Plant-Based Eating 101: Protein

“If you keep good food in your fridge,

you will eat good food.” –Errick McAdams


When making the switch to a whole-foods, plant-based diet (WFPB), people often wonder how to get enough protein. This is a reasonable question based on the assumption that meat is the best source of protein. However, many plant-based foods are also packed with this needed macronutrient.


I’ll start by answering the question, Why do we need protein?


Protein is found in every cell of the body and is considered the building block of life. There are 20 different amino acids that make up protein. The sequence of these amino acids determines the role of that particular protein, and not all 20 are found in every protein source. Of these 20 amino acids, 9 are essential, meaning the body cannot produce them and we must get them from our diet.


Protein has many vital functions, including:

  • transporting molecules throughout the body

  • helping repair cells and make new ones

  • protecting the body from viruses and bacteria

  • promoting proper growth and development in children, teenagers, and pregnant women

One reason meat is touted as the best source of protein is because it provides all 9 essential amino acids. However, eating a variety of plant-based foods will also supply your diet with all 9 essential amino acids.


The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. To calculate the number of grams of protein you require each day, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36. For example: someone who weighs 150 pounds would need 54 grams of protein each day: 150 x 0.36 = 54.


Next question: If I’m limiting meat intake, where do I get protein?


I’ll break it down with some examples:

  • 1/2 cup of lentils = 9 g protein

  • 1/2 cup of chickpeas = 7 g protein

  • 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds = 10 g protein

  • 3 ounces of tofu = 8 g protein

  • 3 ounces of tempeh= 13 g protein

  • 1/4 cup of walnuts = 6 g protein

  • 1 cup of quinoa = 8 g protein

  • 1 cup of black beans = 10 g protein

So yes, you can indeed get plenty of protein without animal products!



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