Have you ever wondered, “How much protein is there on my plate?” If so, you are definitely not alone. Often vegans and plant-based eaters are criticized for their perceived lack of adequate protein intake. The good news is that there are many protein-rich sources in the plant-based world, so those eating a variety of plant-based foods and meeting their caloric needs, can rest assured that they are likely consuming their daily protein needs.
Not sure how much protein you need each day? A general guide to estimating protein needs for healthy children and adults is to use the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for protein. For healthy adults, the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) can be calculated based on 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For children, estimated protein needs are more variable depending on the child’s age, weight and growth requirements. For example, 1-3 year old healthy children have a RDA based on 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, 4-13 year old children have a RDA based on 0.95 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, while 14-18 year old teenagers have a RDA based on 0.85 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Pregnant and lactating women have slightly higher daily protein needs.
In the media and news nowadays, there is a lot of hype and emphasis put on consuming adequate protein for health and especially for muscle building. But if you take a minute to do the calculations above, you will find that in actuality, your daily estimated protein needs may not be as high as you previously thought. This comes out to be only approximately 72 grams of protein daily for the average adult male and 62 grams of protein daily for the average adult female in the United States.
The problem is that in our busy lives and with the plentiful convenience of processed foods around, it is very easy and tempting to fill up our meals with starchy and low nutritional quality foods, instead of nutrient-dense protein-rich plant-based whole foods. To combat this, aim to include at least one good plant-based protein-rich source at each meal. Why? This is because these foods are not only good protein sources, they tend to also contain many other nutrients like fiber, vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, folate, potassium and phosphorus. By aiming to include at least 2-3 of these protein-rich foods listed below during the course of the day, you would be guaranteed to not only consume a good protein source, but also a nutrient dense plant-powered source as well.
So how much protein is there really in the foods you are eating? As we start the new year off, use this simple list below of commonly consumed plant-based foods as a guide to help you and your family in meal planning. This is just a sample of the abundant variety of plant-based foods available! Feel free to combine a few of these protein-rich sources into one recipe or meal – you will get even more of a nutrition boost. To learn more, see Smart Eating: Key Nutrients To Consider for Vegans & Plant-Based Eaters – Part 1 for more information on protein and other important key smart nutrients!
|Plant-Based Food||Serving Size||Protein Content (Grams)|
|Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), Cooked||1 cup (164 grams)||14.5|
|Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), Canned||½ cup (125 mL)||5.5|
|Peanut Butter||2 tablespoons (30 grams)||8|
|Sunflower butter||2 tablespoons (32 grams)||7|
|Sunflower Seed Kernels, Roasted||1 ounce (28 grams)||5.5|
|Couscous||¼ cup dry (43 grams)||6|
|Barley, Pearl, Cooked||1 cup (157 grams)||5.5|
|Quinoa||¼ cup dry (44 grams)||5|
|Chia Seeds||1 ounce (28 grams)||5|
|Oats, Old Fashioned or Large Flake Oats||½ cup dry (40 grams)||5|
|Red Lentils, Cooked||1 cup (178 grams)||23|
|Green Lentils, Cooked||1 cup (153 grams)||15|
|Black Beans, Cooked||1 cup (172 grams)||15|
|Black Beans, Canned||½ cup (125 mL)||6|
|White Kidney Beans, Canned (Cannellini Beans)||½ cup (125 mL)||8|
|Red Kidney Beans, Cooked||1 cup (177 grams)||15|
|Small White Beans, Cooked||1 cup (179 grams)||16|
|White Navy Beans, Cooked||1 cup (182 grams)||15|
|Split Peas, Cooked||1 cup (196 grams)||16|
|Walnuts||1/3 cup (40 grams)||6|
|Almonds||¼ cup (43 grams)||9|
|Cashews||¼ cup (50 grams)||9|
|Pistachios||1/2 cup (25 grams, edible portion)||5|
|Pecans||½ cup (56 grams)||6|
|Peanuts||1 ounce (28 grams)||7|
|Pine nuts||1 ounce (28 grams)||3|
|Tahini||2 tablespoons (30 grams)||7|
|Hummus, Plain||2 tablespoons (28 grams)||2|
|Fortified Soy Milk, Original Flavored||1 cup (250 mL)||7|
|Tofu, Firm||100 grams||9|
|Tofu, Silken||100 grams||5|
|Edamame Beans||½ cup (75 grams)||9|
(Notes & References:
For ease of calculations, some of the protein values (where applicable) are rounded to the nearest gram. These protein values are compiled from a variety of sources including package labels and USDA FoodData Central: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/.
Keep in mind that the protein content of foods can vary depending on the processing method, cooking process, the specific commercial product and the specific variety of the type of plant-based food cultivated
Body Measurements. Centers for Disease Control. Reviewed January 14, 2021. Accessed March 12, 2021.)
[Image by Kevin Mccutcheon on Unsplash]