Foods rich in plant protein are an excellent meat substitute. Legumes (beans, peas, lentils), soybeans, various cereals, and pseudo-cereals are the best plant-based protein sources.
Including these foods in a vegetarian or vegan diet is essential to meet the needs of critical amino acids.
The following article details the best plant protein sources and a complete list of foods with their amount. This is how it is described how to eat them to improve their assimilation.
Vegetable Protein Rich Foods – What Are They?
The foods richest in vegetable proteins are spirulina, soy-based foods: seitan, tofu, textured, etc. In third place are legumes: peas, lentils, chickpeas. Lastly, cereals, pseudo-cereals, and mushrooms: quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, shiitake, etc. The ten foods richest in plant protein are described below:
Spirulina is a cyanobacterium, the only type of bacteria that can carry out photosynthesis. Like plants, it can convert light energy into chemical energy.
Although some do not consider spirulina strictly vegetable, it is one of the foods that exceed soy and legumes, even meat in protein. The plant protein content in spirulina is 46-56 g per 100, and its amino acid profile is complete. (2.3)
Seitan is one of the best sources of vegetable protein. It is also high in essential minerals, such as iron, for a vegetarian. It is a versatile food in the kitchen and can be cooked in different ways. The amount of protein in seitan is highest in plant-based foods. Its quantity is 20-21 grams per 100 dry products. (2)
Tofu is a food made from soybeans that have undergone a manufacturing process similar to cheese. Tofu contains 12-20 grams of protein per 100 grams. (1) We consider it number 3 among the foods rich in plant proteins.
Lentils are a food with a high content of vegetable proteins (around 15 g per 100 g of dry product). Also, including lentils in a vegetarian diet is an excellent way to provide high-quality complex carbohydrates. The red lentils can be cooked faster and thus serve as a basis for soups as accompaniment.
Quinoa is a pseudocereal that provides 14 g of vegetable protein per 100g. In addition, 100 g of quinoa covers the recommended dose of manganese, 49% of magnesium, 25% of iron, and 21% of zinc (4). The lack of zinc is one of the most frequent in those who make a vegetarian diet.
The buckwheat or buckwheat is a pseudocereal of Asian origin. Besides being one of the foods rich in vegetable proteins (it contains 13 g of protein per 100), It does not contain gluten, and its glycemic index is medium. This makes buckwheat an excellent substitute for rice or pasta for people with gluten intolerance and diabetes.
In 100 g of oats, there are 12.5 grams of vegetable protein. In addition, recent investigations (5) have found compounds called avenanthramides (AVAs). AVAs have an antioxidant activity 10 to 30 times greater than other antioxidant molecules known as vitamin C.
Approximately 20% of the content of nuts is protein. (7) Although they have a lower absorption percentage than animal proteins, their amino acid profile is complete. One of the nutritional properties of walnut is that their proteins are similar to egg protein.
- Chia seeds
The seeds of chia bring about 6 g of vegetable protein per 100 g of dry product. Although not in its value that stands out, we include it among the richest due to its high content of Omega-3 and vegetable fiber content. The Omega-3 DHA and EPA can activate the mechanisms of the body to reduce bad cholesterol. Fiber is an essential component in lowering triglycerides in the blood. (6)
- Edible mushrooms
The amount of protein in edible mushrooms varies depending on the type; the values are between 4 and 10 g per 100 g of product. The ones with the most are oysters and champignons. Shiitake mushrooms and Portobello mushrooms follow. (3)
Vegetable vs. animal proteins
In general terms, proteins from foods of animal origin are of higher biological value than those of plant origin. This is because its amino acid composition is more similar to that of the proteins in the human body.
For example, meat and fish proteins have a biological value of between 0.7 and 0.8; rich foods of plant origin tend to be around 0.5. Below you can see the comparison between the biological significance of each one.
|Food||Biological value (BV)|
How to improve the assimilation of vegetable proteins?
Although many plant foods have lower protein quality, they can be combined for better results. For example, rice protein is high in methionine but low in lysine. In legumes, the amino acid content is inverse.
If these two plant foods are eaten together, the amino acids of one protein can compensate for the deficiency of the other, resulting in a protein of high biological value. (8)
As for cooking, it is recommended to cook all whole grains for more than 20 minutes to improve their assimilation. In some cases, like oats and lentils, not cooking them correctly does not allow them to be digested by the stomach.
- Foods rich in plant proteins are spirulina, seitan, and tofu. Legumes, cereals, pseudo-cereals, and seeds follow.
- The quality of vegetable proteins is usually lower than that of animals. However, it is possible to combine them to obtain the same results.
- Providing the necessary amount of protein with plant foods is possible; it is one of the myths about proteins that have remained in the past.