Plant-Based Foods That Pack a Protein Punch

June 23, 2016 Brenda Manfredi, MD

plant-based protein

When most people think of protein, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a big slab of beef or a filet of fish. But for anyone thinking about trying a vegetarian diet, or simply wanting to reduce the amount of animal products in their food, "there are several plant-based protein options worth trying," says Brenda Manfredi, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician at St. Joseph Health Medical Group.

"Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet," Dr. Manfredi says. "The amino acids derived from protein in the body maintain health through cell growth and repair, building everything from bones and hormones to skin and muscles. It's important that people get enough protein in their diet, and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have recommended daily protein consumption should be about 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. Incorporating plant-based proteins into meals helps ensure that the protein recommendations are met as part of a well-balanced diet."

Here are some top sources of plant proteins, along with their grams of protein per serving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • Frozen edamame (1 cup) 13 grams
  • Firm tofu (1/2 cup) 11 grams
  • Cooked beans (1/2 cup) 8 grams
  • Nuts (1 oz.) 7 grams
  • Cooked oatmeal (1 cup) 6 grams
  • Cooked brown rice (1 cup) 6 grams
  • Coconut milk 5 grams
  • Sunflower seeds (1 oz.) 5 grams
  • Whole-wheat bread (1 slice) 4 grams

These categories include a variety of options, says Dr. Manfredi. "Just think of beans alone; there are so many different types such as black, kidney, pinto, lentils and chickpeas, among others. And there are numerous nuts and seeds, too. What's even better is that these foods can be ingredients in so many kinds of dishes--nuts can be included in salads, beans can be part of soups, and tofu can be in stir-fry dishes or blended in smoothies. It's easy to include more plant proteins in your diet in delicious and healthy ways." 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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