Did you know that most forms of vegetable protein come from SEEDS? What an apt name for a new vegan cafe! Legumes, nuts, cereals, and pseudocereals are all forms of seeds. Let’s look deeper:
Proteins perform a vast array of chemical and physical actions within our cells. Composed of sequences of amino acids, we create proteins by combining amino acids in the food we eat with those already existing in the body. The FDA Daily Value for protein in a 2000-calorie diet is 50 grams. At 4 calories per gram of protein, protein ought to make up a minimum of 10% of your caloric intake.
There are 20 different amino acids that make up proteins. Of these, there are nine amino acids that the human body can’t create on its own. Foods that offer these nine fundamental amino acids are called “complete proteins.” It’s not necessary to eat complete proteins in every meal, but they should be consumed in relative balance throughout your day.
LEGUMES: Peas! Beans! Soy! Peanuts!
The most protein-dense food in this article, legumes are posed to help you hit protein goals throughout your day.
A half cup of cooked green peas offers 4 grams of protein.
A cup of cooked beans, be they pinto, black, red, navy, kidney, chickpea, lentil,… have 10-15 grams of protein! The versatile soybean, a complete protein, has 8 grams of protein as 1 C edamame, 3 oz. of tofu, or 1.5 oz of tempeh.
Peanuts, either as 2 ounces of nuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter also provide 8 grams of protein.
Now look, the term “nut” is a bit ambiguous. There are botanical nuts (fruit consisting of a hard shell and a seed, like chestnuts and hazelnuts) and culinary nuts (botanical nuts plus several non-botanical nuts, like the seeds almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, walnuts, cashews, …). For our purposes, we’ll use the broader definition.
The average amount of protein in ¼ C of almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and walnuts is 5-6 grams. The same amount of pecans or chestnuts bring you 3 grams, while macadamia nuts offer 2.
CEREAL: Wheat! Corn! Sorghum! Rice! Oats! Millet!
2 ounces of most flours offer you 3-5 grams of protein.
4 ounces of oatmeal or cooked rice, brown or white, is 2-3 grams.
Tortilla and bread contain protein, though how much can vary widely, usually 1-4 grams, depending on the ingredients and size.
PSEUDOCEREAL: Quinoa! Chia! Flax! Sesame! Buckwheat! Amaranth!
Quinoa and the similar kaniwa, along with amaranth and pitseed goosefoot, make up the largest family of pseudocereals. One ounce of these grains, cooked, provides you with 1-2 grams of protein.
One ounce of chia, flax, or sesame seeds yields 3-4 grams of protein, chia having the most out of those three.
Buckwheat, which is not wheat and is gluten-free, offers just under 3 grams of protein per ounce.
ALGAE: Seaweed! Spirulina! Kelp!
While it takes quite a bit of algae to provide a significant amount of protein, these are complete proteins that also offer several vitamins and minerals. One sheet of nori (your sushi wrapper) offers 1 gram of protein. 1 tablespoon of spirulina powder can bring 4 grams of protein.
Quinoa, chia, hemp, soy, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, and algae are stand alone complete proteins. Pairings of different foods that offer all fundamental amino acids include: beans and rice, lentils and barley, hummus and pita, peanut butter and toast, and spirulina with grains, oats, nuts or seeds.
You are probably getting plenty of protein if you are eating a balanced vegan diet! Snacks of nuts, hummus, or seeds between meals containing beans, soy, cereals, and pseudocereals will keep you on track. Throw in some algae for extra credit. Your body will thank you.