What’s all the fuss about plant proteins?
Complete proteins support tissue growth and repair, provide energy and fuel for an active lifestyle, and support a balanced and healthy metabolism. For people who chose to source their protein from plant foods, it’s important to know the best sources of protein.
Proteins are formed out of organic compounds called amino acids. Nine amino acids are called “essential” because the human body cannot synthesize them and they must be obtained from diet. These nine essential amino acids are called histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. The best plant-based proteins offer a spectrum of amino acids.
Did you know: Contrary to what you may have heard, you do not need to consume every amino acid in every meal to meet your protein needs! Simply consuming a variety of amino acids throughout the day is all that’s needed for your body to form protein.
Benefits Of Plant-Based Proteins
For people with an average, sedentary lifestyle, the recommended daily intake of protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. To keep up with the nutrient demands of athletes, the recommended daily intake is increased to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. The key, however, is intaking not just the right quantity, but rather the best quality protein.
Plant sources of protein offer additional nutrients that even meat eaters should tap into, including fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Getting adequate protein in your plant-based diet is straightforward once you know the best sources to incorporate into your diet! Here are some of the best sources of plant-based protein:
- Yellow Pea
Protein: 48 grams per 1 cup, raw
Yellow pea is an excellent source of dietary fiber and protein that has the power to turn your mood around. Yellow peas are particularly rich in the amino acid tryptophan, necessary for the manufacturing of serotonin, which improves mood and regulates appetite, hunger and sleep. Yellow peas are high in vitamin B1 and B9, phosphorus, potassium, molybdenum and manganese. The benefits of yellow pea include blood sugar regulation, cholesterol reduction, and cardiovascular health.
Protein: 6 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked
A relative of the rhubarb plant, buckwheat is not actually a type of wheat, and is completely gluten-free. Buckwheat can be cook whole similarly to oats, or can be ground as flour. It is commonly found in supermarkets as the main ingredient in Japanese soba noodles. Studies have shown that buckwheat may improve circulation, reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.
- Chia Seed
Protein: 17 grams per 1 cup, raw
Historically valued for medicinal properties, chia seed can be relied on to provide protein for high energy and endurance. Chia seed contains more calcium per ounce than most dairy products, and the bone-building nutrients phosphorus, magnesium and protein. In addition to contributing to bone health, chia seed is known for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Protein: 11 grams per half-cup serving of shelled cooked soybeans (edamame)
Soybean—a complete protein belonging to the legume family—is full of phytic acid, dietary minerals and B vitamins. Tofu is one of the most widely-recognized fermented soy products, followed by tempeh and natto. Soybeans contain significant amounts of fat and plant estrogen and many people report soy intolerance, rendering soybeans a somewhat controversial source of protein.
- Hemp Seed
Protein: 10 grams per 2 tablespoon
Hemp seed provides sustainable energy through an abundance of easily digested plant protein, making it a favorite ingredient in plant-based protein powder. Hemp seed contains vitamins B1 and B2, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Additionally, hemp seed is an excellent source of omega fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants and minerals for digestive regularity, mental clarity, and skin and hair growth!
You might not have guessed it, but veggies contain protein. Because they also provide a spectrum of other whole nutrients which can be easily absorbed, vegetables are an important part of a protein-rich, plant-based diet. Here are just a few of the vegetables to incorporate into your meals:
1 avocado – 10 grams protein
1 cup broccoli – 5 grams protein
1 cup spinach – 5 grams protein
1 cup cooked sweet potato – 5 grams protein
2 cups cooked kale – 5 grams protein
Protein: 24 grams per 1 cup, raw
Quinoa is one of our planet’s healthiest and most nutritionally dense foods. Quinoa is a gluten-free seed. Known for supporting metabolic health and promoting weight loss, quinoa has important antioxidant properties. Quinoa is one of the few plant sources of complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, with unusually high amounts of the amino acids lysine and isoleucine.
Protein: 18 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked
Yet another legume that packs a protein punch, lentils provide important minerals, B-vitamins, and protein and are full of fiber. Containing virtually no fat and few calories, high-fiber lentils are known to prevent heart disease.
Though not quite as surprising as vegetables, nuts are nonetheless underrated as a plant protein source. Full of fiber, trace minerals and B vitamins, nuts have one drawback: they are rich in fat. If you are looking for lean sources of protein, go easy on the nuts. Small servings of nuts, however, still provide a surprisingly high amount of protein:
- 1 oz. cashews – 4.4 grams protein
- 2 oz. walnuts – 5 grams protein
- 1 oz. pistachios – 5.8 grams protein
- 1 oz. almonds – 6 grams protein
- Nutritional Yeast
Protein: 8 grams per 2 tablespoon serving
Nutritional yeast is is a deactivated yeast which is rich in dietary fiber and B vitamins. Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as a cheese substitute. With 8 grams of protein per serving, adding nutritional yeast to meals as a condiment is an easy and delicious way to boost protein intake.
Now you know the ten best sources of plant-based protein. Looking for more? Check out our recipes here! Did you know that UB Super blends four of the best plant-based protein in nature—yellow pea, chia seed, hemp seed, and quinoa—to provide optimal absorption of all nine essential amino acids? Try a sample pack today.