The short answer is you likely can. Protein isn’t a nutrient that vegetarians or vegans typically fall short on. In fact, most vegetarians and vegans meet or exceed their protein requirements, per the scientific research.1
That said, there are four different vegetarian diets
and depending on which type of vegetarian you are, you may need to be more aware about protein-rich foods than others.
These are the different vegetarian diets:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians—eat eggs and dairy.
- Ovo-vegetarians—eat eggs and egg products, but not dairy.
- Lacto-vegetarians—consume dairy, but no eggs or egg products.
- Vegans—don’t eat eggs, dairy, or other animal products of any kind (including honey).
How much protein do adults really need?
The average man should aim to get at least 56 grams of protein per day and the average woman should target at least 46 grams each day, according to government recommendations. That translates to about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight and 1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds. But if you are fairly active, or you want to build some muscle mass, experts recommend you aim for 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.2
Also, the quality of your protein matters, too, especially for building and maintaining muscle. You want to aim to consume all of the essential amino acids—and, remember, essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein that our body can’t make so we must get them from our diet. To do that, you should eat a variety of proteins. If you’re vegan, it is extra important to pay attention to your protein sources and aim for a variety because plant-based proteins are often short on the essential amino acid leucine.3 You need leucine to synthesize protein—and that’s how you build muscle. In general, larger quantities of plant-based proteins are needed—versus what you’d need from animal-based proteins—to get all of the essential amino acids and also the quantity needed for muscle synthesis.4
To reach your daily targets for both the quantity and quality of protein, you should include top sources of plant proteins in your diet every day—and, ideally, one source at every meal. The most protein-rich plant foods include soybeans, tofu, peas (blackeye and green), lima beans, teff, egg noodles, nuts (peanuts, almonds, etc.) and their butters, and seeds (hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.).
Leaning on hemp for quality protein is easier than you may realize. A single tablespoon of shelled hemp seeds (aka hemp hearts) delivers 3 grams of protein. Toss two or three tablespoons into smoothies, smoothie bowls, a yogurt parfait, or a salad and you’re adding a solid dose of protein staying power to your meal. Or, try our hemp protein powders in smoothies or baked goods, we offer 70%, 50%, 33%, or 23% hemp protein!
To learn more about how hemp is used as a food ingredient, read our article 12 Ways Dietitian Nutritionists Use Hemp as an Ingredient.