Everyone needs protein in their diet. It’s an essential nutrient your body needs for everything from building lean muscle to maintaining a healthy gut. And you can easily meet your body’s needs with a plant-based diet that includes high-protein whole grains.
Not all grains are a healthy source of protein. Many are refined, ultra processed and stripped of nutrients, making them act like sugar in the body. So, here’s a list of the best whole grains that are high in healthy plant proteins.
Amaranth is an earthy and nutty tasting grain that originates from Peru. Since amaranth is packed with protein, minerals, and vitamins, it was a staple food for many ancient cultures.
One cup of cooked amaranth contains around 9 grams of protein. It’s also gluten-free so if you have a gluten sensitivity you can enjoy amaranth without any digestive distress.
Amaranth also comes with surprising health benefits with research on humans and mice showing its ability to reduce inflammation (1).
While technically a seed, buckwheat is cooked and consumed as a grain.
And despite its name, it doesn’t have wheat. Which is good since that means it’s non-allergenic and is another gluten-free food.
Buckwheat comes with 12 different amino acids and has a similar taste and texture to barley, just without the gluten. You can add it to soups, stews or savor it as noodles.
Thanks to its high protein (6 grams per cup) and high fiber (5 grams per cup) content, buckwheat is beneficial for heart health and is associated with lower cholesterol levels (2).
Kamut is a brand-name grain that’s derived from an ancient variety of wheat. It’s becoming an increasingly popular substitute for wheat because of its buttery taste, nutritional value, and hypoallergenic properties (3).
Kamut is also an excellent option for organic farming because it is resilient to environmental stress so there’s less need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Many people choose Kamut instead of regular wheat due to the fact that it has 40 percent more protein. Along with 11 grams of protein per cup kamut is a rich source of zinc and selenium.
The only problem is kamut contains gluten because it’s a relative of wheat. If you have a gluten intolerance, use the other grains mentioned.
Although millet is actually a seed (birds love it), it’s widely referred to as a grain due to its texture and it can easily be used in place of wheat or oats.
Not only is millet high in protein (6g per cup), it’s also gluten-free, and is low on the glycemic index, so it won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
This versatile grain can be used in breakfast bowls (in place of oats) or adds taste and texture to stuffed veggies for a satisfying meal high in protein.
Another plus for millet is that it’s a good source of vitamins and minerals. It’s high in magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and B vitamins, which support healthy circulation.
Quinoa was first cultivated over 5,000 years ago by the Incas. They called it the “mother of all grains.” And for good reason.
Quinoa is a gluten-free super grain that’s loaded with antioxidants, minerals, and a surprising amount of protein. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of boiled quinoa contains over 8 grams of protein.
Another distinguishing factor for quinoa is it comes with a hefty amount of heart-healthy fatty acids (ALA).
Wild rice is completely different than traditional rice. It’s long, skinny, and has a dark, chewy outer sheath. And most importantly, wild rice contains significantly more nutrients than its distant cousin, “Asian” white rice (4).
Wild rice has gained a considerable amount of attention because of its high content of antioxidants, minerals, dietary fiber, and… you guessed it, protein.
One cup of wild rice contains around 6.5 grams of protein with a nutty flavor and texture, making it a great addition to any meal, and it is also naturally gluten-free.
If you decide to give these grains a try, ALWAYS purchase organic grains. Otherwise, they can be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals that can wreak havoc on your health.
It’s also recommend that you soak grains for 6+ hours before cooking. Doing this activates an enzyme called phytase which breaks down the phytic acid found in most grains (5). Reducing phytic acid means you unlock the most nutritional value out of your grains. Or you can purchase sprouted grains which have more available nutrients.
Nutrient data retrieved from the USDA National Nutrient Database.