Plant-based protein list

Plant-based protein list

Raise your hand if you’ve grown up thinking that your dinner plate had to consist of some type of meat, a side of potato or pasta, and a wilted, overcooked green vegetable.  Most of us still think that we need to have a “complete” protein in the form of beans and rice, or eggs and bacon. Think again! Complete plant-based proteins do exist, and you don’t have to eat beans and rice together, or even at all, to obtain enough protein on a vegan diet. This plant-based protein list has plenty of protein, and if you’re concerned that these proteins aren’t “bio-available” or complete, you’ll see that this concept was likely made up by someone along the way to make the animal-based food industry a ton of money.

Don’t misunderstand. Protein is very important in a very major way.  Protein is basically just a huge string of 20 amino acids, all delicately formed to provide our bodies with support, energy, and sustenance. Fat and carbs do the same, just in different ways. Protein builds our muscles, fuels our brains, keeps our skin and hair healthy, and keeps our organs running properly. It triggers neurotransmitters in the brain to improve our moods, lower our blood sugar, and even help us focus. Protein is an important nutrient, but you don’t need a tub of whey protein or a piece of chicken to get your fill.

So, what’s the real deal?

Nut MilksAccording to The Plantrician Project, “the idea that all essential amino acids must be eaten together at each meal isn’t true like we used to think. One can eat a variety of foods that are rich in essential and non-essential amino acids, and completely get their fill of protein. Many plant-based foods are filled with all essential amino acids (hemp, chia, sprouted brown rice, and spirulina, just to name a handful)”.

Plus, consider this: cows and gorillas grow big and strong from eating nothing but plants (at least in their natural habitats). Considering that a cow needs nothing more than grass to grow big and strong, why should we think any differently for ourselves? Even vegan bodybuilders know that getting enough protein is not a problem. Lucky for us, we don’t have to graze like cattle to have access to nature’s finest sources of protein. It’s much simpler than you think, considering that so many vegan foods are packed with high-quality protein. 

Besides, too much animal protein is also a bad thing. Excess protein can trigger kidney issues, blood sugar problems, osteoporosis, urinary tract calcium stones, and even weight gain if you eat too much of it. While everyone’s protein needs are different, none of us require animal protein in an attempt to make sure we are getting enough.

Take a look at these awesome plant-based, protein-rich foods:

  • Plant-Based Protein Powders (hemp, pea, brown rice, cranberry bean, soy, etc.) : 17-25 grams per scoop (depending on the brand)
  • Lentils- 18 grams per cup
  • Endamame (Soybeans) – 16 grams per cup
  • Black Beans- 13 grams per cup
  • Chickpeas- 13 grams per cup
  • Tempeh: 10 grams per 2 ounces
  • Tofu: 10 grams per 3 ounces
  • Chia seeds: 10 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Sunflower Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Green Peas: 8 grams per cup
  • Rolled Oats: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Teff: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Buckwheat: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Almond Butter: 7 Grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Almonds: 7 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Quinoa: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Amaranth: 6 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Broccoli: 5 grams per cup
  • Spinach: 5 grams per cup
  • Rye Grains: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Millet: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Flax Seeds: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Cacao Powder: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Freekah: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Acai: 5 grams per 3 ounce frozen puree
  • Kale: 5 grams per cup
  • Spirulina: 4 grams per teaspoon
  • Coconut Flour: 3.5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Maca: 3 grams per tablespoon
  • Romaine Lettuce: 3 grams per cup
  • Chlorella: 2 grams per teaspoon

Even most fruits and the plain potato have a little bit of protein. No matter what kind of diet you eat, it’s always best to eat one filled with whole, plant-based foods.

How to Get Enough Protein

The World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations suggests 0.5 grams of protein per 2.2 pound (one kilogram) of body weight. So, for example, an adult weighing 150 pounds (70 kilograms) would require about 35 grams of protein daily.  If you enjoy a plant-strong diet, and consume between 2,100 and 2,600 calories of a variety of foods daily, you could be ingesting between 65 and 80 grams of protein a day, or closed to 200 percent of the WHO recommended amount.  If you are a standard meat-inclusive diet, you will generally consume 100 to 120 grams of protein DAILY, which is 300 to 400 percent above the recommended level!

Optimum Protein Needs

      • Eat a variety of plant foods that provide protein without depending on animal sources.
      • Limit the daily intake to only 12 to 15 percent of the total calories ingested;
      • reduce or eliminate the many types of animal protein that contain high percentages of fat, which can be responsible for many disease conditions;
      • Boost your athletic performance with effective and clean-burning carbs;
      • Moderately increase your protein intake if you are extremely active or are undergoing conventional cancer therapy;
      • and, minimize animal protein if you are transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Here are some awesome plant-based protein-rich recipe ideas to give you a boost, from the Plantrician Project, an amazing nonprofit, empowering our physicians and healthcare practitioners with knowledge about the indisputable benefits of plant-based nutrition.  They are developing a wide array of educational events, tools and resources designed to effectively educate, equip and empower our nation’s physicians and healthcare professionals—about the health-promoting, disease fighting power of whole food, plant-based nutrition.  They are a gold mine, a holy grail of plant-strong goodness, and I am so happy to be collaborating with them!

As long as you are eating enough calories from a variety of plant foods, getting adequate protein on a plant-based diet is easy! Let me know what you think in the comments below, about how you can ramp up your plant protein and say b’bye to animals…!

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13 thoughts on “Plant-based protein list”

  • This is extremely interesting and very informative! I practically had no clue about half of this information. It has made me reflect upon my own eating habits.

    Looking at this info, I have a better understanding of what I was doing wrong when I tried out the vegetarian lifestyle some years ago.
    This was a very good read! 🙂

  • Your list of awesome, plant-based, protein-rich foods is quite extensive. If one is eating a balance of the various foods, there is no way they will be short on protein. There is just so much to choose from. I think in general we are too caught up with the whole subject of protein intake and to think, someone like me needs only 35 g per day. Most people are way, way over that. As a matter of fact, I myself thought I needed about 60 g of protein a day so I thank you so much for clearing that up for me and also confirming that we definitely do not need animal products to supply our protein.

    • HI Freddie and thank you for writing. You bring up some excellent points about the amount of protein we all think we need — I am glad to have helped!

  • Thank you Amy. This site certainly opened up my eyes. I will put my hand up. I live in a culture where “meat and three vegetables” is the dinner time staple. Trying to convert the family dinner meal over to one with less meat (especially red meat) and more vegetables has been a challenge. I leant a lot from your website. I didn’t know that tempeh and so many other substitutes have 10 g or more of protein. Thank you for sharing this with me.

    • Thank you for writing! Yes, it can be a difficult transition, but with so many delicious plant-strong recipes out there, it makes things much easier! Good luck! Try the recipes at: forksoverknives.com.

  • Hi Amy

    Good post, protein talk is a big topic among body building and fitness circles so it’s nice to have another informed perspective in the conversation.

    I did want to ask, does the source of your protein matter?
    For example, if I eat 20g of protein from peanut butter powder, will it be do the same thing for your body as 20g of protein from tofu? I hear many answers about this from the body building industry but I’m always afraid that they’re just giving me information so I spend money on an overpriced tub of protein rather than on cheaper alternatives.

    • Hi Juan, and thank you for writing. I think that the protein has to be from a good nutritional source, and more important than PB or Tofu, is that you are getting your protein from a wide variety of plant foods that provide protein without depending on animal sources. Beans, bean products, (tempeh, tofu, natural soy sauce, miso), whole grains and vegetables. Don’t forget that excess protein can turn into glucose and then become stored as body fat. You can boost your athletic performance with effective and clean-burning complex carbs — in addition to an increase in overall calories. You can definitely increase your protein intake, but again, go for complex carbs, plants, grains, beans and veggies, and you should be good. I don’t think it is either PB OR Tofu — it is a well-rounded way of eating that compensates for your activity by consuming additional calories, as needed. An athletic friend of mine swears by the Vega One Protein Shakes — here is a link if you are interested: http://amzn.to/2qOpVwL They are great for between meals, or with a side salad, and he puts a frozen banana in them along with some ground flax seeds and a handful of kale. Give it a try — it may be a nice plant-based protein addition to your regimen.

      Thanks for writing and let me know how things go!

  • Good information and alternative suggestions here. Plants have everything we need and are indeed a goldmine.
    I had low blood sugar and high cholesterol, so have been on vegetarian diet for about a year now, so it’s good to see more education about the power of plant based foods. I sprinkle chia seeds on most dishes and going by your list, I’m doing something right although I have no idea what my daily intake of protein is but I’m sure I’m in a healthy range since I stopped eating meat. I’ll be checking out those recipes too.

    Thanks for the helpful info. Plants rule !

  • Wow, this is a very liberating perspective.

    I live in the UAE, and I started to notice that Americans eat more meat than practically any other culture. This is my 4th time living overseas, so the pattern has been ongoing. It just kinda hit me harder recently.

    Eating less meat is really easy for me. I was surprised at how easy. It’s encouraging to know that I don’t have to worry about “complete proteins” when I choose to get protein from beans and other sources.

    What I’ve noticed about cutting way back on meat is that it’s 1. less expensive, 2. easier to count calories and keep the count down, and 3. my digestion is somewhat better.

    Thanks for the extra insight concerning complete proteins.

    All the Best,

    Elizabeth

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