If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’ve probably been asked hundreds of times by well-meaning people, “But how do you get any protein into your diet?” Sure, chicken and fish are sources of protein, but they’re not the only sources. In fact, it is more than possible to meet your protein requirements with a plant-based diet. Really, it is!
“We don’t actually need as much protein as was once thought (or were told we needed).”
There’s no question that protein is an essential nutrient, and is important to how our bodies function. That said, we don’t actually need as much of it as was once thought (or were told we needed). According to the RDA, we should consume 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram that we weigh. With adjustments made to take into account the different ways in which plant proteins can be digested, this roughly reaches 0.9 grams per kilogram of our weight. So, if you weigh 57 kilograms, that’s 51.3g per day. Essentially, for every 10 calories we consume, we only need one of these calories to come from a protein source; and it can be from plants!
For example, per 100 calories, in one cup of tempeh, there is 9.6gm of protein. For one cup of cooked lentils, there is 7.8gm of protein. With one cup of cooked chickpeas, you can get 5.4gm of protein. And with one veggie burger patty (depending on the brand, of course), you can get as much as 18.6gm per 100 calories. A 4-ounce portion of firm tofu has 10.6gm per 100 calories, and one cup of cooked quinoa has 3.7gm. Even one cup of cooked spinach (which most people think is just salad!) has 13gm of protein per 100 calories.
Nearly all vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, and beans contain protein on some level, and in many cases, they contain quite a fair amount. What doesn’t contain protein, however, are fruits, fats, alcohol, and sugars – and even meat-eaters can be at risk of consuming too much of these.
In a typical vegan diet, around 10-12% of all calories come from protein. For non-vegetarians, this is typically around 14-18% of calories. This means that although a vegan diet is on average lower in protein, it isn’t deficient in it. Ultimately, there are no health advantages to consuming a diet that is high in protein, so stick to your plants.
Great vegan sources of protein…
- 1 cup butter beans (lima beans) = 15 grams protein
- 5 OZ firm tofu = 12 grams protein
- 1 cup broccoli = 4 grams protein
- 2 tablespoons almonds = 4 grams protein
- 1 cup cooked brown rice = 5 grams protein (for wild rice, 1 cup = 6.5 grams protein)
- 1 cup almond milk = 1.51 grams protein
- 1 medium-sized baked potato = 3-4 grams protein
- 1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams protein
- 1 cup chia seeds = 17 grams protein (2 tablespoons = 4 grams protein)
- 3 tablespoons hemp seeds = approx. 10 grams protein
- 2 tablespoons spirulina = 8 grams protein
- 1 cup cooked edamame beans = 18 grams protein
- 1 cup chickpeas = 12 grams protein
- 1/2 avocado = 2 grams protein
- 1 cup Brussels sprouts = 4 grams protein