7 Best Sources of Vegan Protein, According to Nutrition Experts
Despite what outdated nutrition advice tells us, vegan sources of protein are plentiful, delicious, and affordable. Unfortunately, most consumers still view plant protein as inferior to animal protein sources.
According to Reshma Shah, MD, and Brenda Davis, RD, authors of Nourish: The Definitive Plant-based Nutrition Guide for Families, the two most common myths about plant protein are that you can’t get enough protein from plants alone, and that plant sources of protein are incomplete or lacking in essential amino acids.
To address the first myth, we need to consider how much protein we need, and how much people eating various dietary patterns consume. “The RDA for protein is 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women,” explains Shah. (You’ll find the ideal amount of protein you should be eating here.) “But meat-eaters in industrialized countries average about 100 grams per day, compared to 62 to 82 grams per day for vegans.” According to Shah and Davis, excess protein is not necessarily an advantage, especially when it’s derived from animal sources. “Not only can we design a diet to provide plenty of plant protein, but studies consistently demonstrate increased longevity and reduced disease risk when protein comes from plants instead of animals.” The authors affirm that plants can provide both the quantity and quality of protein people of all ages require, and unlike animal sources of protein, they are low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and full of health-promoting fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
“And as for the second myth, it comes as a bit of a surprise to many consumers that essential amino acids are made by plants, not animals,” Shah explains. “Animals provide essential amino acids because they acquired them from plants at some point along the food chain. So, it makes no sense to say we can’t get essential amino acids from plants—it’s where they come from.”
The key to meeting protein requirements is to ensure adequate quantity and variety of foods in your diet. Here are the seven best sources of plant-based protein, according to health and nutrition experts Shah and Davis.