The most common question asked when one transitions to a plant based diet is always about protein. Despite the prevalence of this question, it is actually fairly easy to obtain adequate protein levels as long as one maintains a balanced diet. When learning vegan or vegetarian cooking, there are a handful of different categories of plant based foods that contain protein.
- Legumes: beans and lentils – Legumes contain some of the most concentrated sources of protein in a plant based diet, with anywhere from 10 to 30 grams per cup, depending upon the bean. The legume family can be divided between beans and lentils, with a number of varieties. Common types of beans include the common bean (black, navy, kidney, pinto, etc.), garbanzo bean (also called chickpeas), lima bean, soybean, and adzuki bean. Lentils can include green lentils, French lentils, red lentils, black lentils, and yellow and green split peas
- Grains – Grains also provide a moderate amount of protein in a plant based diet, ranging from about 3 to 11 grams of protein per cup of cooked grain. Common grains include rice, oats, barley, quinoa, amaranth, millet, and wheat.
- Nuts – Nuts are also a great source of plant based protein! Some nuts, such as almonds, contain nearly 20 grams of protein per cup. Similarly, nuts like cashews, peanuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, and walnuts also contain high amounts of protein in addition to other healthy nutrients. Keep in mind though that nuts also contain high amounts of fat and should be eaten in moderation. A handful a day is a good measure.
- Seeds – Seeds contain high amounts of protein but just like nuts should also be eaten in moderation due to their high fat content. Seeds, on average, contain between 3 and 5 grams of protein in just 2 tablespoons! Some higher protein seeds include pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
- Vegetables – Even vegetables contain small amounts of protein! Though the amount of protein is smaller than legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, vegetables also contain lower amounts of fat and calories, meaning one can consume more veggies without as much worry about fat and calorie content. Some veggies with the highest amount of protein include artichoke, avocado, mushrooms, asparagus, and arugula.
The average adult requires between 46 and 56 grams of protein per day, which is not all that much once you start realizing it all adds up. There is a common misconception that plant based diets do not contain complete proteins. In fact, there are a number of plant based ingredients that do contain all of the essential amino acids, including quinoa, hemp seeds, and chia seeds, and soybeans. In addition, plant based eaters can practice protein complementarity. This means that different types of protein can be combined throughout the day to make those complete proteins. It’s as simple as beans and rice!
Grow your plant based cooking skills and learn more about protein substitutes, and other great alternatives to eating meat by taking one of our fun and informative cooking classes.