What plant foods are good protein sources for a vegetarian with diabetes?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

There are many great vegetarian protein sources. All kinds of beans, soy protein like tofu, tempeh, miso, and edamame. Seeds and nuts and nut butters. Almond milk. If you are lacto ovo, eggs and low fat dairy products. Coconut yogurts and soy yogurts. Whole grains combined with beans.

Toby Smithson
Nutrition & Dietetics

There are many soy foods ranging from soynuts, soy strips, soy milk, soy flour, fermented soy (tempeh) soy burgers and other ready to heat and serve soy products. Soy milk can be used at breakfast as a beverage or to pour over your cereal. At lunch you can have a soy burger, soy cheese sandwich, or steamed edamame as your protein source. Soy beans can be used in a bean salad (try the variety of colors: black, yellow and edamame). At dinner you can use soy to make meatballs, meatloaf or burgers. A favorite soy based meal is to use sliced tempeh as the protein source for a vegetable stir fry. This recipe is quick and easy to make.

Other plant based sources of protein are beans, but in addition to a source of protein, there is also a serving of carbohydrate. A 1/2 cup serving of cooked beans offers 8 grams of protein equal to one ounce of meat and 20 grams of carbohydrate.

Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics
Some good protein sources for a vegetarian with diabetes are:
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Soy products
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Seeds
  • Cheese/yogurt (if not vegan)
Protein is not a problem with a vegan or vegetarian diet when you eat a variety of the many plant foods that provide protein such as:
  • Dried beans or canned beans that have been rinsed (black, pinto, garbanzo, navy, kidney, etc.)
  • Other bean products (bean spreads, hummus, fat-free refried beans, baked beans or falafel)
  • Lentils
  • Peas (black-eyed or split)
  • Nuts and nut spreads (almonds, almond butter, peanuts, peanut butter, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, etc.)
  • Soy and soy products (soy milk, edamame, soy nuts, tofu, tempeh)
  • Meat substitutes (veggie burgers, black bean burgers, meatless "chicken nuggets", "beef" crumbles, etc. These can be found in most grocery stores.)

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.