All vegetable proteins are not created equal. In order for a plant protein to be considered a high-quality protein, it must have a balance of all the required amino acids. Protein sources (or combinations of sources) that provide a balance of all the essential amino acids are easier for your body to convert into muscle.
- Rice and Beans – Rice is high in Lysine and low in Methionine, while many types of beans have the exact opposite issue, making them a perfect match. Combining rice and beans provides an excellent amino acid profile. Actually combining practically any grain and any legume can provide a balanced amino acid profile, like chickpea and corn or lentil and amaranth.
- Quinoa – A complete protein, quinoa also provides nutritionally significant levels of healthy fats and tocopherols, making it possibly beneficial for reducing inflammation.
- Chia – Another complete protein, chia has the distinction of containing high levels of fiber, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids that have many different benefits including reducing inflammation.
- Soy – Soy not only contains high levels of protein, it also provides all the essential amino acids, making it another complete protein.
- Spinach – The one food on this list that approaches a complete nutrient balance by providing trace quantities of nutrients and minerals like Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Iron and others. Spinach also has the most complete balance of amino acids, giving it the honor of being the highest quality protein on this list. Downside of spinach is high levels of oxalic acid, which can interfere with calcium absorption and can cause kidney stones.
- Spirulina – Upside of spirulina is that it contains many important nutrients and it is over half protein. Downside is that it’s high in sodium, so be careful when using this for muscle building.
- Moringa – Moringa has an excellent amino acid profile and provides many important nutrients. Like chickpeas, moringa provides trace quantities of many nutrients and minerals, making it important for people that may be lacking in something. The quality of the moringa that is available today is variable due to the quality of the soil that it is grown on and the care that is taken in processing it.
- Chickpea – Boasting a very healthy amino acid profile, chickpeas contain trace quantities of many nutrients and not high levels of anything specific, making it a good candidate for use as a muscle building supplement. Chickpeas are also nitrogen fixing plants, meaning that production of chickpeas actually improves farmland around the world, so you can feel extra-good knowing that you’re helping to feed the world by eating good.
Getting good protein can be challenging at times. Most of these plant based sources of protein are very affordable, or at least aren’t very expensive to produce so that as they gain popularity, their price will tend to drop.
Recipes for cooking high protein foods
- 5 things you should know about quinoa – Huffington Post
- Quinoa – World’s Healthiest Foods
- Plant based protein chart – The Holy Kale
- Chia vs. Flax seeds – Easy vegetarian diet
- Chia nutritional content – nutrition data
- amino acids – World’s healthiest foods
- nutritional content lentils – Nutrition Data
- nutritional content spinach – Nutrition Data
- nutritional content spirulina – Nutrition Data
- nutritional content chickpea – Nutrition Data
- nutritional content quinoa – Nutrition Data
- Omega-3 fatty acids – University of Maryland Medical Center