The plant based is taking off in a BIG way right now, and for very good reason. Many athletes, body builders, and just the general health conscious are now turning to a more plant based lifestyle to help them feel cleaner, healthier and lighter in both body and mind.
And these are just a few of the short term benefits reported. The long term is looking even more promising as more and more information is becoming more mainstream.
This highest plant based protein foods list will show you at a glance the foods that contain the largest amounts of protein. You will also learn the foods with the best amino acid profiles.
Once you understand your plant proteins, you can then work your meals around them and incorporate them easily into your life.
Why Eat a Plant Based Diet?
As more research is done, and plant based and vegan diets become more mainstream, we start to see a bigger picture emerging of the HUGE benefits this way of life can have. This is not only on your own health and longevity, but also the planet in general.
Whether you’re in a training program or not, eating a more whole food diet will have many benefits on your health and vitality both short and long term, therefore it is well worth the investment in your body.
Less Chronic Inflammation
The anti inflammatory effects of plant based foods may be something you’ll notice very quickly, especially in terms of your health and fitness levels. You will find that you don’t feel so achy after exercise, and you may recover more quickly than before due to less inflammation of the muscles.
In fact, some of the world’s leading athletes eat a plant based diet and get their best ever times and higher endurance because of it.
Iron Man Champion
Iron Man champion Brendan Brazier is one of these athletes whom has written many books on this very subject, making the power of plants a fact that just cannot be argued with. I mean, if an Iron Man can thrive on plant based, then that tells us a lot about what plants are capable of doing.
Brendan Brazier is mostly a raw vegan, which is obviously another level of health for most of us. But, goes to show exactly what the body is actually capable of when given the perfect fuel. Brendan’s book ‘The Thrive Diet‘ is definitely worth a read.
Thrive is the book that not only helped me to understand my body and its own issues, but also set me on my own plant based journey.
Incorporating more protein rich plant foods into your diet
You can easily start your journey towards a plant based lifestyle by making a few simple swaps and changes every day. It’s usually best to start slowly, for the simple fact it can be hard to make too many changes in one go (although some people do thrive on the all or nothing method).
Either way, taking your time gives you the chance to educate yourself and learn new recipes, tips and tricks as you go.
It is VERY IMPORTANT you know how to combine plant foods to get all the nutrients and amino acids you need. If you don’t do this, you may end up less healthy than before which is definitely not your aim.
Your Plant Based Swaps
You can gradually swap out your meat products to:-
- Other meat substitutes can be used, but be careful to read labels as most aren’t very healthy! (Check out this Caribbean chicken dish made from plant based chicken).
And your dairy products to:-
- Soya based yogurts, milks and cheeses
- Other plant based milks such as oat, almond, rice and pea
- Plant based butter
- Avocado, tahini and peanut butter make a great spread instead of butter
- For eggs, you can use one of the many egg substitute products out there. Chickpea flour makes a great egg substitute and can be used to make omelettes
- In baking, you can use chia and flax eggs
Highest Plant Based Protein Foods List
As plant proteins go, let’s start off with the power houses of the plant world. Below is a list of the highest ranking, protein rich plant foods and their protein value raw per 100g.
These foods can be easily incorporated into any meal or snack, making it easy for you to start making the change to a healthier lifestyle today.
Protein amounts per 100 grams:-
- Soy Beans 36g
- Hemp Seeds 32g
- Pumpkin Seeds 29.8g
- Lentils 24.6g
- Kidney Beans 24.4g
- Peanuts 24.4g
- Green peas 23.8g
- Black Beans 21.6g
- Almonds 21.2g
- Pistachio Nuts 21g
- Chickpeas 20.5g
- Tempeh 20.3g
- Sunflower Seeds 19.3g
- Ground Flax (linseed) 18.3g
- Sesame Seeds 17g
- Tahini 17g
- Chia Seeds 16.5g
- Cashew Nuts 15.3g
- Walnuts 15.2g
- Hazelnuts 15g
- Quinoa 14.1g
- Sundried Tomatoes 14.1g
- Pasta 13.9g
- Pine Nuts 13.7g
- Wholewheat Bread 13.4g
- Tofu 12.7g
- Buckwheat 12.6g
- Popcorn (plain) 12g
- Millet 11g
- Pecans 9.2g
- Macadamia Nuts 7.9g
- Dried coconut 6.9g
The Importance of Protein
It is crucial to understand the importance of getting good quality protein/amino acids into your diet when you decide to go begin a plant based diet. If you go straight into it unarmed with the right information, you could potentially run into problems through not getting all the nutrients your body requires.
This is especially true if you are an athlete, or in any kind of training or exercise regime where your body’s nutrient requirements will be higher.
Always be sure to eat good amounts of the foods on the above list with every meal under these circumstances. Your body can recycle amino acids, so you don’t always need full spectrum proteins with every meal, but do be aware.
Do I need protein powders on the plant based diet?
When I first started out over 4 years ago, I made the mistake of not educating myself properly on plant based food combining and it did me some harm in terms of muscle mass loss. I know I just wasn’t getting enough good quality protein, so be sure to listen to your own body.
Sometimes protein powders may come in useful under these circumstances. But, in general they are not permitted on a whole foods plant based diet due to the fact that they have been isolated.
Isolated, or refined foods such as protein powders, refined sugars, refined carbohydrates and oils have been extracted from their original and ‘whole’ form. Therefore they aren’t as natural to the body, or particularly healthy.
Exceptions to this rule may be freshly juiced veggies.
How much protein do I need?
As a guide, most people need between 1 and 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight, depending on their lifestyle. You may very well need a protein supplement to meet these requirements (especially if you are doing hard exercise).
Luckily, there are some fantastic plant based protein formulations available these days. Remember, sometimes it’s good to go for a blend of different plant proteins as this will ensure a well rounded amino acid profile.
You should also be aware of protein powder combining (especially when it comes to amino acids, which is why it’s good to go for the blends), as some plant proteins do not have a complete amino acid profile like animal sources do. Or, they will have very low amounts of certain amino acids and be higher in others.
Homemade Protein Bars
If you don’t want to spend a fortune on protein bars (it gets pretty expensive when you buy them pre made), then why not try your hand at making your own? Not only is it cheaper, but you know EXACTLY just what is going into your bar, and you can take control over the sugar content.
Many shop bought protein bars are literally packed full of refined sugars, preservatives, and many other nasties that make the bar just plain unhealthy. This is why making your own takes this worry away.
Check out my favorite homemade recipes and have a go at making your own protein bars for yourself (you will need a protein powder for some of them, but not all). They are also family friendly and easily transportable for you to take to the gym, work or school.
THE BEST PLANT BASED PROTEIN POWDERS
It really is best to try to buy organic protein powders that have no fillers, artificial colours, flavorings or preservatives. This is especially important if they are something you will be using a lot You simply don’t want to be overburdening your system with anything unnatural on a daily basis.
Remember, you shouldn’t need to supplement with a protein powder UNLESS you feel you aren’t getting enough and are losing muscle mass (or feeling flabbier, even with exercise). Or, if you are training a lot and simply can’t get enough through diet alone.
Pre-blended Protein Powders
The below list is of some of the different types of plant protein powders available, their amino acid profile, and any pros or cons. You can either buy them separately and mix them yourself. OR my preferred option as it’s easier is to buy them ready mixed.
In my opinion, blends tend to go down better. They have been tried and tested for taste, have added natural flavours to make them more palatable and usually offer other added nutrients and enzymes.
Combining protein powders
Hemp, pumpkin, chia, pea, and potato protein powders already contain a good amino acid profile, and so can be taken alone.
However, because they all have a different nutrient content it is advisable to mix things up and not consume the same one all the time.
Hemp protein is complete and high in omega 3’s (fatty acids vital for those in training), making it a good one to use alone or in your blend. It can be a little gritty though, so you may prefer to blend it. Or purchase a few and experiment to see which you prefer.
Also, quinoa, potato, pumpkin and brown rice have good amino acid profiles on their own too.
Jazz your protein up!
Some protein powders are pretty bland when they are not part of a specially formulated blend.
Therefore you may want to add your own healthy sweetener and flavours such as banana, xylitol, stevia, cacao or carob powder, dates or date syrup. Dates also happen to be a favorite training food preferred by athletes that will give you a long lasting energy burn.
1. PEA PROTEIN
Pea protein is high in branch chain amino acids and lysine, but lower in methionine. It usually contains soluble fibers from the pea which helps thicken it up. However, it doesn’t taste great alone, so may need to be mixed with some other flavours and sweeteners.
It’s saving grace is it’s cheap and has a good spectrum of all the amino acids. But, it still needs to be used alongside a full spectrum powder such as quinoa, hemp or pumpkin.
A good pea protein powder will also taste great when used in cooking or baking. That’s if you fancy dabbling in making your own protein bars or balls. You can even add a scoop into your porridge in the morning for an extra protein boost, and to make it more filling.
2. BROWN RICE PROTEIN
This one is higher in methionine, but has less of the other amino acids such as leucine, histidene and threonine.
It is a superior protein if you can find it organically and ethically sourced. Unfortunately, it is notorious for containing high levels of cadmium and arsenic, but it is fine in smaller amounts or even as part of a blend.
3. PUMPKIN SEED PROTEIN
Pumpkin protein has a complete amino acid profile and tastes better than the others. It is also rich in minerals (namely zinc,) and is high in l-arginine too (which is great for the male libido).
It is very alkaline-forming, and high in tryptophan, vitamin E, and omega 3 fatty acids. Out of the single powders, this one is the clear winner in terms of taste, texture and amino acid profile. However, it is more expensive than the others.
4. HEMP PROTEIN
Hemp protein powder has a great amino acid profile, but is another one that can be more expensive than some of the others. That’s depending on the type you purchase, its purity, and whether or not it is organic.
It is also high in omega 3 fatty acids that are vital for those in training to help fight inflammation of the muscles and fasten recovery times.
Hard training also burns up the bodies omega 3’s, therefore higher amounts are required in general. So in these cases, you should either use hemp or a good supplement of omega 3.
Hemp is a great one to mix into other (less expensive) protein powders to add extra nutrients, or to use as part of a rotation with the others.
5. CHIA SEED PROTEIN
Chia contains a good profile of ALL the essential amino acids with the added benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, fiber, phosphorus, and many other minerals. It is yet another superior protein, not unlike hemp.
Either of the two can be used daily, or added into the less nutritious powders.
6. POTATO PROTEIN
Potato protein is another complete protein that contains high amounts of branch-chain amino acids. It also has high bio-availability (which means that the body can easily absorb its protein and nutrients).
Potato comes in low on calories, so a good one to choose if you are on a calorie restricted diet.
It usually comes in a blend rather than alone.
7. QUINOA PROTEIN
Quinoa contains a lot more protein than all of the other common grains, and is in fact up to 50% higher in comparison. However, this superfood is actually a seed, which probably explains why it packs such a protein punch.
Again, quinoa protein powder tends to come as part of a blend rather than alone, due to its price.
The other reasons to choose quinoa protein over the rest is the fact that it is a superior protein containing the most complete amino acid profile of ANY other plant based protein. Plus, it is rich in those omega 3 fatty acids that are great for everybody, but especially good for those in training.
Omega 3’s may help lower inflammation in the body. And this is exactly what you need after a hard workout to stop muscle aches, tiredness, and also to recover faster.
If you don’t take quinoa protein powder as a supplement, then you can very easily add it to your diet in a variety of ways. It’s a versatile little seed, and can be incorporated into many meals both sweet or savoury.
8. SUNFLOWER PROTEIN
Sunflower protein is another pretty new one to the market. And the plus side is, it’s a pretty inexpensive one to buy.
Sunflower seeds also contain lots of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help mop up all those free radicals caused by exercising. This in return, helps slow down the aging process and aids recovery at the same time.
For best results, this one is ideal to be blended with other complete proteins, such as hemp or quinoa.
Check out more vitamin E foods to help with exercise recovery.
How to find a protein powder to suit you
This part is the most IMPORTANT part of all as there are just so many to choose from these days. To save time and expense, you should have some basic idea of what will work for you.
Do this by taking into consideration your dietary needs, training needs, and also whether you are looking to cut fat, lose weight in general, build muscle or bulk out.
ALL of these are a factor in which protein powder you should choose to enable you to obtain the results you wish in the fastest time.
To help you work out what’s best for you specifically, then please check out this guide of the best reviewed protein powders of 2022. The guide will give you an easy list of factors you need to take into consideration when deciding.
Thank you for visiting ZestForever today!
We hope we have given you some insights into plant protein and how to incorporate it into your diet.
Don’t forget, true health comes from a well-rounded plant based diet high in all nutrients. To obtain this the easy way, please check out our amazing food plans for FAST & EASY recipes and ideas.