The short & simple guide to everyone’s favorite question:
“But what about the protein?”
Protein, along with carbohydrates and fat, is one of the macronutrients our bodies need to thrive. It supports muscle growth and preservation, increases satiety, and helps regulate our blood sugar. However, because protein’s pushy publicists, most people vastly overestimate their needs and neglect important dietary components like fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients. In fact, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health analyzed the diets of over 130,000 people and found that greater consumption of animal protein = higher mortality risk.
GOOD NEWS: The same study found that greater consumption of plant-based protein = longer life! Plant protein sources also come fabulously packaged in a fiber, vitamin, and mineral combo pack that promotes healthy guts, consistent energy, and overall vitality.
So, lets cut to the chase:
The current government recommendations for protein are 46g for women and 56g for men. However, people with active lifestyles or strength/performance goals may choose to incorporate more protein in their diets to help support muscle growth and recovery. The usable amount of protein for these people is:
0.6-0.9g/lb of bodyweight, or 1.4-1.8g/kg.
Any more than that… And I’m sorry, but you have very expensive, protein-y pee.
Say you are a 150lb, moderately active person who decides on shooting for 0.7g/lb, or 105g of protein per day. MORE GOOD NEWS: protein is everywhere! There is some outdated “common knowledge” that plant sources of protein don’t have a “complete” amino acid (the building blocks of protein) profile. However, that’s simply not true. All plants contain all nine of these building blocks in varying ratios, so by consuming a variety of yummy veggies, grains, legumes, nuts, and fruits, our bodies build up a stockpile throughout the day an do the work of combining them for us. Neat, huh?
My favorite whole food sources of plant-based protein include:
- Tempeh: 23g/100g serving
- Tofu: 10-18g/100g serving
- Seitan: 30g/100g serving
- Black lentils: 12g/half cup cooked
- Green lentils: 9g/half cup cooked
- Chickpeas, black, pinto, and kidney beans: 7g/half cup cooked
- Green peas: 8g/cup cooked
- Wild rice and quinoa: 8g/cup cooked
- Spinach: 6g/cup cooked
- Broccoli, brussel sprouts, and asparagus: 5g/cup
- Hemp and pumpkin seeds: 6g/2 tablespoons
- Chia seeds: 4g/2 tablespoons
- Peanut butter: 8g/ 2 tablespoons
- Almond butter: 7g/ 2 tablespoons
I also sometimes choose clean pea protein powders and protein bars for their portability when I’m on the go! Ain’t no shame in my convenience game.
Back to our hypothetical human who wants 105g of protein per day:
This goal could be met (deliciously) with:
- 1/2cup steel-cut oats topped with 2 tbsp of hemp seeds, 2 tbsp of almond butter, and a handful of blueberries: 19g
- 1/2 cup steamed edamame and an apple: 10g
- Salad made with 4 cups of leafy greens, fresh tomatoes, 1/2 cup of both quinoa and lentils, a serving of bbq tempeh, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds: 42g
- 150g of soy yogurt with 2 tbsp of walnuts and a banana: 10g
- 1.5 cups of whole wheat penne pasta with 1/2 cup of eggplant and tomato sauce, 1 cup of roasted broccoli, sliced black olives, and 3 Gardein veggie meatballs: 32g
- 2 squares of Lindt dark chocolate and 1/2 cup raspberries: 2g
Total: 115g of protein!
- We don’t need as much protein as we (and our wallets) are led to believe.
- Plant-based protein packs more nutritional bang for its buck than animal-based protein, without the negative side effects.
- Protein is found in all plant-based foods, and eating a variety ensures we will get enough.
That’s the tea! Have more questions about plant-based protein, or how to use it to meet your individual energy goals? You know where to find me!