Where do you get your protein? That’s a question most of us who have transitioned to a vegan, whole foods plant-based diet are asked by concerned or inquisitive family and friends.

The answer is, plants! Plants provide all of the protein our bodies need to thrive.

Along with the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat), protein is necessary for human survival. Protein is built from twenty amino acids, of which our body makes 11, leaving 9 that we need to get from food (called essential). Plant-based foods contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need to make high quality protein.

There is no need to worry about combining plant foods to make complete proteins. If one type of food, such as beans, does not contain a certain amino acid, another, such as rice, will. You do not need to eat these complimentary foods at the same meal. Just eat a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods (vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes) throughout the day and you’ll have enough protein to help your body function at its best.

The World Health Organization (WHO), recommends that men and women get 5% of their daily calories from protein and pregnant women, 6%.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. That’s about 8% to 10% total daily calories. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, co-author of The China Study, found through his research that a diet of 20% protein, especially casein from cow’s milk, encourages cancer cell growth, but lowering it to 5% does not. A human diet of around 8% to 10% protein is sufficient for our bodies and helps prevent disease. Most Americans are consuming 16-20% or more of protein per day.

Our bodies can store fat and carbs, but not protein. Too much animal protein puts a burden on our kidneys and liver. In addition, animal protein creates an acidic environment in our bodies. To balance that, our bodies take calcium from our bones (a base) to become more alkaline. That’s why an excess of animal protein is linked to osteoporosis.

So fill your plate with legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, sprouts, grains, soy (like tofu and soy milk) and veggies (like avocado, broccoli and spinach), and you’ll be sure to get enough protein. Below is a list of high protein plant-based foods and the amount of protein per serving.

  • Almonds: 6 grams per 1 oz (around 23 almonds)
  • Black beans: 21 grams per 1/2 cup
  • Buckwheat: 6 grams per 1 cup
  • Brown rice: 5 grams per 1 cup
  • Chia seeds: 4 grams per 2 Tbs
  • Chick peas / garbanzo beans: 20 grams per 1/2 cup
  • Hemp seeds: 10 grams per 2 Tbs
  • Pumpkin seeds: 5 grams per 1 oz.
  • Quinoa: 8 grams per 1 cup
  • Tofu: 10 grams per 1/2 cup

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