Plant protein sources have grown in popularity due to an increasing number of people adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet each year. That being said, plant based protein can be for everyone and is just as valuable to those who still eat meat, too.
A 2018 study found that “Combinations of various plant-based protein sources or blends of animal- and plant-based proteins may provide protein characteristics that closely reflect the typical characteristics of animal-based protein sources,” which is promising news as it refutes the common misconception of those having a plant-based diet lacking protein. Further, it shows that plant protein sources can positively affect the diets of people who are not on plant-based diets also.
This article will discuss how many grams of protein each source provides per 100g, but first, let’s provide context to how much daily protein intake is recommended. There are many factors that affect an ideal protein intake, such as levels of exercise, but the simple rule of thumb is to multiply your body weight by 0.36 to determine the grams of protein needed daily. For example, someone who weighs 150 pounds should have around 54 grams of protein each day.
For more information on ideal protein intake and access to a nutrient recommendation calculator, visit Harvard Health Publishing.
This blog will outline plant protein sources for those who either want to diversify their protein portfolio or learn about what everyday foods are actually rich in protein.
8 Plant Protein Sources
1. Nuts / Seeds (pistachio, almond, pumpkin seed)
100g of pistachios or almonds contain approximately 21g of protein.
Nuts are a quick and effortless snack that can act as a great plant protein source. In addition to having a large amount of protein contained within them, nuts tend to have high antioxidant levels that contribute to furthering the health of the body.
100g of pumpkin seeds contains approximately 19g of protein.
Similarly to the aforementioned nuts, pumpkin seeds are an easily accessible snack that can provide protein. Containing a high antioxidant count and plenty of fibre, pumpkin seeds may promote gut and heart health.
While pistachios, almonds, and pumpkin seeds were the only ones discussed, all different kinds of nuts will provide a protein source in addition to numerous other health benefits.
2. Chia Seeds
100g of chia seeds contains approximately 16.5g of protein.
The US Department of Agriculture outlines the nutritional value of chia seeds and demonstrates that chia is high in fiber and omega-3s, and chia is also a complete protein. A ‘complete protein’ contains all the amino acids that our body does not produce naturally.
Chia can be used in a variety of recipes that span from breakfast foods to dinners to desserts. They are easy to incorporate into your routine diet and should be included.
3. Oat and Oat Products
100g of oats contains approximately 13.2g of protein.
Oats have a high level of vitamins and nutrients that help maintain a well functioning body. These include zinc, iron, and vitamin B1. Oats are also very high in fibre, and as a result, they can help control blood sugar and promote digestive health in addition to the high levels of protein.
The most common way to consume oats is by having oatmeal, and oats can also be baked into many desserts for extra flavour. Many recipes exist for unique ways to use and eat oats.
4. Soy and Soy Based Products
100g of tofu contains approximately 8g of protein, and tempeh contains 13g of protein in the same quantity when fermented.
Soy products all come as an alteration or variation of the soybean. While soybeans do contain high protein themselves, the best option for crafting flavourful meals is through its variations, such as tofu or tempeh. Soy protein is also a ‘complete protein'. Harvard Health states that “soy foods are rich in nutrients including B vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and high quality protein," meaning soy is not only good for protein intake but other nutrients, too.
The beauty of tofu and tempeh is that they can be prepared in many different ways. For example, there are recipes for General Tso’s tofu or sweet and sour tofu that give it more interesting flavours while still keeping the similar protein benefits.
Soy milk, edamame, miso, and certain “plant-based meats” are all soy products with protein content too, but they are less versatile in their uses in recipes.
5. Whole Wheat Bread
100g of whole wheat bread contains approximately 11.63g of protein.
Whole wheat bread is universal in the sense it can be had as toast with breakfast, in a sandwich for lunch, or as a dinner roll for supper. This allows for it to be a consistent source of protein throughout the day. Bread also contains 0g of fat, but it lacks high levels of important nutrients and is high in carbs.
100g of lentils contains approximately 9g of protein.
Lentils are used in a variety of recipes and have acted as a source of protein for thousands of years. Research has shown that they can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and they also contain prebiotics that prevent digestive diseases. Lentils are low in saturated fat and sodium.
Lentils provide many more health benefits than only being a plant protein source. This makes it a healthy meat alternative while also being cost friendly.
Quinoa is best known for the health benefits it brings, such as providing magnesium, folate, iron, and also being a source of antioxidants and nutrients that commonly have deficiencies in people with plant-based diets. So not only is it good for protein, but it helps provide many nutrients.
Quinoa is typically used in salads and bowls, but it can also be served warm in soups or other cooked dinner plates.
8. Brussel Sprouts
100g of brussels sprouts contain approximately 2.5g of protein.
Brussel sprouts are a good source of protein, though it will not net you as much as other plant protein sources. This should be seen as a compliment to a protein source and not act as your primary intake. Brussel sprouts also contain omega-3, high fibre content, antioxidants, and plenty of other beneficial nutrients that can be found here.
Spinach, kale, and broccoli are all also suitable substitutes for the benefits of brussels sprouts should you desire a different taste.
Plant protein sources have a wide variety of options that vary in their protein contents. Some sources may contain high amounts of protein and not many other benefits, such as with whole wheat bread, while other sources will be more well rounded and provide less protein but include important nutrients, such as with quinoa.
The above image from the World Resource Institute (WRI) shows another important benefit of switching to a plant-based protein diet is the positive impact it has on the environment. Research by the WRI determined that “meat and dairy are generally more resource-intensive to produce than plant-based foods, increasing pressure on land, water, and the climate,” and by making small dietary switches, agricultural resource use and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
Finally, the WRI research shows that many of the plant-based products are actually cheaper to purchase than the animal-based counterparts.
This demonstrates that plant protein sources are just as capable in providing the necessary daily intake of protein, are better for the environment, and actually cheaper to consume.
For additional protein intake, visit our selection of organic vegan protein supplements here.