A protein-rich diet is known to be particularly important when it comes to building muscles. As you can see from the table above, there are numerous plant-based protein sources that can supply the body with amino acids. Proteins play an essential role in the building and maintenance of muscles, bones, skin, hair, and other tissues. The above protein table contains numerous plant-based and vegan foods high in protein in descending order.
What are proteins?
Proteins are a group of macromolecules composed of long chains of amino acids. There are countless different proteins in the human body. Each protein has a unique sequence of amino acids that determine its structure and function.
There are various types of amino acids, of which nine are considered essential because the body cannot produce them on its own. They must be obtained through diet. All amino acids can also be obtained from plant-based, protein-rich foods.
Proteins can contain various amino acids. Most of these amino acids are synthesized in the body from other molecules. However, nine of them must be obtained through diet because the body cannot produce them on its own. They are called essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. You can find out which protein-rich foods contain them through the links:
- Histidine Foods
- Isoleucine Foods
- Leucine Foods
- Lysine Foods
- Methionine Foods
- Phenylalanine Foods
- Threonine Foods
- Tryptophan Foods
- Valine Foods
The remaining amino acids can be synthesized by the body from other amino acids and are referred to as non-essential amino acids. These include: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. Tyrosine can be synthesized by the body from phenylalanine if sufficient phenylalanine is present in the diet. Therefore, tyrosine is not typically considered an essential amino acid.
Use the following links to access the corresponding foods:
- Alanine Foods
- Arginine Foods
- Aspartic Acid Foods
- Cysteine Foods
- Glutamic Acid Foods
- Glycine Foods
- Proline Foods
- Serine Foods
- Tyrosine Foods
If the body does not have enough carbohydrates and fats available, proteins can also be used as an energy source. So make sure to provide your body with an adequate amount of carbohydrates and healthy fats. You can find a list of carbohydrate-rich foods here and fatty foods here.
Losing Weight with Proteins
Proteins can help with weight loss as they are more satiating than carbohydrates and fats. By reducing your calorie intake through increased protein consumption while limiting the intake of carbohydrates and fats, you can achieve a negative energy balance that leads to weight loss.
Proteins have a higher satiety effect compared to carbohydrates and fats. Proteins also promote the release of satiety hormones such as leptin and GLP-1, which reduce hunger and enhance the feeling of fullness.
How much protein do I need?
The NIH recommends a daily intake of 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for healthy adults with minimal physical activity. For example, if you weigh 70 kg, you would need about 56 g of protein per day.
However, an adequate protein intake is necessary for the maintenance and building of muscle mass. It is also essential for recovery after physical exertion. If you regularly engage in strength training or endurance sports, you will require more protein than those leading a sedentary lifestyle. The recommended protein requirements depend on various factors such as age, gender, body weight, and training intensity. It is advisable to consume 1.2 to 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
The occurrence of protein in plant-based foods is very diverse. There are numerous ways to meet the daily protein requirements. Nevertheless, it is somewhat more challenging for vegans to meet their protein needs with a plant-based diet, as the typical vegan diet consists mainly of low-protein foods. We hope that our tips and our protein table with vegan protein sources can help you. Additionally, there is, of course, the option to purchase protein powder and vegan protein bars, which can provide you with plenty of protein alongside a balanced diet with protein-rich foods.
Plant-based foods with high protein content
Many plant-based foods are rich in protein. The following foods can help you meet your daily protein requirements:
- Legumes: This includes beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans. They are excellent sources of protein that provide you with a lot of protein. You can see which legumes contain protein in this table.
- Nuts and seeds: As you can see from the protein table, almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds contain a lot of protein. The linked table shows the protein content of nuts and seeds.
- Grains: Quinoa, oats, buckwheat, amaranth, and millet are examples of protein-rich grains. Processed grain products with higher protein content include protein bread, whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, quinoa pops, bulgur, and couscous.
- Vegetables: Many vegetables also have a higher protein content. Broccoli, spinach, kale, artichokes, and asparagus are among them. You can find the list of protein-rich vegetables here.
- Mushrooms: Good plant-based sources of protein include mushrooms such as button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and chanterelles. We have listed the mushrooms that contain a lot of protein here.
- Fruit: Avocados, bananas, peaches, and guavas contain slightly more protein than other fruits. However, fruit is not a good plant-based protein source overall, so fruits are found at the bottom of the protein table. We have listed more protein-rich fruits here.
- Herbs and spices: Even though they are not consumed in large quantities, they contain significant amounts of protein. Parsley, dill, basil, and thyme are good sources of protein. Especially in dried form, they are rich in protein. Check out this table if you're interested in the protein content of herbs and spices.
- Juices and beverages: Plant-based drinks like soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk can provide the body with 3 to 0.5 g of protein per 100 ml. Among the juices, carrot juice, cherry juice, tomato juice, orange juice, and plum juice are protein-rich. Here's the table of proteins in juices and drinks.
Processed vegan foods rich in protein
To enrich a plant-based diet with additional protein, there is now a wide variety of vegan food available. These include vegan meat substitutes, vegan protein bars, vegan protein powders, vegan spreads and dips, seitan and tofu products, as well as vegan milk and yogurt alternatives. These products are often made from plant-based protein sources such as pea, hemp, rice, or soy protein. Nut butters and nut creams are also considered protein-rich foods according to the protein chart. Almond butter, peanut butter, and cashew cream are all delicious protein-rich foods. However, be mindful of portion sizes to avoid consuming excess calories.
In addition, you should be cautious of additives, added sugars, and other potentially unhealthy ingredients in all protein-rich foods.
Proteins for muscle building
Dietary proteins are essential for muscle building. They provide the building blocks for the formation, repair, and maintenance of muscle tissue. When the body consumes more protein than it requires for daily functions, it can utilize the excess protein for muscle building.
Three amino acids are considered particularly important for muscle building. These are leucine, isoleucine, and valine, all of which fall under the category of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine is regarded as the most important stimulator for protein synthesis and is therefore crucial for muscle growth. Isoleucine and valine also contribute to protein synthesis. They support muscle growth and regeneration. Valine is believed to additionally support muscle recovery after exercise. Vegan protein sources such as soy products, nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetables contain BCAAs. Soy products like tofu and tempeh, as well as legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are the best plant-based sources of BCAAs.
Advantages of plant-based proteins
There are many advantages to preferring the consumption of plant-based proteins over animal-based proteins. Here are some good examples:
- Health: Plant-based proteins can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Typically, they are also allergen-free as they do not trigger allergic reactions like animal proteins.
- Easier digestion: Plant-based proteins can be easier to digest than animal protein. Digestive issues such as constipation and bloating can be reduced as a result.
- Environmental friendliness: The production of animal protein often requires more resources and has a larger ecological footprint compared to plant-based protein production. A diet with more plant-based protein can reduce the extent of environmental problems.
- Ethics and animal welfare: A vegan diet based on plant-based proteins contributes to avoiding animal suffering and exploitation.
- Diversity: Plant-based protein sources offer a variety of flavors that enrich a varied vegan diet.
- Cost-effective: Vegan protein powders are often cheaper than animal proteins, which can be advantageous for people with a limited budget.
Disadvantages of plant-based protein sources
Although plant-based protein sources offer many advantages, there are also some disadvantages:
- Incomplete amino acid profile: Most plant-based proteins per food do not contain all nine essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. Plant-based protein sources can be combined to ensure the body receives all essential amino acids.
- Meeting protein requirements: As mentioned earlier, plant-based proteins are comparatively less protein-rich than animal proteins. Larger amounts of protein-rich plant-based foods need to be consumed to meet the protein requirements, especially during fitness training.
- Antinutrients: Some plant-based foods contain antinutrients such as phytates and lectins, which can interfere with nutrient absorption in the body. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting plant-based foods can reduce their levels.
- Allergic reactions: Although plant-based proteins are generally allergen-free, certain plant-based foods can trigger allergic reactions, especially legumes and nuts, which contain significant amounts of plant protein.
- Processing and additives: Some processed plant-based foods, such as vegan meat substitutes, can contain high amounts of sodium, saturated fats, and other additives that may not be necessarily healthy. Pay attention to the ingredient list. Preferably choose unprocessed, natural, plant-based foods with ample protein.