Protein is essential for growth, hormones, blood clotting, regulation of the acid-alkaline balance of tissues, and a host of other processes. But what foods are high in protein?
While all essential amino acids are found in eggs, meat, and animal products as a whole (this is why we say that animal foods provide a complete source of protein), they are also found in plant foods, mainly whole grains and legumes.
You’ll need to combine legumes and grains to have all amino acids your body needs.
Here are the top 50 plant foods and their protein content, in grams per 100g (3.5 oz).
In plant foods, unlike in meats and seafood, essential amino acids are not well balanced, which means that each plant food is usually low on one or more of the essential amino acids.
This is why a plant-based diet needs to combine vegetables, grains, legumes, and at least a small amount of animal products like eggs, milk, cream and cheese. This is what vegetarians do in India and other parts of the world.
How much protein do you need?
This topic is highly controversial in the medical, fitness and health community. Official recommendations vary widely between countries, which contribute to make this topic more controversial.
In the U.S. and Canada, recommendations suggest that proteins account for 10% to 35% of daily calories. As you can see, this is a huge range that allows for many individual variations. But other countries place protein requirements much lower, at 10% – 15%.
Note: in the U.S., you should know that you shouldn’t look at the recommended dietary allowance for protein expressed in grams per day, because they are based on the 10% of daily calories, and don’t reflect the recommended range of 10% – 35%.
According to my own research, it is very difficult and even impossible to have a balanced, nutritious diet with only 10% of protein; you will always get more protein from your diet and this is fine.
Likewise, 35% protein is really a lot for most of us who are only lightly or moderately active.
A good range that can apply to most people is to have a protein intake of 12%-20% of daily calories.
If you are a woman who needs 1800 calories a day, that’s 216-360 calories of protein, which represent 54g to 90g protein a day.