Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions in nutrition is how much protein you really need each day. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the recommended daily dietary intake for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So for a woman who weighs 68 kilograms (about 150 lbs), she should be ingesting 54.4 grams of protein each day.
Keep in mind that the 0.8-to-1 protein-to-weight ratio is the minimum amount of protein one should be getting on the regular. For people who are more active on a day-to-day basis, or who may have a health condition, the recommendation may vary, and that’s something only your doctor or nutritionist can tell you.
Nutritionally speaking, not all proteins are created equal, either. High-quality proteins — also known as complete proteins — contain all the essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and metabolism, according to a study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of these amino acids. It’s animal products that are often pointed to as the best sources for complete protein, but for vegans, there are still a number of foods that can make up a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet, and which debunk the myth that vegans aren’t getting enough protein.
Keep scrolling for five of the best sources of vegan protein.
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Aside from being delicious, quinoa is rich in hair-healthy methionine, an amino acid that the body needs but does not produce naturally. Methionine, along with non-essential amino acid cysteine, lends a hand when it comes to the health of your skin and hair. These, plus B-complex vitamins, help the body manufacture keratin in the hair shaft. While animal products are known to be the richest sources of methionine, there is 178 mg of methionine per cup of cooked quinoa, and more than eight grams of plant-based protein.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Brazil nuts, hemp seeds, and soy are also good sources of methionine. But before you call it “bird food,” peep these vegan protein facts: Just one serving of almonds, for example, has six grams of protein and more than three grams of fiber, registered dietitian Stacey Mattinson told Shape. Chia seeds are also high in protein and fiber and, not to mention, taste great in smoothies, shakes, and puddings.
Soy often gets a bad rap, as contradicting research often links soy to breast cancer, thyroid problems, or dementia, but the Harvard University school of public health says that “soy is a nutrient-dense source of protein that can safely be consumed several times a week, and is likely to provide health benefits — especially when eaten as an alternative to red and processed meat.” Soy is also rich in isoflavones, a plant-derived estrogen (referred to as a phytoestrogen). A study suggested that isoflavones might, when taken with capsaicin, promote hair growth.
4. Rice and Beans
Rice and beans is the ultimate vegan combo, and for good reason: A bowl of rice and beans is a high-quality protein, with varieties like kidney beans packing over 40 grams of protein per cup. Separately, neither rice or beans are complete sources of nutrition, but together they’re a match made in heaven. When combined, they’re both good sources of our aforementioned hair-healthy methionine, as well as lysine, another essential amino acid which, if not consumed in adequate quantities, can lead to poor hair health.
Peanuts and peanut butter belong in a category all to themselves because they’re technically not nuts at all — they’re legumes, because unlike real nuts, they grow in the ground and not on trees. Two tablespoons of peanut butter has approximately 7 grams of plant-based protein (or more, if you’re into the chunky variety), plus electrolytes like sodium, calcium, and potassium. Just be sure to read the ingredients label carefully for hidden sugars and non-vegan additives.