What Plants Have Protein?

More and more people are interested in following a plant-based diet every day, which is excellent news! And thankfully, research has shown that those who choose this lifestyle can receive adequate nutrition from plant foods, including protein which is critical to the body’s health and function. 

Protein is an essential nutrient used throughout your body and is a primary component of nearly every cell which is why protein is important in your diet. It builds muscle, repairs tissues, and produces vital biochemicals like enzymes and hormones. While we can “recycle” the amino acids that build those muscles, tissues and biochemicals, we need to eat protein daily to supply our bodies needs. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the average adult should consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight, or 0.35 grams per pound daily. For example, an individual weighing 153 pounds would need at least 53.5 grams of protein intake per day. However, this is just a minimum recommendation. In addition, if you are trying to build muscle mass, lose weight, or exercise regularly, your body may require more protein. 

What Plants Have Protein?

It also depends on what’s in the protein. Proteins are made up of amino acids. It is those amino acids that our body uses to build muscles, repair tissues and produce vital biochemicals. Nine of the amino acids cannot be made in the body and must come from our food. The amount of the individual amino acids vary, this means not all protein is equal and makes it harder to estimate exactly how much protein we all need. Animal-based proteins contain a more optimal level of all the essential amino acids versus plant-based proteins, which tend to have one or more amino acids at a lower level.

So, eating a varied diet is very important. Check out the list below to learn about specific plant protein content and some of the best high protein plant based meals.   

Soy 

Soy foods like tofu, tempeh, and edamame are among the best plant-based protein sources. The soybean contains all of those nine essential amino acids, however like all plant based proteins, while methionine and cysteine are present,they are not found in huge amounts. Plus, the protein content of any given soy product depends on its preparation. For example, firm tofu contains about 10 grams of protein per half-cup, tempeh contains approximately 15 grams, and edamame contains about 8.5 grams. 

In addition, soy foods contain sufficient levels of calcium and iron, which can make them a great substitute for dairy products as well.

 Peas 

Believe it or not, peas are another great protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids that your body cannot create itself! However, since it is relatively low on its content of methionine and cysteine, you should aim to get these aminos through other sources as well. Pea protein is produced by grinding peas into a protein powder and isolating the protein found within. 

Per half-cup of pea isolate, you can expect to get about 4 grams of protein. It has the added benefit of being a great source of iron as well as compliant with a variety of other dietary restrictions. More specifically, pea protein is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. It also does not contain any of the eight most common food allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, cow’s milk, wheat, and soy. These are just a few of the many reasons we use pea protein as a primary ingredient in Meatless Farm products. 

Rice 

Similar to pea protein, rice is a great vegetarian source of protein. It is typically made using brown rice treated with enzymes that cause the carbohydrates to separate from the protein, then isolating that protein for use. While it has lower levels of some of the amino acids, it does contain high levels of methionine and cysteine, so it is often paired with pea protein to help create a more balanced source of amino acids. 

Rice protein, like pea protein, is an easily digestible plant-based protein source and typically does not trigger common allergies or intestinal issues. Per half cup, rice protein provides approximately 2.5 grams of protein. 

Chickpeas 

Another increasingly common plant-based source of protein is chickpeas. Per half cup, these versatile legumes contain about 7.25 grams of protein. While chickpeas can be eaten hot or cold and added to various dishes, including curry, stew, or salads, they can also have a grainy texture and nutty flavor, especially when added to meat substitute products. 

Meatless Farm & Plant Protein

At Meatless Farm, as mentioned above, our products utilize a mixture of pea and rice protein to create a complete and balanced source of nutrition for our customers. However, not only is this winning combination nutritious, but it’s also delicious! Typically, rice protein can have a robust and chalky taste, but the light and fluffy texture of pea protein smooths that flavor out. 

In addition to pea and rice protein, we are proud to say our plant food products contain a variety of other vegetables and plant-based nutrition, including coconut oil, shea oil, inulin, carrot fiber, caramelized carrot concentrate, fruit and vegetable extracts (such as beetroot, radish, and tomato), and plenty of vitamins and minerals. All of these ingredients were thoughtfully selected to create the most nutritious and delicious product imaginable – you won’t even miss the meat!

About the Author

Angela Walker is a BANT and CNHC registered nutritional therapist with over 12 years of clinical experience, including 8 years with the award-winning, Optimum Health Clinic. Angela is a Nutrition Consultant for Meatless Farm, where she develops nutrition research and communicates the personal health benefits of eating plant-based foods. Angela is also a nutritionist and performance coach of Food for Thought, a program designed to change the way people think about food, diet and nutrition, based on the principles and practices of personalized nutrition and functional medicine. Angela is a published author of many well-known articles including ‘Case Studies in Personalized Nutrition’, a core text at many of the training providers for nutritional therapy and personalized nutrition in the UK and US.