g carbs (2g net)
  • Hazelnuts: 4.2g protein, 4.8g carbs (2g net)
  • Pecans: 2.6g protein, 3.7g cabs (1g net)

Low-carb vegans should definitely be going nuts about nuts. They’re small in stature but rich in protein that will get you well on your way to hitting your daily requirements.

Just 22 of our top-rated nuts, the almighty almonds, will provide you with 6.2g of protein with only 2.5g of net carbs. In addition, they are packed with micronutrients and antioxidants that can support your health goals.

A special mention also goes to walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans; all of which deliver plenty of protein and heart-healthy omega-3’s. However, the list doesn’t stop there. Pistachio’s, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, cashews; the list goes on and on.

Every nut has a unique flavor and a variety of nutrients; so it’s worth incorporating many different types into your diet. Each one can be included main meals, deserts or eaten as quick protein snacks. Just make sure they’re not roasted and salted!

Almond nuts
Low-carb vegans should definitely be nuts about nuts

4. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional values (2tbsp, 17g)

  • Calories: 56
  • Protein: 7.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 6.4g
  • Net Carbs: 2.2g

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of traditional yeast that is known as the holy-grail of vegan cheese lovers. It’s a great tasting seasoning that has a variety of applications, but many people overlook its protein providing abilities.

Just 2 tablespoons of this plant-based cheese can provide you with 7.6g of protein, while only possessing 2.2g of net carbs. Using a dash of this great-tasting salad topper is an ideal way to get on top of your macronutrient needs.

Nutritional yeast products are often fortified with every vegan’s most sought-after vitamin; the ‘holy’ B12. Getting plenty of this plant-based fungus into your diet can also support heart health and immune function.

If you’ve recently converted to a diet consisting entirely of plants; this low-carb cheese alternative is sure to keep your cravings at bay. It’s an incredibly versatile ingredient that is used to make vegan cheese, sauces and soups.

Nutritional yeast should be constantly restocked in the cupboard of any vegan looking to maximize their protein intake.

Nutritional yeast protein source
Nutritional yeast is a protein rich addition to your meals

5. Tempeh

Nutritional values (3.5oz, 100g)

  • Calories: 192
  • Protein: 20g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.6g
  • Net Carbs: 7.6g

Tempeh is type of fermented soy that’s beloved by millions across the globe. It’s a protein rich stable of many South-East Asian diets since originating in Indonesia, but has become exponentially more popular across the western world in recent years.

Many people will already associate tempeh with being closely linked to tofu thanks to their soybean origin and vaguely similar appearance. When compared; tempeh does have more carbs (7.6g) than its close relative Tofu (1.9g), but packs in supremely more protein. In fact, one small 100g serving of tempeh can provide a whopping 20g of protein.

Tempeh is another plant-based protein source that’s brimming with nutrients that can support your overall health. Calcium, iron and magnesium are all abundant in this vegan delicacy; while it’s also credited with a variety of health benefits.

What else is great about tempeh? It’s also incredibly versatile! It works great inside a burger bun or mixed into stir-fry’s. In addition, it provides a neutral base that will absorb your favorite marinades.

Tempeh Protein
Tempeh is a fermented soybean that packs a protein punch

6. Lupini Beans

Nutritional values (3.5oz, 100g)

  • Calories: 119
  • Protein: 16g
  • Carbohydrate: 10g
  • Net Carbs: 7.2g

The lesser known Lupini Bean has started to climb the popularity ranks amongst the low-carb community. It’s a protein-packed legume that is popping up on the shelves of supermarkets across the US and has become a popular ingredient in packaged plant-based snacks.

Lupini beans may have just hit the limelight in North America, but they have been on the Mediterranean menu for many years. Often bought pre-soaked and pickled; they provide a handy snack or a tasty addition to salads.

Looking at the overall nutritional profile gives you a clear indication of why this legume is on the radar of so many shoppers. They pack an impressive 16g of protein and just 10g of ‘mostly non-starchy’ carbs per serving. Maintaining fitness without unstable glucose levels for the win!

Manganese, magnesium, iron and bone-restoring calcium are just some of the plethora of nutrients found in the Lupini Bean. Its anti-inflammatory abilities and muscular development properties alone make it a shoe-in for our list of low-carb proteins.

Lupini Beans
The lesser known lupini bean provides plenty of low-carb vegan protein (Image: OpenFoodFacts)

7. Nut Butters

Nutritional values (2tbsp, 32g)

  • Peanut Butter: 8g protein, 6g carbs (4.1g net)
  • Almond Butter: 6.8g protein, 6g carbs (2.8g net)

Anyone looking for an efficient way to add protein into their diet should be utilizing nut butters. They possess all the benefits of their whole nut counterparts, but come in a condensed and easy-to digest package.

The most obvious nut butters on the market are derived from the beloved peanut. It’s a versatile and delicious addition to shakes and snacks that packs 8g of protein with every 2 tablespoons. Just make sure it comes from a good-quality source with no added sugar!

Almond butter is a slightly less popular alternative, but arguably more nutritious and equally delicious. It’s rich in all the heart-healthy nutrients found with regular almonds, not to mention the 6.8g of protein it provides with each serving.

Nut butters like almond and peanut are easy-to-obtain, cost-effective and incredibly easy to incorporate into your busy schedule. If you’re feeling adventurous, why not give cashew or hazelnut butter a try? You could even make it yourself!

Peanut Butter
The classic peanut butter is a classic low-carb vegan protein source

8. Spirulina

Nutritional values (2tbsp, 14g)

  • Calories: 40
  • Protein: 8g
  • Carbohydrate: 3.4g
  • Net Carbs: 2.8g

Spirulina is a type of bacteria that is commonly referred to as blue-green algae. It’s now become a mainstay on the shelves of almost any health food store thanks to its widely touted health benefits.

The claimed beneficial effects of spirulina are vast, with everything from reduced LDL cholesterol to increased muscular endurance being mentioned. What we can tell you is that its impressive micronutrient balance features B vitamins, iron, copper and magnesium in vast quantities.

The impressive macronutrient profile of spirulina is often overlooked when discussing the benefits. Just two tablespoons of this dark green powder provides 8g of protein with only 3.4g of carbs. What an addition to your low-carb diet!

Spirulina works best when blended into smoothies due to its inherently ‘sulphuric’ flavor. Despite not being the tastiest treat on this list; it’s certainly an outstanding addition to any green juice recipe or post-workout shake.

Spirulina
Spirulina is packed with plant protien

9. Spinach

Nutritional values (3.5oz, 100g)

  • Calories: 23
  • Protein: 2.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.6g
  • Net Carbs: 1.4g

I think pretty much everyone knows that it’s beneficial to consume spinach. It’s a firm staple of most vegan diets and a firm favorite amongst the keto community thanks to its incredibly low net carb count.

Most people think of spinach as a wonderful source of micronutrients. However, its protein providing properties underestimated, with just 100g giving you 2.9g of your daily intake. Macro goals here we come!

Obviously it would be rude not to mention the powerful benefits these green leaves can provide. Vitamin K1, folic acid, iron and calcium can all be found in abundance. Not to mention a host of other vitamins and minerals.

The versatility of spinach makes it an easy addition to any low-carb vegan diet. It’s fantastic when blended into smoothies, sautéed with vegetables and sprucing up salads. To be honest; I’d be surprised if it’s not already one of your dietary staples.

Spinach vegan protein
Spinach’s protein content is often underestimated

10. Pea Protein Powder

Nutritional values (4tbsp, 30g)

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 27g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Net Carbs: 2g

The use of protein powders and supplements is often shunned by whole-foods plant-based dieters. However, there’s no denying that good-quality pea protein powder will boost your chances of hitting your macro goals.

Most pea protein powders offer a whopping 27g of protein from a single serving, with a measly 2g of carbs. It’s by far the most impressive protein to carb ratio on our list, which made it impossible to ignore.

Adding a scoop of pea protein powder is an incredibly convenient way to boost your intake daily intake. Most varieties come with a tasteless version that makes a great addition to green smoothies or vegan keto brownie recipes.

A quick word of advice: Always look for signs of quality when purchasing protein powders. Be sure to check the nutrition label for unwanted ingredients and look for products that are minimally processed without the use of harsh chemicals.

Pea protein powder
Pea powder is a great low-carb vegan protein source

Summing Up

Vegan diets are often classified as being naturally high in carbs, but that doesn’t need to be the case. Following a low-carb vegan diet can be a great way to gain the benefits of blood sugar stability without unwanted animal products.

The low-carb vegan protein sources we have listed can be a super healthy way to smash your macro goals. Each one is extremely nutrient dense and clearly demonstrates the health benefits of going plant-based.

The abundant global supply chain has brought a variety of plant-based foods onto the menu. However, it’s often sticking to the basics that will yield the best results. Always look for minimally processed whole-foods and you will hit your protein needs without side-effects.

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