There are three macronutrients that the body uses for energy on a daily basis — carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Ensuring you consume enough of each of these macronutrients is very important when maintaining a healthy and balanced daily diet. Unfortunately, most people don’t.
When it comes to protein, those eating a plant-based diet might find it a little difficult to reach the recommended daily intake of protein — especially since most people think protein is exclusive to animal-based foods. The good news is that’s not the case and vegans have plenty of options.
If you’re following a plant-based diet, not getting the right amount of protein can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. It not only gives your body energy, but it helps the body transport oxygen, build muscle, and ensures your body’s processes are functioning normally.
So, how much protein do you need each day?
One of the things people are most confused about in regards to protein is how much they need on a daily basis. While many people assume that more is better, that isn’t always the case. In fact, too much can have just as negative of an impact on your body as not consuming enough.
As a general rule of thumb, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) suggests consuming 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight — or 0.8 grams per kilogram of weight. For an average male, that equates to 56 grams of protein. For an average female, it’s around 46 grams of protein.
Of course, there are several instances where more is needed. For example, anyone who leads an active lifestyle will need more protein each day. Pregnant women, those with a fast metabolism, anyone recovering from an injury, and elderly people should also consume more.
Getting Protein Through Plant-Based Foods
While animal-based foods — such as chicken, beef, eggs, milk, yogurt, and other meats — are highly-regarded as containing high amounts of protein, they aren’t going to work for anyone eating a plant-based diet. With that said, they aren’t the only foods that are rich with protein.
If you’re trying to increase your protein intake on a daily basis while on a plant-based diet, we have several foods that you should be targeting each day. Let’s take a look at five of our most prominent protein-rich foods and how much of it you should add to your diet:
1. Peanuts and Almonds
If you’re looking for a healthy snack to munch on throughout the day, there’s nothing more protein-rich than peanuts and almonds. Not only that, but they’re easy to eat, they contain a variety of healthy fats, and even give you a fair amount of other vitamins and minerals.
Per 100 grams, peanuts contain around 25 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs, 9 grams of fiber, and 49 grams of fat. They also contain magnesium, biotin, copper, niacin, folate, Vitamin E, manganese, thiamine, and phosphorus. Eat them whole, as peanut butter, or as a peanut oil.
Per 100 grams, almonds contain around 20 grams of protein, 52 grams of fats, 20 grams of carbohydrates, and 12 grams of fiber. They’re also a wonderful source of Vitamin E, calcium and iron — all of which are needed in your diet. Eat them whole or drink them as almond milk.
2. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are a type of food you likely already eat often, but you probably never knew they were rich in protein content. In fact, this food group contains some of the healthiest food options and make for an excellent side dish to your already-delicious plant-based meals.
Some of the most popular protein-rich beans and legumes include boiled soybeans (31 grams per cup), lentils (18 grams per cup), large white beans (17 grams per cup), cranberry beans (16.5 grams per cup), split peas (16 grams per cup), and pinto beans (15 grams per cup).
In addition to that, you can also target kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, lima beans, firm tofu, chickpeas, lupin beans, tempeh, adzuki beans, and mung beans. All of these beans and legumes come from the family of plants called Fabaceae and are high in protein content.
If you’re someone who’s used to eating rice with your meal, you should heavily consider eating quinoa. It’s a similar option and used for similar reasons. The main difference is it’s much more rich in protein and fiber, while containing less carbohydrates and calories per the same serving.
For those who don’t know what quinoa is, it’s the seed of the Chenopodium quinoa plant. It’s very similar to a cereal grain, except it’s formally categorized as a pseudocereal and doesn’t grow on grass — much like oats, wheat and rice grow. Quinoa is crunchy and has a nutty taste.
Per 100 grams, quinoa contains 120 calories, 4.4 grams of protein, 21.3 grams of carbs, 2.8 grams of fiber, and 1.9 grams of fat. It’s also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc. If that’s not enough to get you hooked, it’s gluten-free as well!
4. Broccoli and Kale
If you’re someone who loves their veggies, broccoli and kale are two of the most popular ones that contain a good amount of protein per serving. They’re extremely easy to add to your diet and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Most people like to add them to just about every meal!
Per one cup of broccoli (roughly 90 grams), you’ll get 31 calories, 2.5 grams of protein, 6 grams of carbs, 2.4 grams of fiber, and just 0.4 grams of fat. It’s also an extremely good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K1, Vitamin B9, potassium, manganese, and iron — among others.
Per one cup of kale (roughly 67 grams), you’ll get 33.5 calories, 2.2 grams of protein, 6.7 grams of carbohydrates, 1.3 grams of fiber, and just 0.5 grams of fat. It’s also an excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Spirulina falls under the “superfood” category and is one of the best plant-based sources of protein available. It’s a type of blue-green algae and gives your body a healthy dose of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients the body needs to function properly on a daily basis.
Per just one tablespoon of dried spirulina, which is roughly a 7-gram serving, you’ll get 20 calories, 4 grams of protein, 1.67 grams of carbohydrates, 0.54 grams of fat, and 0.3 grams of dietary fiber. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, and potassium.
If you’re interested in learning more about taking care of your body when executing a plant-based diet — or when living your best life in general — head over to our Daily RX blog for additional tips and advice. You can also visit BetterHelp if you need a trusted therapist.