Protein is a nutrient needed by the human body for growth and maintenance. Aside from water, proteins are the most abundant kind of molecules in the body. Protein can be found in all cells of the body and is the major structural component of all cells in the body, especially muscle. This also includes body organs, hair and skin. (source: Wikipedia)
Animal sources of protein tend to be complete sources of protein, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs for optimum health. Basically they’re higher quality protein source.
Most plant sources are incomplete because they lack a couple of the essential amino acids needed, giving plant proteins a lower biological value. The value given to every protein source is called its amino acid profile – all of which are compared to an egg, the most complete protein source there is.
That’s where combining proteins comes in. Eating two or more incomplete plant based sources of protein together can arm you with the full set of essential amino acids in the quantities needed.
The following are some of the best and most accessible plant based protein sources, listed in an order according to their protein content.
#1 Soy-based Products: Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame & Soy Milk
Soybeans are a complete source of protein, meaning these products are valuable to a vegan diet.
Tofu is made from soybeans curd pressed together. Tempeh is fermented soybeans pressed into a patty (also a fantastic probiotic source). Both Tofu and Tempeh can be added to pretty much any food and it often used as a substitute for meat.
Edamame beans are the immature soybeans and when boiled are delicious both on their own or added to salads.
1 serving of these three sources = around 20g protein.
Soy milk is a great alternative to cows milk for vegans (a cup = 7g protein). Although it contains vitamin D and calcium, it is a good idea to opt for varieties that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12.
Lentils are not just a great source of plant based protein, but are also high in fibre and slow release carbohydrates. Great in stews and soups.
1 cup of cooked lentils = 18g protein and 50% of your daily fibre intake.
Or any beans for that matter (kidney, pinto or black beans) are legumes with high protein content. They are also great sources of slow release carbohydrates, fibre, folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.
Studies have linked legume consumption to good cardiovascular health.
1 cup of cooked chickpeas = 15g protein
#4 Nutritional Yeast
A versatile powder known for its cheesy flavor. Add it to sauces, dips and just about anything as a flavor enhancer. It also contains calcium and vitamin D. Fortified nutritional yeast is an excellent source of all the B vitamins.
3 tablespoons = 12g protein
Apart from being a great source of plant protein. Hempseeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. A nutty, sweet flavour makes them delicious addition to anything from salads, to stews, to smoothies.
3 tablespoons of hempseeds = 10g protein
#6 Green Peas
The classic green pea, not only contain protein but also iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and B vitamins.
1 cup of cooked green peas = 9g protein
Another substitute for rice and wheat. This grain (which is technically a seed or a ‘pseudo-grain’) is a fantastic starchy carbohydrate rich in fibre and protein. It is a complete protein, which is rare for any grain or ‘pseudo-grain’.
1 cup of cooked quinoa = 9g protein
#8 Nuts & Seeds
Not only are nuts and seeds rich in heart healthy fats and fibre, but they are also great sources of plant based protein. Seek out the raw, unsalted versions for best nutritional benefits.
¼ cup of nuts or seeds = 7-9g protein
Good old oats, a breakfast staple to many that can also be ground to flour or added to veggie burgers. Although they are not a compete protein, they are a high quality protein in comparison to other grains and are easily integrated into your diet. Protein aside, they contain magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and folate.
½ cup of dry oats = 6g protein
#10 Leaf Protein
Other than the above sources, the new protein source is been found in Leaves. There are few initiatives already happening across the globe for plant based protein sources. This could also be a more sustainable option of protein source available to the food industry. We need to look out for more information regarding leaf protein in the coming years.
Note: Protein content information is not available when publishing this content.