Vegan High-Quality Protein Sources

Vegan High-Quality Protein Sources
Table Of Contents
  1. What Are High-Quality Proteins?
  2. Requirements For Essential Amino Acids
  3. Plant-Based Foods With High-Quality Proteins
  4. Studies On High-Quality Proteins
  5. What About Foods Without High-Quality Protein?

Proteins composed of amino acids are essential for optimal health. In every unprocessed plant-based food, you can find essential amino acids. However, for many foods, the amounts of amino acids they contain individually are not sufficient to adequately meet the amino acid requirements. Therefore, there is an increasing emphasis on high-quality proteins or high-quality protein sources.

What Are High-Quality Proteins?

High-quality protein is defined by the ratio of essential amino acids to the total amount of protein 1. When a high ratio is achieved, it is referred to as a high-quality protein in food. Furthermore, protein quality is also described as a protein's ability to produce metabolic effects in the organism 2. Moreover, they are of great importance for muscle building, muscle maintenance, and regeneration.

When all nine essential amino acids are present in sufficient quantities in a food, it can be referred to as a high-quality protein for humans.

Requirements For Essential Amino Acids

The following recommended daily amounts of amino acids are considered as guidelines (IOM = Institute of Medicine, 2005) 3:

Amino Acidmg per kg body weight
Histidine 14
Isoleucine 19
Leucine 42
Lysine 38
Methionine and Cysteine 19
Phenylalanine and Tyrosine 33
Threonine 20
Tryptophan 5
Valine 24

If these values can be met or exceeded by a food, the corresponding food is considered high-quality for humans.

Plant-Based Foods With High-Quality Proteins

The following selection of plant-based foods exceed or almost reach the amino acid values mentioned above, based on 100g of each food:

FoodProtein per 100 g
Amaranth 13.6 g
Avocado 2 g
Buckwheat 13.6 g
Cauliflower 1.9 g
Beans 23 g
Canihua 15.7 g
Chia Seeds 16.5 g
Hemp Seeds 31.6 g
Cashews 18.2 g
Chickpeas 20.4 g
Pumpkin Seeds 30.2 g
Flaxseeds 18.3 g
Lentils 24.6 g
Pistachios 20.3 g
Quinoa 14.1 g
Soybeans 36.5 g
Dried Spirulina (Caution, high in iodine) 57.5 g

Studies On High-Quality Proteins

Research shows that consuming high-quality proteins within 24 hours and meeting the daily requirement of amino acids is positively associated with lean mass, bone mineral density, and bone mineral content 4. According to the scientists, these proteins also have an inverse relationship with body fat percentage. This ultimately means that body fat can be reduced and bones can be strengthened with high-quality proteins.

Newer studies show that high-quality proteins have a fat-reducing effect 5. Consuming these proteins within 24 hours is associated with a lower percentage of abdominal fat.

What About Foods Without High-Quality Protein?

Many foods do not contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. But don't panic! With a healthy and balanced diet, all amino acids are usually consumed. For example, if the body is missing some amino acids, the body can temporarily store the available free amino acids (amino acid pool). When the next meal contains the "missing" amino acids, the free amino acids are combined into proteins and peptides as usual. It is not necessary to combine certain foods to obtain a perfect amino acid profile. For an overview of protein-rich foods, click here (List: Foods high in protein).