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How to Get Your Protein from Plants: A Beginner Guide

January 17, 2017

One of the biggest questions folks have about a plant-based diet is about protein.

Mainly, how the heck can you get enough of it from plants?

This concern is understandable. After all, we’re talking about “the building blocks of life” here! But don’t fret. You’ll find protein (and lots of it) in a ton of plant-based foods. 
Before we get into which delicious plant-based foods are best for meeting your protein needs, let’s talk about what exactly those needs are.

What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient. To get all our calories and energy, humans need three macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. 

Protein is the one responsible for the body’s growth and maintenance. The body’s got all sorts of proteins, from structural ones like the keratin in our fingernails to hormonal proteins, like insulin, which regulates the glucose in our blood. All these different proteins help us build, preserve, and repair the tissue and muscle in our bodies.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. And while there are 20 different amino acids in total, our bodies only produce 11 of them. That means the other nine, often referred to as “essential amino acids,” need to come from our food. In other words, it’s why we need to make sure we eat our protein!

OK, OK… but how much protein do we really need?

Unlike with carbs and fat, our bodies are pretty lousy at storing protein. So scientists measured the amount of protein our bodies lose to figure out how much protein we need to eat. They found adults need a minimum of 0.5-0.6 grams of protein for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

Since we’re not all exactly the same, they added a safety buffer to cover any fluctuations in our protein needs….and voila! They arrived at the recommended 
daily allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight, or about 8-10% of your total calories.

So which plant-based foods are packed with protein?

A whole mess of ‘em. But in the interest of saving time, let’s just start with some of our favorites:

  • Almonds (1/4 cup) – 6 grams of protein
  • Black beans, cooked (1 cup) – 15.2 grams of protein
  • Broccoli (1 cup) – 4.6 grams of protein
  • Bulgur, cooked (1 cup) – 5.6 grams of protein
  • Cashews (1/4 cup) – 6 grams of protein
  • Chia seeds (2 tbsp) – 6 grams of protein
  • Chickpeas, cooked (1 cup) – 14.5 grams of protein
  • Edamame (1 cup) – 18 grams of protein
  • Lentils, cooked (1 cup) – 17.9 grams of protein
  • Nutritional Yeast (3 tbsp) – 12 grams of protein
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp) – 8.0 grams of protein
  • Quinoa, cooked (1 cup) – 11.0 grams of protein
  • Spinach, boiled (1 cup) – 5.4 grams of protein
  • Steel-cut oatmeal, dry (1/4 cup) – 5 grams of protein
  • White Potatoes (1 medium) – 4 grams of protein
  • Wild Rice (1 cup) – 6.5 grams of protein

Want to know more about plant-based protein? We’ve got you back. Email us your question at and we’ll get to the bottom of it!

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