Updated: Aug 30, 2018
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for adults in the United States is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, however these requirements are increased for illnesses and during pregnancy(1). Research has shown that protein intake above the RDA has been associated with appetite regulation, weight management, and can help prevent the loss of muscle mass and frailty that commonly occurs during aging(2). Though meat based products are high in protein, it is absolutely possible to achieve daily protein requirements on a vegan diet.
You can consume a diet full of variety and incorporate foods from the following food groups to meet your protein needs!
Beans, such as fava, kidney, navy, pinto, black beans, and chickpeas, are high in nutrients and antioxidants(3). They are also a great source of protein and provide a significant amount of lysine, an amino acid which is associated with bone health, heart health, and healthy skin and hair(4). On average, one cup of beans contains about 15g of protein per cup(5).
Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, and pecans are a complex food
high in fiber, minerals, and phytosterols(6). Nuts are also a great source of protein, providing about 8g of protein in ¼ cup(6). They are also high in L-arginine, an amino acid associated with reduction in heart disease and contain anti-aging properties(7). Overall, nuts in general have been associated with reduction of coronary heart disease, gallstones, hypertension, cancer, and inflammation(6).
Soy is a legume found in several different foods including edamame, tofu, miso, and soy nuts and is very high in protein, containing about 20g per cup(8). What makes soy unique is it is a complete protein, like meat products, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids that the human body requires(8). Consumption of soy has been associated with lower cholesterol levels, decreasing menopausal symptoms, and increasing bone health(8). Soy products such as tofu can be prepared in several different ways. Try them baked or prepare in a variety of different dishes such as salads and stir-fry!
1. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes forEnergy, Carbohydrates,Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids.Washington DC. The National Academies Press; 2005.
2. Phillips MS, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements beyond the RDA: Implications for optimizing health. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 2016; 41: 565–572.
3. Messina V. Nutrition and health benefits of dried beans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014; 100(1): 437S-442S.
4. Lysine: An essential amino acid that provides abundant health benefits. Mercola Web site. https://articles.mercola.com/vitamins-supplements/lysine.aspx. Accessed July 19, 2018.
5. Whitbread D. Top 10 beans and legumes highest in protein. My Food Data Web site. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/beans-legumes-highest-protein.php. Updated May 4, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2018.
6. Ros E. Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients. 2010; 2(7): 652-682.
7. Gad MZ. Anti-aging effects of L-arginine. Journal of Advanced Research. 2010; 1(3): 169-177.
8. Michel Felder AJ. Soy: A complete source of protein. American Family Physician. 2009; 79(1): 43-47