The Top Ten Sources of Plant Protein (per portion)

In order to create a list such as this, one has to consider what metric to use. There are, I think, four main contenders for grading “protein sources”:

➊ Protein per unit of volume.
➋ Protein per unit of energy.
➌ Protein per unit of weight.
➍ Protein per (typical) portion size.

I think options ➊,➋ & ➌ can be extremely misleading. This is because foods can score highly by these metrics, but provide small amounts of protein in practice.

For instance, almonds contain 30g of protein per cup. But eating a cup of almonds would be fairly unusual, I’d say. What’s worse, it comes with 828 calories!

Raw spinach contains about 32g of protein per 250 calories. But to consume that amount of calories from spinach, you’d need to consume about 32 cups (over 1kg)!

Moreover, spirulina contains 57.5g of protein per 100g (that’s much more than tofu!). However, that’s just under a cup (to consume that amount is surely intolerable 🤮 and possibly medically inadvisable).

By focusing on protein per (typical) portion we bypass these problems. This is because a sensible portion contains an amount – in terms of volume, energy and weight – one could reasonably (and easily) consume in one sitting as part of a larger meal.

A slight downside to this approach, however, is that what constitutes a portion of a given food is somewhat arbitrary/subjective. I’ve chosen portion sizes that I judge to be fairly typical among plant-based dieters. As you read through this list, be cognisant of the portion sizes (if you usually eat much larger/smaller portions of any of these foods, then obviously they will be a better/worse protein source for you).

🥇 Edamame/soy pasta

💬 Using this instead of regular spaghetti adds A LOT of protein, without adding calories.

Example: Organic Edamame Spaghetti (Explore Cuisine)
Portion: 70g (dry)
Calories: 229
Protein: 30g

🥈 Plant protein isolates

💬 Arguably the most convenient ways of increasing one’s protein intake. It’s also VERY high in protein per calorie.

Example: Vegan Protein Blend (MyVegan)
Portion: 30g
Calories: 103
Protein: 24g

🥉 Beyond Burger / Impossible Burger

💬 These vegan burgers don’t just taste the same as burgers made from animal flesh, they also contain a similar (if not high higher) amount of protein (roughly 20g per patty) 🤩.

Example: The Beyond Burger
Portion: 1 patty
Calories: 250
Protein: 20g

4. Lupin beans / lupin flour

💬 A unique member of the legume family. Low in carbs and fat, but super high in protein and fibre 👍. I use lupin flour to make a delicious low-carb pastry…

Example: Lupin flour (Saladitos)
Portion: ½ cup
Calories: 165
Protein: 19.5g

5. Seitan

💬 Made from wheat protein (gluten)… seitan is meaty AF.

Example: Mock duck (granoVita)
Portion: ½ tin
Calories: 137
Protein: 18g

6. Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

💬 Most TVP is made from de-fatted soybeans: it is a byproduct of the soybean oil industry.

Example: Natural soya protein mince (Holland & Barrett)
Portion: 33g (dry)
Calories: 162
Protein: 17g

7. Tempeh

💬 Tempeh is made from skinned soy beans.

Example: Taken from USDA data
Portion: ½ cup
Calories: 160
Protein: 17g

8. Non-soy legume pastas

💬 I’ve found pastas made from chickpeas, lentils, & peas.

Example: Organic green lentil penne (Explore Cuisine)
Portion: 70g (dry)
Calories: 243
Protein: 15g

9. Mycoprotein

💬 Not all mycoprotein products are high in protein (many contain a lot of “filler”). As a rule of thumb, vegan meats that are unbreaded/unbattered are good sources of protein.

Example: Vegan Pieces (Quorn)
Portion: 100g (frozen)
Calories: 132
Protein: 14g

10. Firm tofu

💬 Tofu is like flour. On its own it’s extremely bland; as an ingredient it is extremely versatile! If you eat tofu like I do (in large amounts), it’s a first class source of protein.

Example: Firm tofu (Cauldron))
Portion: ½ cup
Calories: 117
Protein: 13g

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