Vegetarian Protein Foods

Tell someone you’re vegetarian, and the first objection you’ll likely get is, “But where do you get your protein?” (Nevermind what kind of shape the person asking is often in.)

I personally have not let the protein issue affect me, choosing instead to cook and eat a wide variety of foods and trust that I’ll get enough protein and all of the essential amino acids, and I’ve never felt better.  However, if you have any signs of protein deficiency, you should absolutely start making sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet.

For someone who cooks all the time, simply eating a variety of whole foods will likely get you the protein you need.  But for someone whose schedule doesn’t allow for much cooking at home, getting enough protein from vegetarian foods (and the right kinds) can be a problem.

My mother is one such case.  A few weeks after she became vegetarian, she noticed that something wasn’t right; she didn’t have the energy that she did when she ate meat.  Suspecting that the problem was not enough protein, she spent a few weeks researching amino acids and protein in vegetarian foods.

This page is the result of such research.  If you’re in a similar situation, I hope it helps you out. (Be sure to check out vegan Registered Dietician Matt Ruscigno’s post on vegetarian protein for more information.)

Oh, hey, before we go on, I don’t want you to miss this. Since you’re interested in plant-based fitness check out my Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a No Meat Athlete. Just click here. (link opens in a new window)

A word on protein powders

image prod110004 450 white 159x300Since high-protein vegetarian foods aren’t always easy to get when you’re in a hurry or on the road, adding protein powder to a smoothie can make the task much easier.

One protein powder I really like is Vega Sport, which combines hemp, rice, and pea protein for a complete amino acid profile.

Admittedly, it’s a little on the pricey side, so I sometimes use this one instead, which blends hemp, rice, pea, and chia protein and is pretty affordable. (Please note that links to Amazon are affiliate links.)

A little background

There are 20 amino acids that link together to form peptides.  Peptides are then linked together to form proteins.  There are thousands of different proteins that carry out a large number of jobs in our bodies.  We don’t have to worry about consuming all the proteins- our body makes those.  We just need to make sure we have all 20 basic “building blocks” (amino acids).  Our body (except with certain illnesses or genetic abnormalities) makes 11 of them from chemicals already present in our body, so we really only need to be concerned about consuming the nine that our body cannot make.  The nine amino acids that we need to get from our diet are called “essential amino acids.”

Chemical makeup and the role of amino acids in the body

The molecule of an amino acid is made up of a carboxyl group of atoms (one carbon, two oxygen and one hydrogen), an amine group (one nitrogen and two hydrogen atoms) and a side chain.  The side chains consist of a combination of carbon, hydrogen, sulfur, nitrogen and/or oxygen and it’s the configuration of these that differentiates one amino acid from another.  The branched-chain amino acids are isoleucine, leucine and valine and these are the amino acids responsible for muscle structure.

The amino acids tyrosine, phenylalanine and tryptophan are the aromatic amino acids, having a side chain with a ring-shaped formation and are necessary for the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin.  Serotonin is important for healthy and restful sleep as well as elevating and stabilizing mood and in the modulation of human sexuality, appetite, and metabolism.  Melatonin is important in the regulation of the circadian rhythms (the interior body clock) and is a powerful antioxidant associated with the protection of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.

Lysine plays an important role in absorbing and conserving calcium and in the formation of collagen.  Too little lysine in the diet can lead to kidney stones and other health related problems including fatigue, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, agitation, bloodshot eyes, slow growth, anemia, and reproductive disorders. At risk for a low lysine disorder could be vegetarians who follow a macrobiotic diet and athletes involved in frequent vigorous exercise.

Daily requirements and good non-meat sources of specific amino acids

The requirement for the non-essential amino acids has changed considerably over the last 20 years.  The following table lists the recommended daily amounts for adults by the World Health Organization, along with the standard one-letter abbreviation.  (Recommended daily intakes for children during their first year can be as much as 150% higher, and 10-20% higher for children three years and older.)

Important: This chart lists the vegetable/nut/legume sources with the highest amounts of the amino acids per a 200 calorie serving.  However, this may NOT be the most practical source!  For instance, 200 calories of watercress provide an abundance of essential amino acid daily requirements, but having only 4 calories per cup, 200 calories would equate to 50 cups!  Or egg whites are a terrific source of essential amino acids, but 200 calories of egg whites mean you would need to eat 11 eggs!  Not my way of starting the day.  With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of great, enjoyable food sources to meet the daily requirements, at the end of this page.

Amino acid WHO Mg/ kg body weight   WHO Mg/ 55 kg (121 lbs) WHO Mg/ 80 kg (176 lbs) Good dairy/egg sources (per 200 calories) Best vegan sources (per 200 calories)
I Isoleucine 20 1100 1600

Egg whites 2754 mg

Cottage cheese lowfat  2022 mg

Soy protein 2650 mg

Watercress 1691 mg

Chard 1540 mg

Spinach 1322 mg

Sunflower seed flour 1474 mg

Kidney beans 1297 mg

L Leucine 39 2145 3120

Egg whites 4233 mg

Cottage cheese lowfat 3540 mg

 

Soy protein 4226 mg

Watercress 3017 mg

Alfalfa seeds raw 2322 mg

Kidney beans 2103 mg

Tofu 2500mg

Sesame flour 2307 mg

Sunflower seed flour 2148 mg

K Lysine 30 1650 2400

Egg white 3358 mg

Cream cheese 2859 mg

Cottage cheese lowfat 2784 mg

Soy protein 3319 mg

Watercress 2436 mg

Tofu 2253 mg

M Methionine+ C Cysteine 15 (total) 825 1200

Egg whites 1660 mg

Sesame flour 994 mg

Seaweed spirulina 908 mg

Soy protein 690 mg

F Phenylalanine+ Y Tyrosine 25 (total) 1375 2000

Egg whites 2435 mg

Cottage cheese lowfat 1856 mg

Cottage cheese 1489 mg

Cream cheese 1465 mg

Cheddar cheese 1363 mg

Soy protein 2862 mg

Cottonseed flour  1870 mg

Sesame flour 1596 mg

Kidney beans 1473 mg

Spinach 1428 mg

T Threonine 15 825 1200

Egg white 1942 mg

Watercress 2418 mg

Soy protein 1755 mg

Spinach 1496 mg

Sesame seed flour 1250 mg

Sunflower seed flour 1202 mg

Kidney beans  1230 mg

W Tryptophan 4 220 320

Egg white 673 mg

Mozzarella cheese 399 mg

Cottage cheese lowfat  383 mg

Soy protein  695 mg

Spinach 690 mg

Sesame flour 659 mg

Sunflower seed flour 451

Watercress  544 mg

Turnip greens 400 mg

Broccoli rabe 390 mg

Asparagus 322 mg

Kidney beans  303 mg

Oat bran  280 mg

V Valine 26 1430 2080 Egg white 3371 mg

Soy protein 2554 mg

Watercress 2491 mg

Mushrooms, white 193 mg

Sunflower seed flour 1703 mg

Sesame seed flour  1682 mg

Snow/snap peas  1595 mg

Kidney beans 1503 mg

*Some sources claim histidine to also be an essential amino acid as it is additionally required by infants and growing children. Also, cysteine can usually be synthesized by the human body under normal physiological conditions if a sufficient quantity of methionine is available.

Concerns over soy supplements as the main source of amino acids

If you choose to supplement your diet with whey or soy protein, consider the following:  There is a mixed consensus about whether soy contains all of the essential proteins.  Some sources claim that it does.  Others site that it is not complete- missing methionine, while others report that soybeans are “limiting” in methionine and cysteine.

Methionine assists in breaking down fats and thus prevents build-up of fat in the arteries and liver.  Since it is converted to cysteine, it also assists with the removal of heavy metals (including lead) from the body.  It’s also a powerful antioxidant, removing free radicals produced in the natural metabolic processes of the body.

But limiting or lacking in even one amino acid can have serious health implications.  Muscle and other protein structures could be dismantled to obtain the one amino acid that is missing.  Many experts suggest combining soy products with legumes or whole grains to achieve the ideal balance for the body’s requirements.  Or, if relying heavily on soy for protein requirements, it would be good to consume foods high in methionine, such as sesame seeds and brazil nuts.  Except for spinach, potatoes, or corn, most fruits and vegetables contain little methionine.

Cysteine can usually be made by the human body if a sufficient quantity of methionine is available.  Otherwise, cysteine can be found in eggs, milk, whey protein, ricotta, cottage cheese, yogurt, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprouts, oats, granola, wheat germ

An interesting note:  A heavy dose of cysteine may be useful in preventing or combating some of the negative effects of alcohol, including liver damage and hangover.

Concerns over soy-rich diets

The jury is definitely out as to whether consuming a soy-rich diet is good for you .  Many reports indicate that soy’s abundant isoflavones can prevent illness and promote good health.  Isofavones are a type of phytoestrogen, a plant hormone that in chemical structure resembles a weak form of human estrogen.   The isofavones can compete at estrogen receptor sites, blocking the stronger version produced by the body.   Proponents claim that this can reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce menopausal symptoms and can slow or reverse osteoporosis.

Other studies present a strong case supporting the dangers of excess soy consumption, claiming that soy products contain:

  • Phytoestrogens: (isoflavones) genistein and daidzein, which mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen (not a positive result as in the studies above)
  • Phytates: block the body’s uptake of minerals
  • Enzyme Inhibitors: hinder protein digestion
  • Hemagglutinin:  a clot-promoting substance which causes red blood cells to clump together. These clustered blood cells cannot properly absorb oxygen for distribution to the body’s tissues, and are unable to help in maintaining good cardiac health.

With so much conflicting information, I would be hesitant to rely heavily on soy products  or soy-related supplements to satisfy the bulk of my protein requirements.

Best Protein Sources for Vegetarians

I’ve compiled a list of some of the best protein sources within different food groups, comparing what could be considered a normal serving:

Food                                           Amount          Calories    Protein      Notes

Nuts and Seeds

Pumpkin/squash seeds       1 oz, 85 seeds    126 cal        5 gm             all aa in proper ratio

Black walnuts                           1 oz                       173 cal        7 gm            low in lysine

Pine nuts                     1 oz, 167 kernels         190 cal      4 gm         low in lysine

Roasted almonds         1 oz, 22 count             171 cal       6gm         low in lysine and methionine

Pistachios                     1 oz 49 count              161 cal        6gm          all aa in proper ratio

Sunflower seeds                     1 oz                  166 cal         5 gm         low in lysine

Peanuts without shells           1 oz                   160 cal         7 gm         low in lysine

Cashews                         1 oz 18 kernels         164 cal          4 gm        all aa in proper ratio

Hemp seeds                            2 T                   160 cal         11gm         all aa in proper ratio

Flax seeds                               1 T                    100 cal         4 gm

 

Dairy Products

Ricotta cheese lowfat                ½ c          171 cal              14 gm        all aa  high in lysine

Romano cheese                       1 oz           108 cal               9 gm         all aa in proper ratio

Cheddar cheese                       1 oz           113 cal               7 gm         all aa in proper ratio

Provolone cheese                    1 oz             98 cal                7 gm        all aa  high in lysine

Mozzarella                              1 oz              71 cal               7 gm        all aa high in lysine

Parmesan                                 1 oz            116 cal                7 gm       all aa high in lysine

Gouda cheese                           1 oz           100 cal                 8 gm       all aa high in lysine

Swiss cheese                            1 oz            100 cal                8gm        all aa high in lysine

Feta cheese                      ½ c crumbled      200 cal              21 gm       all aa

Cottage cheese 2% low fat      1 cup          163 cal               28 gm       all aa

Egg                                       1 whole           77 cal               6 gm         all aa

Egg whites                           1 whole           16 cal                4 gm         all aa

Milk                                      1 cup              137 cal             10 gm        all aa

Yogurt low fat                      1 cup               137 cal            14 gm        low in tryptophan

 

Vegetables

Corn yellow canned             2/3 cup               80 cal              3 gm        high in lysine

Sun-dried tomatoes          ½ cup (1 oz)           72 cal             4 gm         lacks 5 aa

Soy beans                             1 oz                      35 cal            4 gm        all aa, but a little low in methionine+cystine, phenylalanine+tyrosine

Cowpeas (blackeyes)          2 oz                       74 cal               4 gm         all aa

Navy beans                        4 oz                         88 cal              8 gm         all aa, low in methionine + cystine

Peas                                    4 oz                      108 cal               8 gm      all aa except no trypotophan

Lima beans                         4 oz  cal                88 cal                5 gm       all aa, low in methionine + cystine

Brussel sprouts                    1 cup                    65 cal               6 gm.    low in leucine, lysine, methionine + cystine, phenylalanine + tyrosine

Spinach                            1 cup chopped        65 cal                6 gm      low in methionine + cystine

Broccoli                            1 cup spears           52 cal               6 gm      low in methionine + cystine

Potato                               1 med with skin     161 cal              4 gm     all aa in proper ratio

Asparagus                         ½ cup                     20 cal                2 gm    all aa in proper ratio

 

Fruits

Apricots dried                    ½ cup                   190 cal              3 gm       low in methionine + cystine

Peaches dried                     ½ cup                   185 cal             3 gm       low in trptophan and lysine

 

Cereal, bread, grains and pasta

Oat bran                              1 oz                     59 cal               5 gm       low in lysine

Oats                                     1 oz                   109 cal              5 gm        low in lysine

Wheat flour                          1 oz                    95 cal             4 gm         low in lysine

Spaghetti, whole wheat     dry 2 oz              198 cal              8 gm         low in lysine

Egg noodles                      dry 2 oz               219 cal              8 gm          low in lysine

Buckwheat                           1 oz                    96 cal              4 gm        all aa in proper ratio

Couscous dry                       1 oz                  105 cal               4 gm          low in lysine

Bulgur                             dry 1 oz                  96 cal               3 gm          low in lysine

Millet raw                             1 oz                 106 cal               3 gm         low in lysine

Bread, pumpernickel           1 slice                 65 cal               2 gm          low in lysine

Bread, reduced cal white      1 slice               48 cal               2 gm         low in lysine

Rice, brown long grain cooked  1 cup         216 cal               5 gm         low in lysine

White rice, cooked               1 cup                194 cal              4 gm         low in lysine

Whole wheat bread              1 slice                 69 cal              4 gm         low in all aa except tryptophan

White bread                         1 slice                 67 cal             2 gm         low in lysine

Oatmeal bread                     1 slice                 73 cal             2 gm         low in lysine

Rye bread                            1 slice                 83 cal             2 gm         low in lysine

Whole wheat pita bread    4” diameter           74 cal             3 gm         low in lysine

Pita white enriched            4” diameter          77 cal              3 gm        low in lysine

 

Combination suggestions

If low in lysine-  Combine with ricotta, provolone, gouda, mozzarella, parmesan, gruyere, swiss cheese, soy, tuna, salmon

If low in tryptophan-  Combine with oat bran, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds,  black walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios, almonds, cod, lobster, tuna

If low in methionine + cystine, :phenylalanine + tyrosine  combine with chestnuts, brazil nuts, halibut, oatmeal, sesame seeds, oat bran, eggs

Sources and more information

103 Comments

 

Comments

  1. What a great blog! I stumbled upon you thanks to a Twitter re Health Blog Helper from Remarkablogger. I am vegetarian, and most of the time run and do weight classes in the gym (Bodypump), but every so often I don’t have the energy for either!! I’m sure a lot of this comes down to protein. I’m going to try studying some of the stuff here and see if I can use it to tweak what I do! Thanks for the info, and good luck with your great work here!

    • Hey Christine, I’m glad you found me! You could be right that it’s the protein. I do well just eating a variety of foods and not worrying about grams of protein or anything like that. But for some people, that doesn’t work. When I’m feeling a lack of energy, it’s because I’ve been eating junk vegetarian food (pizza, fake meats, not enough substantial food). Keep me posted with how it goes!

      • In response to your Sept. 8th reply to Christine–you said that when you feel a lack of energy it’s because of junk vegetarian food, and you out fake meats. How do you feel about protein sources such as Morningstar? Please be kind–I love some of their food, such as the Chicken tenders and the Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza Burger! I don’t give my 1-year-old any meat, but I do give him Morningstar as a protein source. I also give him edamame.

        • Wendy, I think some of the Morningstar protein sources are ok; I just try not to eat too much processed soy. Some of the “fake meats” are made without soy, so there are definitely some good ones out there (and maybe Morningstar makes some no-soy things). I don’t think soy is bad; it’s just processed soy that I try to avoid. And definitely edamame is good, since it’s not processed!

      • Hey there,

        Thought I’d drop back and let you know how things were going. Over the last months I’ve made a concerted effort to eat real food – so meals made fresh from a mixture of vegetables, beans, lentils, seeds, quinoa, nuts, and a small amount of carb like rye bread, potato, rice, or pasta – and it has made all the difference. So long as I do this, and keep high GI carbs out of the equation as much as possible, my energy is consistently good.

        Thanks for your help!

  2. Great stuff here! I’d love to post a link from my blog! I think it’s so important for vegetarians not to rely on soy as their sole protein source; you’ve done a great job highlighting the combinations available. I know that I feel best with lots of protein, with much of it coming from non-meat sources.

    • Soy is Genetically engineered food. Almost, most of it, now. Those Silk soy products, for ex., come from GMO plants since Monsanto, etc. have taken over most of the growing. I look
      for non-GMO Tofu. relying on one source of protein means you may not be getting all your amino acids in the right ratio. Vary the diet. get some organic eggs from a local farm/producer. Change up your meal plans every once in a while. Breakfast: Oatmeal, then eggs one day, then yogurt, then corn grits, back to eggs, buckwheat pancakes, back to oatmeal, etc. Do the same with Lunch, dinner. Variety. and you can add “boosters”, like adding shredded cheese to the grits or nuts to the oatmeal. Have some grass fed beef. or fish. a couple times a week. Cottage cheese/feta cheese added to salad. or with beets. good combo with balsamic vinegar. Beans/Lentils, Quinoa/cous cous or homemade tobuli made with bulghar wheat and parsley/lemon juice, add chopped tomatoes/cucumbers. Easy to make. Do it while watching your favorite show. A lot of the prep work for this stuff can even be done while sitting. Chickpeas are a good “booster” to add.

  3. Great information! I was a aware of the need to combine certain foods to maximise their useable protein content, and this is a really good guide for how to do it. The nutritional requirements for my large frame are high, especially with the wight training I do. Being smart about which food combinations I injest will save me $$$ along with its other benefits.

  4. I am a vegetarian and a runner as well (though not of your caliber). A friend of mine recommended your blog and I love it! Have you tried quinoa? I use it in several recipes. http://www.quinoa.net/

  5. I recently had a 4 day vegan trial, and it scared me just a little. I want to move towards a flexitarian diet. I know that it is not vegetarian, but at least it is better than eating meat 3 times a day everyday. I grew up eating meat with practically every meal, but the environmental impacts/ways animals are treated are frightening. Thanks for posting this info!! I love to see the science!

    • Hi Nicole. It’s funny that you mention how the vegan thing is a little scary; I’ve eaten a lot of vegan meals recently and noticed how easy it was compared to when I first considered what it would be like to eat vegan. I started as a pescetarian, then gradually got the desire to get rid of the fish, and recently I’ve WANTED to move away from dairy products. It’s amazing how natural it feels when you make the progression slowly. I think flexitarian is a great place to start, and even if you stay there, that’s nothing to be ashamed of compared to the way most people eat. Good luck!

    • fyi check out alicia silverstone’s book, it is about that flexitarian sort of thing

      she really cares about the vegan responsibility dealie so at least she is coming from the right place

    • Little steps. Have meat at only one meal a day. then try skipping a day here and there. Nothing says you have to have the usual Three on your plate: meat, potatoes/vegetable. Why can’t it be TWO Veggies and whole grain rice? for example. Why not a sandwich and soup? We used to have grilled cheese/tomato soup night often when I was growing up. Or eggs for dinner. If you have pancakes for breakfast, you don’t get ice cream that day. that’s like 2 desserts. make a homemade blueberry pie. half the sugar. Eat that for lunch. Mix it up. who says you always have to follow the Leave it to Beaver three meals a day Plan? Sometimes I just “graze” all day, never really eating a whole “meal” at once, all day.

  6. Great list and good info, but it seems a little incomplete. Quinoa has all the essential amino acids (http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/10352/2). And it seems like a lot of others are missing as well. Nonetheless, I’m glad you have info up about this!

    • Thank you Tracy! Like I said, my mom put it together… I don’t really look at that sort of info and just eat a variety of foods. But I’ll see if she’s willing to give it another read over.

  7. I’m loving your blog, but this has to be the most complex explanation of protien I’ve ever read on a blog. Your mother sure is interested in protien facts.

    The short version: eat from at least 2 groups (Grains / Vegetables / Nuts / Legumes) and your covered. Have you ever tried to not eat from at least 2 of those groups in a day? I mean come on; rice and bananas all day is about the only way you could manage it. If you can pack down rice with nothing on it for 3 squares a day there’s something different about you.

    If Tim VanOrden can run like he does on a “no protien” raw diet, I’m sure your mother was probably more upset about the lack of fat in her diet than the protien. It’s easy to convince yourself your body is craving protien when really your hankering for a nice hunk of saturated fat.

  8. Awesome blog!
    As a vegetarian my main source of protein is mycoprotein which is derived from a mushroom like fungis. Only one brand, quorn, makes fake meats with this. I prefer it over soy based proteins simply because I don’t like the taste of a good portion of the soy products Ive tried.

  9. This is really one of the best discussions I’ve seen on amino acids and the “protein myth.” Thanks so much for sharing. I usually eat meat for lunch and dinner, but I also eat a wide variety of vegies and legumes as well. I think I’m inspired to try to ditch the meat for a week and see where it takes me and how I feel!

    • Thanks Dana, glad it helps you. Your diet sounds similar to mine a while ago; I ate very healthy food but still a lot of meat. Everything got so much better when I gave up the meat. You should at least try.

  10. Wow! That is the most comprehensive protein information I have ever seen on one page! Great research! Good job. Cheers

  11. Hi!

    As an athlete, I love this post as I am going back and forth with remaining a meat-eater or becoming a vegetarian.

    This is one of the few posts that clearly outlines what I need to eat to eat to maintain my protein requirements as a vegetarian. THe only issue is cooking time. As a business owner, I don’t have a lot of time to cook – is it possible to provide a post on quick recipes that account for all your protein requirements plus nutrients as an athlete (without the use of supplements)?

    Also, other than Scott Jurek, would you know who else is pure vegetarian runner? I’m writing a post on my blog about vegetarian runners and was wondering who else I can add.

    cheers!

    Alok

    • Hey Alok,

      Thanks for the post suggestion. I’ll think about that one and see if I can come up with enough material for it.

      As for pure-veggie runners, I really don’t know any other than Scott Jurek. I’m sure there are some; I just don’t really follow the pros (if they are that) very carefully. Brendan Brazier might be an obvious one. He’s a vegan triathlete who has a few books out.

      • Love the site Matt…

        I am a vegan athlete since 2007, prior to that I was a huge meat eater. I listened to a presentation about a raw food diet and how the health benefits were incredible. After that I spent about 2-3 weeks doing a lot of research on the vegan topic and decided I would give it a try to see if it helped my running.

        I became a Vegan cold turkey and within 3 days found I had more energy in the afternoons. Within two months I ran my fastest race in a while and won a bronze and silver medal at the World Masters Track & Field Championships. Two years later I would win two silver and a bronze at the World’s. This past winter I ran my fastest race in 10 years and won silver at the World indoor championships.

        To be getting faster at age 46 is not usual and I attribute a big part of it to the vegan diet.

        Since I became vegan I am much more aware of the animal rights and environmental aspects of being vegan. It is interesting how I turned a blind eye to it when eating meat.

        I only wish that I had known about the benefits when I was competing in the Olympics many years ago, who knows how much better I would have done :-)

        Keep up the great work.

        Cheers…

        • Hi Paul, thanks for your comment. It’s truly inspiring that you’ve seen such improvements at your age, especially for someone who was already performing at an elite level before becoming vegan.

          I look forward to hearing more from you and I hope you keep reading and commenting! Are you a raw-food guy too, or just vegan?

          • Could not make the transition to raw food. Not because I don’t think it would help more because I just don’t have the time to really be able to prepare all of the meals to be totally Raw. I would say I am about 50 -60% raw. Maybe one day I will make the complete transition.

  12. This is so great! I looked over the protein section before, but was particularly interested today since I’m trying to eat vegan as often as possible. Who knew that pumpkin seeds, pistachios, and cashews (my favorite) were complete proteins? I’m excited to make my own trail mix for snacks with these. Is there a difference between when “all aa” is written next to a food and “all aa in proper ratio”? Or are those two sentences saying the same thing?

    • Amanda, my guess is that when she wrote it, she meant “all aa in proper ratio” to mean more than “all aa.” While “all aa” has all the amino acids, perhaps they are not in the proper ratio. I wish I knew more. I like this document and a lot of people seem to appreciate it, but I don’t fully understand it myself!

  13. Thanks for this blog. I found it really helpful. I’ve been eating vegetarian for about 2 weeks now and I’ve been trying to do the proper research to make sure I get all the essential nutrients I need. I like to jog and I noticed that for the last 2 days I was feeling a little low on energy and lightheaded at times so I’m thinking that I might not be getting the right combination of aa’s particularly lysine. Hoppefully I’ll be able to fix that. Thanks alot for the info! Btw, can anyone tell me if consuming Hempseed oil is just as good as the seeds themselves?

    • I forgot to mention but I also wanted to know if you tell me where lentils might fit into that chart? Do they contain all the essential aa’s?

      • What can anyone tell me anything useful about chia seeds? I’m hearing alot about them and people are talking about them like they’re a miracle food. How are they as far as protein goes? Do they have other significant nutritional value? Thanks for any help..

    • Jesse, also consider iron deficiency as a cause of fatigue; that’s not uncommon among vegetarians and vegans who don’t make sure they’re getting enough.

      Hempseed oil is not a substitute for whole hempseed. The oil is valuable as a source of good fats, but it doesn’t have the protein, carbohydrate, and fiber that the whole seed does.

      To answer your questions in your other comments, I’m not sure about lentils and amino acids, but that should be easy to look up. They are a favorite protein and complex carb source of mine. And I believe that chia does have a decent amount of protein per volume, but you’d need to eat a lot of chia to really get a significant amount. So you probably can’t treat that as a primary protein source. I believe it’s the omega-3 fatty acid content that makes people call chia a miracle food.

  14. I have been a vegatarian for about 15+ years now (I’m currently 28). I wandered into a GMC shop (where they sell powders and whatnot) to see if they had any chews for my longer runs. What ensued was a lengthy conversation about what my diet is lacking. The guy said I need fish oil, a hearty multi-vitamin and protein powder to help sustain the necessary amino acids in my body. I remarked that 15 years without was doing me just fine to which he cited I was still young. I am not an exemplary vegetarian by any means but I do know I need to start being more aware of the amino acids, vitamins and proteins I’m getting (or not getting in this case). Any suggestions regarding dietary supplements?

    Thanks!

    • Beth, that’s kinda funny. Of course those people want you to buy supplements. And I’m sure they’re trained to believe that high-protein should be the goal of all diets.

      I think iron might be important, maybe an omega-3 oil (from plants), and I like hemp protein too, though it doesn’t really provide all that much protein. And I take greens powder. I’m not the examplary vegetarian either, though. Check out Brendan Brazier’s books, he talks about supplements and other whole foods that do the job of many supplements. He’s more exemplary than we are!

  15. Thank you for the FANTASTIC information!! I’ve been looking for this kind of resources. I love weight training, but lately have had a lack of desire for traditional proteins (meat, fish). So good to know someone out there has this info. Thank you for sharing!

  16. Sabine B. says:

    Your Blog is great. I am so happy to have stumble upon it. I have been a vegetarian for 5 years and have recently decided to become a vegan. I’m also training for my first marathon and I want to make sure I’m geeting enough nutrients. Thanks alot for sharing your knowledge.
    Sabine B.

  17. JAMES SMOTHERS says:

    Amino acids-carrots have 20 of the 22 amino acids. Add carrot juice to any recipe for a energy drink. Also bread and flour and grain products are not souble in water, this can clog up the system. I think all grains and dairy should not be in your diet. I have arrived at this opinion through reading different authors.

  18. Matt, I LOVE your site, it’s super informative. I’ve been on and off a vegan/raw vegan diet for a few years now, and am finally ready to make the switch to a high raw vegan diet, once and for all. I noticed in one of your comments above that you mentioned not knowing of a Pro Vegan Runner other than maybe Brendan. Well, Tim Van Orden is a Raw Vegan in his 40s, who is winning races all over the place! He’s absolutely done amazing things after he switched to a Raw Vegan diet. I definitely recommend you look him up: http://www.runningraw.com/

    Thanks again for putting this site together, I’m thoroughly enjoying it!

  19. P.S. for one of the BEST lectures I’ve ever heard on the “Protein Myth”, check out Tim Van Orden’s video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae-dlHOmwk4&feature=player_embedded

    IF that link doesn’t work, try watching on his site:
    http://runningraw.com/popular.html

  20. Concerned about my health, I started searching for alternative protein sources before I reduced/gave up meat.
    Thank you for compiling this great list of protein sources for vegetarians. I will use it as a guide toward my journey to a healthier life style.

    Best wishes!

  21. Wonderful, wonderful information thank you so much for presenting it so well. I can see a lot of work has gone into producing this site. A great read for people detoxing or colon cleansing who are looking for alternative protein foods rather than meat. After reading your content they may well decide to cut out meat altogether!

  22. Hi, I stumbled upon your web site, & I love it. I’ve been lacto/ovo for about 2 yrs and don’t think I’ll ever go back to meat. I get most of my protein from low fat dairy and beans along with whey powders. Everything is great, but I have lost a little strength over time. I’m not a “runner” I run a couple of times a week mixed in with other cardio workouts. I’ve always been more of a weight lifter. Like I said I’ve lost a little strength in some of my lifts and have been thinking of adding some more protein to my diet and found this article very helpful. I will continue to read your posts. Have you found any similar veggie blogs geared more toward the weight lifting crowd? Keep up the good work

  23. sprouted lentils provide complete protein, and they are so easy to make i’ve always got a tub of them in my fridge for a zero preparation snack

  24. I’m so glad to have found your blog! I recently decided to become a vegetarian and I’m really trying to eat only fresh, local and organic foods. I grew up eating meat with every meal, so when I told my family about my decision protein was a big concern, especially since I play rugby and started competing in triathlons. From your post and from how you describe your eating habits, as long as I eat a variety of foods I don’t need to overwhelm myself with protein worry! Thank you for your post!!

  25. naturalmelisa says:

    As was already stated by so many others-I do best when I DON’T try to count levels of protein in each vegetable/fruit/grain, etc. I just try to rotate a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, as well as keep the greenest leafy veggies I can find in mmy fridge on the weekly basis. I love sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds! I have to do better with my grain intake, though. I used to have such a low energy level-NOT anymore!:)

  26. well hopefully this do helps because I have been a vegetarian for almost 7 months and I am in my school’s swimming team which leaves me with no energy to even drive and I am worried about the long term effects and I am also loosing some hair. I want to eat healthier but my family isn’t vegetarian and they don’t really support me but they get mad because I don’t eat, but what am I supposed to eat if all it is in my house is white breads (I’m not fan of bread) and meat. They do have vegetables but just lettuce and tomatoes usually. Hopefully I can make them understand that i need their support. I am going to start eating more of your list (:

  27. Hi,
    Love your site.
    I’m 57 years old & have been a vegetarian since I was 16 years old. I’m moving towards a vegan diet. I do however eat greek yogurt. I agree with No Meat Athlete, an assortment of nuts, grains, legumes, fruits & veggies is the healthiest way to go. I train at Krav Maga Worldwide 6 times a week (Where most of the atheletes are on the paleo diet :() & am now running off to a 4 hour Olympic lifting class. My kids call me the Enegizer Bunny. I feel fit & healthy & plan to keep doing what I’m doing for many years to come :)

  28. I love this website! I am grateful my running buddies put me onto your blog! I have been vegetarian for the past 20 years and am moving to full vegan on January1st! I have been using fish oil (1500 mg of Omega 3/6) twice a day. Can you recommend an alternative to the Omega oil from what im currently using? I am using Nordic Naturals Fish oil. but once i go vegan, i am not goinng to be conntinuing w/ Nordic. My capsuls will run out on Saturday! Any suggestions would be helpful.

  29. Thank you for this! I have been vegetarian for about a year and a half now, however I suspect that I’m not getting enough protein. I’m printing this list and posting it on my fridge! Hopefully I can start getting my diet balanced out a little better.

  30. Thanks for the info! It really helped!

  31. carlos concepcion says:

    I just want to say thank u! U are a god send. I used to run marathons when I used to eat meat but I’ve recently turned vegetarian (1/2 year now) and was not sure if i could run another marathon with the same power as I used to. And the fact I’m toying with the idea of competing in a triathlon. This will help a lot in my training!

    • Bill Pearl who was a 3 time Mister Universe champion was also vegetarian. I have no doubt you can do a triathlon on a vegetarian diet. Try 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 10 oz of your favorite juice to boost your energy. It works great for me on long runs. This idea was mentioned in “Born To Run,” by Christopher McCullough. Tarahumara Indians made a similar brew with chia seeds that helped them on ultra marathon runs.

      Good luck!

  32. i like u r site i am in search of proteins which help me in building blocks of the body can u please help me.

  33. … been a vegetarian since ’94 but have not consciously monitored my protein intake. However I have been very active physically (5 marathons, moderate weight lifting between runs and a little rock climbing). At 64 years young, I have no doubt you can get sufficient protein from non-meat sources.

    Thanks for the research. It is very helpful.

  34. I have been a vegetarian for a year and a half, but before that I never really cared for the taste of meat or seafood. Thank you for this website!! It has so much information. I love it. I hate when people ask me where I’m getting my protein from now. I eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and beans. I’m healthier now than ever before.

  35. my mom is 55 years lady she has lose some percent of eyes power please tell me what kinds of foods,can increase my mom eyes power.

  36. Brande Harris says:

    Hi, I am a doctor and I have an editorial recommendation , if you don’t mind. Instead of recommending that people “talk to their doctor” you should recommend they “ask their doctor for a referral to a dietician” I tell you from experience, none of the doctors I work with are well versed enough in diet and exercise to give rational advice. Otherwise, no complaints with your work! In fact, I’m going to be transitional to a more vegetarian lifestyle myself. (and subscribing to your newsletter in about a week) Thank you for your efforts!

  37. Thank you so much, I’m a soccer player and I’ve been noticing a huge decrease in energy I have when I run, and I’m on a tight schedule and we are put on strict diets, my diet was already strict with being a vegetarian and I had to cut down on my fat/calorie ratio and lately I’ve been feeling lightheaded and nauseous. This could really, really help me with my problem, thank you very much.

  38. I’m an extreme novice. I am reading this website and the above list has indicated that bread and cheese are acceptable proteins if properly combined. However, I was under the assumption based on prior articles that these products are not vegan. Please advise. Thanks so much :)

  39. Vegans do not eat any animal products, no cheese, no animal milk, no eggs, etc. Vegetarians and the res can/do eat such. I have been a vegetarian because I don’t put in enough effort to be vegan. The beginning charts do indicate difference but afterwards do not. If you become a vegan or vegetarian or already are, just be careful, smart, take vitamins or consult your doctor for helpful tips (instead of getting advise from an adolescent).

  40. It says this site is Vegetarian (at the very top/beginning).

  41. Have a lovely day!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Notes: It was ok… not as good as some in the past. I would like to get some kind of more tasty protein, although I read that whey and soy are not so great. […]

  2. […] There are plenty of protein sources for vegetarians With the rise of imitation meats, it’s easier than ever for a vegetarian to compensate for the lack of meat, even though it’s not really necessary for the sake of protein.  Almost all foods have some protein, so it’s really hard to not get enough each day. “I’ve compiled a list of great, enjoyable food sources to meet the daily requirements.” Vegetarian Proten […]

  3. […] Update — just stumbled on this website last week, and just tonight realized he has an entire page devoted to protein.. scroll down about 1/2 way to find tables showing best sources of protein, whether you’re […]

  4. […] or educating myself on complete proteins – despite the great resources out there (hello, No Meat Athlete!).  I think I was a little cocky and figured I eat pretty healthfully so I don’t need to […]

  5. Marathon Mom says:

    […] good alternative protein sources, I rely a lot on quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, tofu and yogurt. No Meat Athlete has a great list. I managed to run 50-60 mph and breastfeed on a vegetarian diet for 2 […]

  6. […] and paused to quickly check the protein, fat & GI values of the ingredients.  After a bit of inspiration and lots of fractions, division, and multiplication, I ended up with something that is both […]

  7. […] greek yogurt, cottage cheese, peanut butter, and broccoli.  No Meat Athlete has a great page here on the […]

  8. […] amino-acids”, meaning it is essential that you ingest them to make your body run properly (source: No Meat […]

  9. […] So, the lowdown on protein is this: you only need about 45 – 70 grams of protein each day depending on gender, age and level of exercise. Or, another way to look at it is proteins should make up between 15 – 30% of your daily calories, which is handy to keep in mind when you’re dividing up your plate. Also, you can get proteins from a variety of sources – not just meat, nuts and soy, but milk, cheese, whole wheat and many vegetables as well. Which are the best sources is a bit of debate, but keeping your meals varied and balanced is always a good way to go and packs more proteins than you think. For a fairly comprehensive look at proteins, check out this article by the US CDC: Protein and this blog that lists out protein-rich foods and serving-sizes: The No-meat Athlete.  […]

  10. […] am vegetarian.One of the best articles I have found about vegetarian sources of protein is this one-Its a must read especially for non-meat eaters like […]

  11. […] With a perfect ration of omega-6 and omega-3 EFA’s, hemp seeds are another bioavailable complete protein rivaled only by spirulina. A simple and great addition to a multitude of dishes, from breakfast cereal to salads to smoothies to vegetables and rice. http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/ […]

  12. […] further information about vegetable composition and concerns of high soy intake: LINK Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… Bookmark the […]

  13. […] http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Uncategorized by alivenwell2012. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  14. […] pseudonym used for killing your food.) Yes protein is found in many meats, but it is also found in almost everything from spinach, fruits, seeds, nuts, almond milk, etc. Thus the need of protein via meat, can be […]

  15. […] in the human body. This blog piece is a condensed version of the information he has given at http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/ (click the link to read more) and gives a background to amino acids as well as providing a list of […]

  16. […] grocery-store safe for consumption), but you’ll save money and diversify your diet. Check out this interesting article about protein-rich meatless options and get cooking! (ps, as an ex-veghead who still prefers […]

  17. […] No meat athlete’s page on vegetarian proteins, here […]

  18. […] A good summary of the various amino acids found in typical vegetarian/vegan foods can be found here. http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/ […]

  19. […] proteins into your diet throughout the day. No Meat Athelete has a long list of where you can find vegetable protein.  Voila! Healthier […]

  20. […]  Sources: youtube, forks over knives, nonmeatathlete.com […]

  21. […] necessary if you’re an athlete that trains for several hours a day. If that applies to you, here is a great post on amino acids, combining vegan proteins and a word on soy-rich diets. But as an […]

  22. […] amino-acids”, meaning it is essential that you ingest them to make your body run properly (source: No Meat […]

  23. […] Vegetarian Protein Foods […]

  24. […] Eier Was ich zukünftig weglassen werde, sind Eier. Laut der Seite “No Meat Athlete” , sind Eier eine Quelle für alle essentiellen Aminosäuren. Würde man diese Aminosäuren rein […]

  25. […] Now here is the link to the table with common foods by food type. Check The meatfreeathlete blog. […]

  26. […] You may need to spend more time researching protein powders than you would chicken or other foods, but that effort pays of if you get the protein you need to reach your goals without spending tons of money on meat or vegetarian protein sources. […]

  27. […] amino acids throughout the day. You could be low on methionine. Apologies if this wasn't helpful. http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein/ ktkun is online now   […]

  28. […] and if you’re still curious about vegan protein sources, check out articles like this one or this one. I love talking about nutrition, so feel free to reach out with any questions, […]

  29. […] you’re a vegetarian, check out this article on how to increase your protein […]

  30. […] See an old No Meat Athlete article for a breakdown of which foods contain which amino acids. […]

  31. […] 6 grams of protein per 1 cup . Matt Frazier of NoMeatAthlete.com has a comprehensive chart of Vegetarian Protein Foods, listing the amino acid, recommended daily amounts from WHO (World Health Organization) and the […]

  32. […] For Vegetarians: Vegetarian Protein Foods via No Meat Athlete […]

  33. […] [+] Matt Frazier (a.k.a NoMeatAthlete)’s guide to vegetarian sources of protein for athletes […]

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