By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
“Protein can only be found in animal based sources, right?” Nope! Plants contain protein too! This question is one of the most common questions I get from both Rebooters and clients regarding where to find protein in plant-based sources—simply, it’s everywhere! Protein is found in animal-based sources (roughly 20-25 grams per 3 oz) but it’s also found in plant-based sources too in ranging amounts; therefore, almost everything we eat (including grains and vegetables) contribute to total amount of protein we need every day.
If you’re someone who aims to get most of their protein from plants, it can sometimes be overwhelming to think of the places to find it and also to know how much you’ll be getting. So to help you out, here are some of my top picks for plant-based protein sources:
1. Edamame – 8 g per ½ cup
2. Tempeh – 18 g per 3.5 oz cooked
3. Cashews – 5 g per ¼ cup (18 pieces)
4. Lentils – 9 g per ½ cup
5. Seitan – 18 g per 3 oz cooked
6. Spinach – 5 g per 1 cup cooked
7. Green peas – 8 g per 1 cup
8. Quinoa – 8 g per 1 cup cooked
9. Almonds – 6 g per ¼ cup serving
10. Chickpeas – 7 g per ½ cup boiled
11. Tofu – 15-16 g per ½ cup
12. Broccoli – 4 g per 1 cup (chopped)
13. Hemp seeds – 10 g per 3 Tablespoons
14. Chia seeds – 5 g per 2 Tablespoons
15. Seeds: Sunflower, sesame – 7 g per ¼ cup
Plant-based protein powders: These are great sources of protein too and can be added to smoothies, juices, and even to oatmeal! You want to make sure you purchase an unflavored, unsweetened, plain protein to avoid getting extra additives and chemicals. Here’s a few to keep an eye out for:
What about complementary proteins?
For some time it’s been thought that in order to create a complete protein source in our bodies (that means all 9 essential amino acids are present in one meal), complimentary proteins (foods with a few of those 9 amino acids with another food containing the missing amino acids) needed to be consumed within the same meal; however, we’re finding that’s not the case. In fact, they really only have to be consumed within the same day or so (~24-48 hours) and that alone can help to ensure complete protein source.
If you’re someone who eats mostly plant-based sources of protein, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting enough to properly fuel your body. You want to make sure you’re conscious of where you’re getting your protein and that you’re including dishes and food items that have some of these richer sources of plant-based protein on a regular basis.
Here are a few tips for adding more plant-based protein sources into your everyday: