Plant protein isn’t as efficient a protein source as animal protein because, in general, plant proteins are low in one or more essential amino acids. “Low” however, doesn’t mean “not there.”
Amino acids in plants are like letters in a Scrabble bag. There are a pile of E’s and S’s, but very few X’s and Z’s. In order to get more of the essential amino acids (the X’s and Z’s) from plant protein, we need to eat a lot more of it.
Benefits of Plant Protein
On the plus side, plant protein is high in fiber and important phytonutrients. I advocate a high intake of plants in the diet. Consistently high vegetable intake leads to lower risk of cancer, diabetes, and obesity.
Good sources of vegetable protein
If you’re interested in adding more plant protein to your diet, here are some sources of vegetable protein:
- Lentils. 1 cup cooked lentils = 18g protein
- Green peas. 1 cup = 8g protein
- Beans. 1 cup cooked beans = 15g protein
- Hemp seeds not only contain protein but also contain heart-healthy fats, mainly omega-3 fatty acids. They have a delicious subtly sweet and nutty flavor, and are so small that they can easily be added to any recipe to boost the protein content. 3 tablespoons hemp = 10g protein
- Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a gluten-free grain. 1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 8g protein
- Spirulina. Great in smoothies. 2 tablespoons spirulina = 8g protein
- Nutritional yeast is a popular vegetarian protein due to its cheesy flavor and high vitamin B content. Nutritional yeast contains no dairy or active yeast. It’s found in a powder/flake form that creates a paste when mixed with liquid. 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast = 12g protein
- Seeds (such as sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp, flax, and pumpkin) are rich in protein, healthy fats, and minerals. 1/4 cup seeds = around 8g protein
- Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, brazil nuts, peanuts and other nuts are also rich in minerals, Vitamin E, and healthy fats. 1/4 cup nuts = around 8g protein
- Organic Edamame (soy). 1 cup = 18g protein.
- Tempeh. Tempeh is made by fermenting cooked soybeans and shaping it into a dense cake that can be sliced or pan-fried. It’s nutty and chewy, and because it’s fermented, it’s easy to digest and great for your intestinal flora. 3 oz Tempeh = 16g protein.
- Wild Rice. 1 cup cooked = 6.5g protein
- Chickpeas. Also called Garbanzo beans, which is way more fun to say. The main ingredient in hummus. ½ cup = 6g protein.
- Buckwheat. Technically not a type of wheat, but a relative of rhubarb. Buckwheat is gluten-free. The Japanese have turned the plant into yummy noodles called soba. You can also eat buckwheat flour (gluten-free pancakes!) 1 cup = 6g protein
- Ezekiel Bread. Usually made from sprouts. 2 slices = 8g protein.
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