Whether you are vegan or not, it’s very useful to know what (the best) vegan protein sources are.
Well, first of all, if you are vegan, you’ll have to know where to get your protein from (more on this later).
Secondly, even if you are not vegan, plant-based protein has been proven to be much more efficient and healthy for the body than animal protein. (Consider choosing a black bean burger over a steak, all day, everyday.)
Luckily, almost all plants have protein in them! Crazy, right? Some of them have even more than meat!
In this article, I’ll tell you what you have to know about plant protein and show you all the sources to find them (and exactly how much protein they contain).
Vegan Protein and Plant Protein
Is plant protein better than animal protein?
Yes, from every aspect.
Dr. Walter Willet, the Chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, recommends we emphasize plant sources of protein, rather than animal sources.
It’s easy. Even though, to the metabolic system, it doesn’t matter where amino acids (what protein is made of) come from, protein is not consumed in isolation, and that’s where the main difference lies.
What does that mean?
It means that protein comes in packages. While animal protein comes in a package with saturated fats and cholesterol, plant protein is surrounded by phytonutrients and fiber.
This shows that even if the package problem was animal protein’s only disadvantage, we should prefer plant protein over it.
But there’s more:
Not only does consuming animal protein increase the risk of heart diseases, it causes kidney stress through an inflammation (1) , it promotes cancel cell growth (2), and can cause obesity and diabetes in the long term (3).
As you can clearly, see, it’s all around horrible.
What about “incomplete” protein?
There is a lot of misinformation and myth going around about how plant based protein is “incomplete”.
What do they mean by that?
Protein is made from amino acids. Humans need to eat 9 types of these amino acids (called essential), because our bodies can’t produce them.
Th misunderstanding is that plant protein doesn’t contain all these 9 amino acids, or not in enough amount.
That’s not true.
All plant proteins have all essential amino acids(4). Not in equal amounts though, but that doesn’t matter, since our body has a pool of free amino acids, so it can mix and match them for optimal balance.
So, you shouldn’t be at all concerned about “incomplete protein”, if your intake is exclusively from plant foods.
Just enjoy your beans and peanut butter!
How much protein should we consume daily on a vegan/plant-based diet?
The same amount as you should on any other diet.
As it has been agreed upon by general consensus, adults need no more than 0.8-0.9 g protein/kg/day. This amount can be more, if you exercise, but not significantly.
So, if you are a 130-pound woman, working in an office, your maximum daily protein intake could look like this:
- Breakfast: pancakes from 1 c. oats with 2 tbsp. peanut butter, 13.7 g protein
- Lunch: 1 c. brown rice with 1 c. tempeh and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds, 27 g protein
- Dinner: 1 c. quinoa with 1 c. broccoli, 10.7 g protein
That’s 51.4 g of protein, without even a single bite of meat or scoop of protein powder. Pretty awesome, right?
Should I be afraid of “protein deficiency”?
No. There is no real evidence of dietary protein deficiency (5). On the other hand, protein excess (over consumption of protein) is becoming a serious issue in the 21st century population (6).
Basically, if you eat a healthy, balanced diet containing fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, you don’t have to be afraid of not eating enough protein.
What about protein powders?
Protein powders are generally not recommended for daily consumption.
They don’t contain the fiber and other nutrients of the original plant they were isolated from. Of course, in moderation you can use them, but try a maximum 1 scoop/week.
The best is of course, if you get your protein from the whole food plant based sources listed above.
Plant Protein Sources
Beans are the perfect plant based protein sources. They are super healthy, filled with fiber and they contain the highest amount of protein in any plant food. Also, they are very cheap and easy to make into tasty dinners.
Tip: put some cooked beans into your morning smoothie! You won’t ever taste it.
- black beans: 15.2 g /cup
- chickpeas: 10.7 g /cup
- edamame: 22.2 g /cup
- lentils: 17.9 g /cup
- split peas: 16.3 g /cup
- tempeh: 19.9 g /100 g
- tofu: 29.3 g /block
Yes, veggies have a fair amount of protein in them too!
- broccoli: 2.6 g /cup
- brussels sprouts: 3 g /cup
- cauliflower: 2.1 g /cup
- collard greens: 2 g /cup
- horseradish: 2.8 g /cup
- mustard greens: 1.6 g /cup
- asparagus: 2.9 g /cup
- beets: 4.6 g /cup
- corn: 3.8 g /cup
- mushroom: 3 g /cup
- okra: 3.6 g /cup
- mashed potatoes: 3.9 g /cup
- canned pumpkin: 2.7 g /cup
- snap peas: 2 g/cup
- baked sweet potato mash: 5.1 g/cup
- zucchini: 1.8 g/cup
3. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are not only a crunchy addition and yummy snack, but they contain healthy fats that are crucial for vitamin absorption. So sprinkle a few walnuts on your salad or throw a tablespoon of flax seed into your morning smoothie for optimal result.
- flaxseed: 1.3 g /cup
- almonds: 0.6 g /cup
- brazil nuts: 1.2 g /cup
- cashews: 1.5 g/ cup
- chia seeds: 1.7 g
- hazelnuts: 1.3 g
- hemp seeds: 2.5 g
- pistachios: 1.5 g
- pumpkin seed: 2.2 g
- sesame: 1.6 g
- sunflower seeds: 1.8 g
- walnuts: 1 g
Quinoa and oats are the king and queen of the grain group. Eating oats everyday will not only help you with weight loss, but it’s also good for your heart and gut health. All those fibers flush our your belly like crazy.
- barley: 5.4 g /cup
- brown rice: 5.5 g /cup
- buckwheat: 5.7 g /cup
- millet: 6.1 g /cup
- oats: 11 g /cup
- quinoa: 8.1 g / cup
- teff: 9.1 g
- wild rice: 6.5 g
These “processed” food options are also great sources for plant protein.
- peanut butter: 3.9 g / tbsp
- whole wheat pasta: 8.4 g / cup
- vegan protein powder: 20 g / scoop (max.: once a week)
1. Protein from plants is better in every aspect, than from animals.
2. All plant protein is complete, therefore contains all 9 essential amino acids.
3. The recommended daily intake of an adult is 40-50 g protein/day.
4. There is no such thing as protein deficieny. Protein excess, on the other hand, could cause serious issues.
5. Top 10 best plant protein source:
- Tofu – 29.3 g /block
- Black beans – 15.2 g /cup (cooked)
- Oats – 11 g/cup (cooked)
- Quinoa – 8.1 g /cup (cooked)
- Wild Rice – 6.5 g/cup (cooked)
- Peanut butter – 3.9 g/tbsp
- Asparagus – 2.9 g/cup (raw)
- Broccoli – 2.6 g/cup (raw)
- Hemp seed – 2.5 g/tbsp
- Pumpkin seed – 2.2 g /tbsp
What are your favorite vegan and plant protein sources? Let me know in the comments!