How To Get Protein From Plants

From Lindsay S Nixon, Happy Herbivore

How can you get protein from plants? By simply eating them. All plant foods—including fruits and vegetables—contain protein. Did you have oatmeal for breakfast? That’s at least 7g of protein. A hummus and vegetable wrap for lunch? That’s 11.3g of protein. An apple with almond butter for a snack? 8.6g of protein. Stir-fry for dinner? Another 24g of protein!

Plants are loaded with protein. In fact, spinach and kale have nearly twice as much protein as beef, calorie for calorie. Our protein obsessed culture forgets that protein in meat comes from plants. That’s right! Most farm animals are herbivores so when you eat the plants, you’re effectively cutting out the middle man.

Absent special medical circumstances, you can’t be protein deficient unless you’re calorie deficient – and then you’re deficient in everything because you’re starving. Most people don’t even know the medical term for protein deficiency because it’s that rare. (If you’re curious, the condition is called kwashiorkor.)

According to the Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, the recommended dietary allowance for both men and women is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (keep in mind this figure includes a fairly liberal margin for safety).

For a 150-pound person (about 68 kg) that would equate to nearly 55 grams per day. To put that amount in perspective, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter has 8.1 grams of protein. One cup of beans has 15 grams of protein, 1 cup of peas has 8 grams protein, 1 cup of broccoli has 4 grams protein, 1 cup rice has 5 grams of protein, and a baked potato has 3.4 grams of protein. In fact, you could literally eat nothing but potatoes all day and still exceed your daily protein needs!

Plant proteins also aren’t “incomplete” or missing amino acids, which are two other myths you might hear. Your body pulls all the necessary building blocks (amino acids) it needs from all the foods you eat, even if you don’t eat them at the same time or in the same meal.

Humans are virtually certain of getting enough protein from plant sources as long as they consume sufficient calories. Indeed, if you calculate the amount of essential amino acids provided by any single whole plant food or combination of whole plant foods, you will find that when consumed as one’s sole source of calories for a day, plant foods provide not only the daily minimum recommended requirement of essential amino acids, but provide far more. It’s virtually impossible to design a diet based on whole plant foods that is deficient in any of the amino acids, as long as the diet has enough total calories overall. (The only possible exception could be a diet based solely on fruit.)

That said, some plant foods have a higher bioavailability of protein compared to other plant foods so if you want to increase your plant protein, here are 10 rich sources: lentils, beans, peanuts, tree nuts (such as cashews and almonds), seeds (such as hemp seeds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds), quinoa, leafy greens, nutritional yeast, tofu and tempeh, wild rice, and green vegetables like broccoli.

Read this guide to going gluten-free the healthy way and find out about healthy fats. Then see which vitamins you should be taking every day!