The world of whole, plant-food offers plenty of options when it comes to protein sources. Numerous plant foods provide different combinations of essential amino acids, the building blocks of complete protein. The human body cannot produce these 9 essential amino acids, so we must obtain them from a wide variety of whole (unprocessed), plant foods each day. The following four food groups are the most efficient sources of high quality plant-based protein: Legumes, pseudo-grains, whole soy (organic/GMO-free), nuts and seeds. Eating a serving of at least three of these food groups each day, will provide you with a complete spectrum of essential amino acids aka protein!
Protein-Packed Food GroupsLegumes include beans, peas, and lentils. These foods offer a fantastic combination of plant-based protein, and fiber-rich complex carbohydrates - for steady, balanced energy. They are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Every variety of legume offers a different spectrum of nutrients, so it’s best to mix it up, and eat a wide range of legumes.
Serving size: 1/2 cup cooked
Pseudo-grains are similar to whole grains culinarily, but they are actually much higher in protein and other nutrients. They include buckwheat groats, quinoa, amaranth, farro, and freekeh. Like legumes, pseudo-grains are also a good source of fiber-rich complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, providing steady, balanced energy.
Serving size: ½ cup cooked
Whole Soy (Organic / GMO-free) includes tofu, edamame beans, and tempeh. Not all soy is created equal, so it is important to choose the whole food sources, as opposed to the processed soy products. Quantity is just as important as quality when it comes to soy, so limit your whole soy intake to 4-5 servings week, as over-consuming soy can contribute to hormone imbalance, and soy-sensitivity.
Serving size: Tofu and tempeh - piece the size of your palm. Edamame beans ½ cup.
Nuts and Seeds are rich in protein, and offer healthy monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and essential omega fats, as well as fiber, vitamins and minerals. Each nut/seed has a different protein density, so it’s optimal to eat a wide range. Cashews, almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are packed with protein, essential vitamins and minerals for a boost of plant-based nutrition. Hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds, are the richest sources of omega 3’s and 6’s - anti-inflammatory and hormone balancing fats.
Serving size: 2 handfuls of nuts, and 3 tablespoons of seeds.
Daily Requirements Made Easy
Each person is bio-individually unique, and requires a different amount of protein each day, depending on their age, size, level of physical activity, state of health, and other factors. As a general recommendation however, the average adult should obtain at least 30-50 grams of protein per day. Aiming for about 10-12 grams of protein per meal, for 4 meals a day including breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner.
Tip: To help you meet your daily requirements, download PRANA’s free Plant-Based Protein Chart, an illustrated infographic depicting the different sources of plant-based protein, and their nutritional values!
Full-Day Sample Menu
A morning smoothie with the addition of 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds. Like this Beet, Raspberry and Hemp Smoothie recipe but with an extra tablespoon of hemp, to obtain 10 grams of protein for the liquid meal.
A quinoa salad with 1-cup of cooked quinoa, offering about 10 grams of protein, like my Middle Eastern Inspired Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Warm Salad Recipe.
A delicious Tempeh Saute with Cashews and Broccoli. ¼ block tempeh provides about 20 grams of protein.
Or, for those who are soy-sensitive, enjoy a Squash Salad with Tomato Chia Dressing! The ½ cup of cooked lentils in this warm salad offers about 10 grams of protein.
Remember to Change it up!
Variety is the spice of life when it comes to plant-based protein, so plan your meals around these nourishing, food groups, to ensure you consume a complete spectrum of essential amino acids each day!