The ultimate guide to best plant protein sources. This definitive guide aims to give you an understanding of where to get your plant protein sources whether you want to make changes with your lifestyle, improve your health and diet, you are curious or if you are new and transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and the plant-based diet.
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This is an in-depth understanding that when it comes to protein intake we should not be limited to consuming only meat and dairy products.
It is not a wise decision to just suddenly embrace a vegan lifestyle or plant-based diet without doing research or merely asking yourself why you want to eat vegetables and omit dairy and meat in your diet.
Grab this book to start your journey with information and great recipes for a healthier lifestyle
You have to be mentally prepared and consistent in incorporating more vegetables on your plate. If you are new to the idea of vegan and plant-based but more familiar with vegetarian diet read my article about the Key Differences of Plant-based, Vegan and Vegetarian.
Before we jump right away with the ultimate guide to best plant protein sources, I will highlight that the human body needs other essential nutrients aside from Protein.
What Is Protein?
Proteins are large biomolecules made of amino acids; it is essential nutrient for the human body. Protein intake plays an important role in the growth and maintenance of the human body therefore it is acting as a fuel for us to perform and function.
From the US and Canadian Dietary Reference Intake guidelines, men aged 19 to 70 need to consume 56g of protein per day to minimize the risk of deficiency while women aged 19-70 need to consume about 46g of protein per day. This RDA sample is calculated based on 0.8g protein per kilogram body weights of 57kg and 70kg respectively. This requirement is a sample for a person with a sedentary lifestyle.
The requirement for protein intake varies from one person to another as well as from active people to endurance athletes. As this article serves as a source of information it is important to consult a nutritionist or dietitian for your own nutrient needs.
Why Plant Protein?
1. Plant Protein for your Health
Most vegetables if not all are rich in nutrients, protein, fiber and are antioxidants. There is a wide variety of plant protein options that do not contain fat or fats at a very low level which is better than those coming from meat or dairy products. We will dive into that more in this article as we go along and discuss protein coming from plants.
Numerous studies have shown and linked that consuming meat and dairy products gives a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and strokes.
2. Plant Protein for the Environment
As the population continues to grow the demand for food gets bigger and bigger and animal agriculture demand takes up a lot on this matter. After watching the documentary Cowspiracy it gave a great amount of information on how it affects our planet.
From the UN’s article “raising livestock ( meat and dairy industry) produces more greenhouse gases than the emissions of the entire transportation sector. Livestock is a major contributor to global warming.”
You can watch the documentary later and decide for yourself whether you are convinced with the information provided.
Check out this cute Plantbased tote from my store in teespring.
3. Plant Protein is gentle for the Animals
If you have not watched any documentary about the process of animal agriculture then you will never understand what and how animals feel pain. Just by watching documentaries, you will feel compassion for these animals and it will move you.
It only proves that in taking plant protein no animals need to be hurt making you kinder to these creatures.
4. Plant Protein is good in the pockets
There is a big misconception that having a plant-based diet or vegan lifestyle is more expensive than being a carnivore or omnivore. If you focus on a whole food plant-based diet it’s cheaper than consuming and buying meat and dairy products.
But if you focus on processed vegan meat and products then that could be expensive. You can always try to learn and make your own versions in order to have a more sustainable lifestyle.
It may be plant-based, but something that costs millions of dollars to develop in a lab isn’t a health food.Brian Wendel founder of Forks Over Knives
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Ultimate Guide to Best Plant Protein Sources
Let’s start with this succulent vegetable Asparagus which has almost no fat and low in sodium. This plant protein is a good source of dietary fiber, beta-carotene, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, potassium and has high anti-inflammatory nutrients as well as antioxidant nutrients.
Nutritional Value per 100 grams: Protein 2.2g | Fat 0.12g | Carbohydrates 4g | Dietary Fiber 2.1g | Sugar 1.88g
Different studies have provided information that Asparagus is good for your heart, thanks to its vitamin K content. It can also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, it has anti-aging benefits which is good for the skin and Asparagus acts as a natural diuretic it also helps flush out toxins in the kidney and helps prevent kidney stones.
There’s no serious side effect in consuming Asparagus except for the uncomfortable effect of gas and smell in urine.
Known to be a superfood, Artichokes’ edible part is the bud of a flower before it starts to bloom and it has a high level of antioxidants.
Nutritional Value per 100 grams: Protein 2.89g | Carbohydrates 11.89g | Dietary Fiber 8.6g | Fat 0.34g
From clinical studies, the extract of Artichokes leaves (turned powder or juice) when consumed can help in lowering cholesterol, it can help regulate blood pressure for people with mild high blood pressure.
Another Green vegetable that is very easy to cook but can also be enjoyed as raw. The raw Broccoli is 89% water, 7% carbohydrates, 3% protein, and almost zero fat. Since it has high water content it can only provide about 2.82g of protein.
Nutritional Value per 100 grams Protein 2.82g | Carbohydrates 6.64g | Fiber 2.6g | Fat 0.37g | Calories 34
Broccoli is also rich in vitamin C which is an antioxidant that plays a role in protecting the immune system. It has vitamin K1 which is important in blood clotting and can help promote bone health. It also has potassium which can help prevent heart disease and helpful for blood pressure control.
Broccoli can be steamed, baked, or stir-fry. It can also be added to a bowl of Burrito salad. Here’s an easy Asian stir fry recipe with Broccoli.
There are several types of beans available, but we will focus on beans that have higher protein sources.
- Soy Beans– one of the most famous types of beans that aren’t costly is soybeans or soya beans. Famous in eastern Asia boiled soybeans also known as Edamame offers a good amount of Protein. (Boiled soybean-16.6g per 100g)
Nutritional Value per 100 grams: Protein 36.49g | Carbohydrates 30.16g | Fiber 9.3g | Fat 19.94g
By-Products of Soybeans: Soymilk, soy sauce, soy ice cream, soybean oil, tofu, miso, tempeh
This plant protein source is also rich in vitamin K1 which is important in blood clotting, it has vitamin B1 which is also an important nutrient in the body, Folate, Manganese, and Phosphorus. Several studies indicate that Soybean can help reduce the risk of cancer.
Here is an easy recipe for Garlic Edamame
- Chickpeas – also known as Garbanzo beans, have a good source of fiber and protein. It is a very common and important ingredient for recipes known in Indian, Mediterranean, and middle eastern cuisine.
Nutritional Value per 100 grams (for Chickpeas cooked and no salt) Protein 8.86g | Carbohydrates 27.42g | Fiber 7.6g | Fat 2.59g
Because chickpeas are high in protein and fiber and they work together, therefore, it can help you feel full longer throughout the day.
- Kidney Beans – also known as common beans is cooked to be able to enjoy the nutritional health it offers. It is also referred to as the poor man’s meat.
Nutritional value per 100 grams (boiled kidney beans) Protein 8.7g | Carbohydrates 22.8g | Fiber 7.4g | Fat 0.50g
Other nutrients and minerals found in Kidney Beans are Vitamin k1, Calcium, Iron, Copper, Potassium, and Magnesium.
Other beans that are a good source of protein are Black beans, Pinto beans, Lentils, Peas, Navy Beans, and Cannellini Beans.
5. Brussel Sprouts
Usually grows in countries with cold temperatures. It was first discovered in northern Europe and most likely explains the name of this vegetable.
Nutritional Value per 100 grams (Brussels sprouts, raw (edible parts)) Protein 3.48g | carbohydrates 8.95g | Fiber 3.8g | Fat 0.3g
Aside from being a good source of Protein this plant protein is also packed with vitamins and minerals. It has fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B and B6.
Cons: Eating Brussel sprout should be taken in moderation as excess consumption may not be suitable for individuals taking anticoagulants such as warfarin ( Wikipedia)
A healthy vegetable having a bunch of florets connected to its core. The most common color is white although it has a variety of purple, orange, and green all having the same taste.
Nutritional value per 100 grams Protein 1.9g | Carbohydrates 5g | Fiber 2g | Fat 0.3g
Cauliflower is also a good source of Fiber and 1 serving gives 92g of water which can keep you hydrated. It is rich in vitamin C which acts as an antioxidant and can help boost the immune system.
Try this Buffalo Cauliflower bites recipe
7. Chia Seeds
This edible superfood seed is related to the family of mint leaves. These tiny seeds can hold up to 12 times their weight when soaking in liquid and can be easily mixed with anything.
It can be mixed with your smoothies, breakfast cereal bowls, salads, energy bars and make chia pudding. A great way to use chia seeds is to make Mango Chia Pudding.
Nutritional value per 28g or 2tbsp: Protein 4g | Fiber 11g | Fat 9g
Chia seeds are not only a protein power plant it also contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. These seeds also contain all 9 essential amino acids which can usually be found when consuming meat and dairy. These amino acids are important and known to be building blocks of protein that our body needs but we can’t produce naturally.
Lentils fall in the family of legumes just like beans. These small lens shape edible dried beans are packed with protein and other nutrients and offer a variety of colors. From red, green, yellow, and brown with its different colors cooking vary also.
Nutritional value per 100 grams (cook and salted) Protein 9.02g | Carbohydrates 19.54g | Sugar 1.8g | Fiber 7.9g | Fat 0.38g
Other important benefits of Lentils include support in bowel movement thanks to its Fiber content, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains vitamins and minerals such as Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium.
Let’s focus on edible mushrooms that are healthy, tasty, and can be put in any dishes you prepare.
Nutritional value per 100 grams (cook and unsalted) Protein 2.2g | Carbohydrates 5.3g | Fat 0.5g
Aside from the nutritional value, you can get with mushrooms, it is also cholesterol and fat-free. It is a good source of antioxidants that can boost your immune system, it has vitamin B (thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid) as well as good dietary fibers.
Easy dinner recipe with Mushroom Stroganoff
10. Mung Beans
Another good plant protein source that belongs to the legumes family is these tiny green beans.
Nutritional value per 100 grams (boiled) Protein 7.02g | Carbohydrates 19.15g | Sugar 2g | Fiber 7.6g | Fat 0.38g
Just like Chia seeds, Mung beans are also a great source of essential amino acids that our body can’t produce on its own. Other health benefits that Mung beans offer, it helps lower blood sugar level, may help lower blood pressure, it has anti-inflammatory properties and high antioxidant levels.
11. Nutritional Yeast
This yellow flakes granules or powder is a great source of protein for those vegans, plant-based and those transitioning. It is also known to be a good substitute for cheese. It is a deactivated form of yeast used as a seasoning or nutritional supplement.
Nutritional value 1 serving Protein 9g | 2 tablespoons -Carbohydrates 5g | Fiber 4g
Nutritional yeast is known to be vegan, gluten and sugar-free, rich in antioxidants, contains 9 essential amino acids, and rich in vitamin B.
“I thought I was healthy and strong before, but after adapting a plant-based diet, I started to feel energetic and I was having quicker recovery after training” – Frank Medrano
- Almonds – being a good source of protein, Almonds is also recommended by the US Dept. of Agriculture with its regular consumption it can help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering LDL cholesterol.
Nutritional value per 100 grams Protein 21.2g | Carbohydrates 21.6g | Sugar 4.4g | Fiber 12.5g | Fat 49.9g
- Cashews – these kidney-like shaped nuts are actually seeds from the Cashew tree. Not only it is a good source of protein it also has lots of good benefits and nutrients.
Nutritional value per 100 grams(raw) Protein 18.22g | Carbohydrates 30.19g | Sugar 5.91g | Fiber 3.3g | Fat 43.85g
Cashew nuts are rich in vitamins (B6, K, B5, B3) and minerals (Calcium, Magnesium, Copper, Iron), they help lower LDL cholesterol which is good for the heart and has antioxidants.
- Pistachio – these nuts are actually seeds of the Pistachio tree which is also a good source of protein and other nutrients and minerals.
Nutritional value per 100 grams(raw) 20.27g | Carbohydrates 27.51g| Fiber 10.3g | Fat 45.39g | Sugar 7.66g
Pistachio nuts have antioxidants that can help improve your health. It has lutein and zeaxanthin -antioxidants for eye health. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol which can help lessen the chances of heart disease.
Although Pistachios are good, be mindful in consuming roasted Pistachios as they can be high in sodium which in turn can be bad for you.
- Walnuts – another good source of protein with good fats and fiber are this single-seeded fruit from a walnut tree
Nutritional value per 100 grams (English walnut) Protein 15.23g | Carbohydrates 13.71g | Sugar 2.61 | Fiber 6.7 | Fat 65.21
Walnuts are a good source of Omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamin B6, minerals such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper.
Other Nuts that offer protein, vitamins, and minerals are pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, and flaxseed.
Note: To be able to maximize the benefits of nuts it is important to choose those without added ingredients and at least have minimal processing.
This root crop vegetable is also a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins especially if you consume the skin just wash the outside thoroughly.
Nutritional value per 100 grams Protein 2g | Carbohydrates 17g | Fiber 2.2g | Sugar 0.78g | Fat 0.09g
Eating Potatoes that are minimally processed offers lots of good benefits including vitamins and minerals. It is a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin C, and B6.
It acts as an antioxidant, and according to studies based on test tube tests purple potatoes have 3-4x more antioxidants than regular white potatoes. Potatoes have negligible fat which makes them good for the heart.
Who wouldn’t love eating spinach if you will be like Popeye with great strength after consuming it. This green leafy vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked it can be added to just any dish you like.
Nutritional value per 100 grams Protein 2.9g | Carbohydrates 3.6g | Fiber 2.2g | Sugar 0.4g | Fat 0.4g
It is also a good source of vitamin K1, A, beta carotene, vitamin C and E, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.
For those who have Gluten intolerance Quinoa is a great option and also packed with protein and 9 essential amino acids.
Nutritional value 100 grams (cooked) Protein 4.4g | Fiber 2.8g | Carbohydrates 21.3g | Fat 1.92g
Other benefits of consuming quinoa- it is a good source of manganese and phosphorus. It has better fiber content than other grains, it is also a good source of antioxidants, and has a low glycemic index which is good for controlling blood sugar.
With this ultimate guide to the best plant protein sources, you can’t go wrong in adding more plant protein sources into your diet. There are great benefits found that will help improve our health and help lower the chances of getting sick.
- Help maintain a healthy weight and may aid in weight loss
- Lowers risk of diabetes
- Reduces risk of heart diseases
- Helps reduce the risk of cancer
- A Plant-Based Diet, Atherogenesis, and Coronary Artery Disease Prevention. The Permanente Journal Winter 2015
- Animal and plant protein intake and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: results from two prospective US cohort studies
- Journal of the American Heart Association
- Medical News Today | Webmed | Verwellfit | Healthline | LiveScience
- National Library of Medicine