Getting enough protein on a plant-based diet might seem like a daunting task. But plants contain a surprising amount of protein, and fueling up is easier than you might have thought! Packed with vitamins, fiber, and amino acids, plants provide everything you need to live a healthy and well-nourished life.
This article tackles a few misconceptions about plant protein and helps guide readers toward picking the right plants to meet their protein needs. So, roll up your sleeves and pick up your fork; let’s dig in!
- Eating a variety of plant proteins provides efficient amino acids, and nutrients.
- Focus on whole foods rather than processed to ensure your body can absorb and utilize the food efficiently.
- Plant protein powder is equally effective for growing muscle as whey protein powder.
- The best supplements to add to a plant-based diet are spirulina, plant protein powder, B12, iron, and, if needed, vegan multivitamins.
- Grocery Store Hack: Shopping the grocery store’s perimeter will keep you from buying expensive and heavily processed items. Focus on buying fresh and whole food staples. It will keep you and your wallet light!
What Are The Benefits of Plant Protein?
It is no surprise that eating vegetables and fruit is good for your health. But how good is it really? Science suggests that eating a wholefood plant-based diet could prevent 8 out of 10 leading causes of death, including heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancers, obesity, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Eating a wide variety of plant-based proteins will efficiently provide every essential amino acid the body needs while nourishing you with added fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For daily life, various plant proteins provide an adequate protein level.
Can Plant Protein be a Complete Protein?
A protein is formed out of 20 amino acids; the human body makes 11—the remaining nine we consume in our diet. Food made up of all nine is considered a complete protein. Although few, some plants are complete proteins. For example, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia seeds, buckwheat, amaranth, nutritional yeast, and soy products like tofu, tempeh, and soy milk contain all nine amino acids.
At first, it might seem that you have to live a life of tofu and quinoa at every meal, but that is not the case. Proper nutrition is a simple math equation. Don’t feel discouraged or unmotivated by the limited amount of plant-based complete proteins. By eating a diverse diet full of different kinds of plant protein, your body will be able to get all of the amino acids it needs to form a complete protein.
If you pair food or eat a wide variety, your body will ingest the amino acids it needs from various sources and link them inside you. For example, eating whole grains and nuts or seeds creates a complete protein. Almond butter sandwich, anyone!?
Is Plant Protein as good as Whey Protein?
Typically, plant protein and whey protein provide a similar amount per serving. Whey protein is a complete protein with adequate branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and essential amino acids (EAA’s), aiding muscle growth. However, whey proteins are derived from the by-product of cheese production. Therefore, whey protein may cause digestion issues, nausea, acne, and other undesirable side effects.
Plant proteins are not all the same. For example, soy protein powder is a complete protein. Most powders are a combination of proteins, including brown rice, soy, hemp, and pea protein. While typically, plant proteins have fewer BCAA’s and EAA’s, using a protein powder to supplement an already well-rounded diet will give you the best results.
Always read the label for the best understanding of the specific product. When it comes down to it, both whey and plant protein powders provide your body with extra protein necessary for muscle growth and are relatively equal in efficiency.
Something to consider is only using protein powder as a supplemental tool to an already well-balanced and variety-rich diet. This will lead you to the best muscle gain and overall fitness success.
The 5 Best Sources of Plant Protein
To fill your plate wisely, focus on filling up with a rotation of these five best plant protein sources.
Soybeans: Protein 36 grams per 100 grams – Enjoy soy as a complete protein containing all nine amino acids in any of your favorite forms. This includes edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk. The protein content changes slightly, but all soybean-based products are full of these powerful macros! An incredibly versatile and mild-tasting plant protein that can be used to prepare sweet or savory dishes.
Beans and Lentils: Protein ~9 grams per 100 grams, cooked – Lentils and beans are an excellent source of fiber-rich protein. With roughly 9 grams per ½ cup serving, they are comparable to 1 ounce of meat.
Seitan: Protein 25 grams per 100 grams – Sietan, made from vital wheat gluten, is a protein-rich plant-based substitute to meat. Incredibly versatile, seitan can easily mimic the taste and texture of meat, making it a convenient vegan swap for many recipes.
Hemp Seeds: Protein 31 grams per 100 grams – Hemp seeds are a complete protein and contain all essential amino acids. They are also protein dense and are easily enjoyed in various dishes, including smoothies, toast, salads, and soups.
(Additionally, all nuts and seeds are a great option)!
Nutritional Yeast: Protein 53 grams per 100 grams – Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast rich in vitamins, protein, and minerals. A standard serving is two tablespoons and contains 7 grams of protein — a great ingredient that adds a nutritious cheesy flavor to recipes.
One Week Sample Menu for Getting Enough Plant Protein
A person should consume roughly 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, a female weighing 140 lbs should eat approximately 50 grams of protein daily.
Enjoy this sample menu to inspire and guide you on a week of nutritious eating. The plan is complete with two scrumptious weekend desserts.
The following recipes were carefully curated for maximum taste and protein!
Breakfast: Whole wheat toast with almond butter and a cup of soy milk
Lunch: White bean pesto pasta with hemp seeds
Dinner: Tofu, broccoli, and quinoa stir fry
Breakfast: Soy milk oatmeal with hemp seeds, apple, and walnuts
Lunch: Lentil soup
Dinner: Jerk tofu grain bowl
Breakfast: Berry smoothie with protein powder made with hemp milk
Lunch: Kale salad with lentils, avocado, and pumpkin seeds
Dinner: Bean chili with buckwheat bread
Breakfast: Vegan french toast with hemp seeds, berries, and a cup of soy milk
Lunch: Lentil sloppy Joe on a whole wheat bun
Dinner: Quinoa stuffed baked eggplant
Breakfast: Overnight oats with chia seeds, apple, and walnuts
Lunch: Tofu veggie burrito with beans, rice, and fresh salsa
Dinner: Falafel with quinoa tabouli and vegan tzatziki
Total protein: PB&J sweet potato waffles
Breakfast: Scrambled tofu with toast and avocado
Lunch: Cauliflower and whole wheat mac and cheese
Dinner: Chili stuffed baked sweet potato
Dessert: Macadamia coconut and lime bliss balls
Total protein: Chia pudding with berries and slivered almonds
Breakfast: Quinoa cinnamon breakfast bowl and soy milk
Lunch: Vegan protein salad with turmeric roasted tofu, chickpeas, and sweet potato
Dinner: Lentil pasta with chickpea meatballs and marinara sauce
Dessert: Dates stuffed with almond butter and drizzled in chocolate
Pro Tip: An awesome way to add extra protein to a meal is to garnish it with hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, or your other favorite nuts and seeds. When making a smoothie or sauce, add silken tofu, which also adds a delicious creaminess. Remember the spirulina, just a little goes a long way and makes any beverage a superfood!
5 Myths About Plant Protein
Myth 1: Vegans don’t get enough protein.
Plants are packed with protein! Vegans who consume a well-balanced diet, including a wide variety of legumes, vegetables, and grains, get adequate protein by combining different plants. While eating, vegans can ingest all nine amino acids creating a complete protein. A great pairing is beans and rice!
Myth Two: You’ll be hungry on a plant-based diet.
Plants are loaded with fiber! Fiber and protein keep you full. Fueling up on whole foods will keep you satiated well into your next meal. To stave off hunger, ensure you eat enough food to fulfill your body’s requirements. As plants are typically lower in calories, you may need to eat more or bigger portions than you are used to.
Myth Three: Plant-based diets are restrictive.
While it might feel daunting to commit to a fully plant-based diet, there has never been so much variety or access to delicious food! Now more than ever, restaurants and grocery stores cater to plant-based individuals. There are also incredible, and arguably tastier, copycat products for your favorites, including cheeses, milk, and yogurts. When you begin to cook, eat and explore a plant-based diet, you will discover so many tasty foods. With a curious mind and rumbling tummy, you will not feel restricted!
Myth Four: Plant protein does not compare to meat-based protein.
Protein is protein, period! It’s that simple. Your body makes eleven amino acids, and you must ingest nine essential amino acids from foods to create a complete protein. So whether that protein comes from plants or meat, as long as you get all nine amino acids, it’s all the same!
Myth Five: Plant-based diets are expensive.
Contrary to popular belief, a whole food plant-based diet is relatively inexpensive. Fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes are among the cheapest items to buy in the grocery store. Bulk sections can yield pounds of staple ingredients like oats, lentils, and beans for pennies. What is expensive is less nutritious and heavily processed foods, but that’s true for any diet! Keep it simple, shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store, where the fresh items are kept, and you will find that eating a plant-based diet can save you money!
What are the best plant-based supplements?
Ideally, you will eat various fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains and nourish your body effectively without additional supplementation. However, if you cannot get all your necessary nutrition from food alone, these are fantastic supplements to consider adding to your daily routine.
Spirulina: – Spirulina made from seaweed is a superfood often found in health food stores. Spirulina is packed with B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid. It is great for An average one-tablespoon serving that has 4 grams of protein and is an excellent addition to smoothies and beverages.
Sun Warrior: This fully vegan supplement brand has set plant protein standards. Made without synthetic ingredients, soy, gluten, and non-GMO, it’s a great brand to support your healthy lifestyle.
B12: B12 is an essential vitamin that may be hard to get in an entirely plant-based diet. If you are lacking in B12, you may want to supplement. Be careful while choosing, as all B12 are not considered vegan and can be derived from meat products. So a little extra research and make sure you choose a vegan one like this.
Iron: It is common for people following a vegan diet to be low in iron; choosing an iron supplement that works for you may be a good option if your numbers are down.
Ritual: If you are looking for a multivitamin, this brand is entirely vegan and provides comprehensive information for every ingredient. Making all of their supplements traceable and third-party tested!
The best way to know if you need supplementation is to get bloodwork done and check your vitamin levels. Always discuss this with your doctor first.
Frequently Asked Questions About Plant Protein
What plant has the most protein?
If you had to pick one MVP for plant protein, it would have to be soy. Soy is a complete protein and contains all amino acids. Eating a serving of soy daily provides your body with quality protein, and research suggests it decreases your risk for diseases, including cancer.
Is plant-based protein good for women?
Plant protein is excellent for women and can help them maintain a healthy weight, improve their skin, balance hormones, curb hunger, and strengthen muscles. Getting protein from plants has also been linked to a decreased risk of multiple diseases.
Is plant-based protein good for men?
Like women, men benefit from consuming plant protein. This includes maintaining a healthy weight, curbing hunger, and strengthening muscles. In addition, according to a Harvard study, men who consumed plant protein had a 13%-24% lower risk of death from any cause.
Will I gain weight with plant-based protein?
This depends on the individual. However, when you adopt a plant-based vegan diet, you will likely reach an ideal weight as long as you eat a variety of nutritious food and consume the correct amount of calories for your body. Most often, people lose weight on a whole food plant-based diet. If you could benefit from gaining weight, eating more nutritiously will aid in your weight gain journey.
Can I lose weight with plant-based protein?
Losing weight on a plant-based diet is very likely. On average, fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes have fewer calories per gram than meat and dairy products. Therefore, it is simple to feel satiated and fulfilled on a plant-based diet while eating fewer calories than on a meat and dairy-rich diet. A mind-body connection also happens when a person begins to care more about the food they consume. From planning meals to sourcing vegetables and cooking, the whole process makes you more aware of what you consume. This mindful approach to eating often results in a leaner, more fit physique.
About the Author
Nadia Redel is certified in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University and Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. She has over 20 years of knowledge and experience in vegetarian and plant-based diets. She has worked with private clients, US school systems, and international villas, including Kruinaka in South Sumatra.
While still in elementary school, Nadia was drawn to a vegetarian lifestyle. Growing up in a meat-eating family, she was encouraged to cook her own food and learn about nutrition. The more she knew, the more she became interested in following a plant-based diet.
Nadia has dedicated her life to creating delicious and nutritious plant-based meals and sharing her knowledge with others. In addition, she contributes her active lifestyle of surfing, fitness, and travel to being well-fueled for fun!