The Truth About Plant Protein & 12 Superior Plant Sources

Whole plant foods contain every single essential amino acid for human health and growth.

That is because plants make all 20 amino acids [SOURCE] [SOURCE 2] therefore we obtain all 20 when we eat them, including the 8 (some say 9 now) essential ones. Humans and animals are only able to synthesize 12 of the 20 amino acids and need to obtain the rest from plants or animals (animals who initially obtained all their essential amino acids from plants)

When eating plants, you don't need to worry about getting "complete protein". And it's not necessary to combine specific protein foods at one sitting to make a complete protein. This is a myth as current science has now proven. All plant based foods have varying amounts of protein and the body will combine proteins from all sources, to get all the "complete protein" that it needs.

Michael Dye says, "It is easier to meet our minimum daily protein requirements than most people would imagine with just plants." 

From the book Becoming Vegan:

        "The amino acids from all animal protein is derived from plants, whether they originated from a cow that ate beans and grain, or from a fish that ate a smaller fish that ate seaweed. People often assume that plants are lacking in some amino acids because that is what they have been told for years. It comes as a surprise to some that plants are the source of all EAAs [essential amino acids]."

Keith Akers from his book, "How Do you Get Enough Protein," states:

     "Virtually all plant foods have all of the essential amino acids; and not only are the amino acids there, they are present in more than enough quantity to meet the needs of normal adults, if you are on a calorically adequate diet.  

It's true that plant foods have more of the requirements of some amino acids than of others. Rice is strong in tryptophan, methionine, and valine, and weak in isoleucine and lysine. But rice protein sufficient to provide 100% of our quantitative protein needs, also provides 265% of the adult male requirement for lysine and 266% of that for isoleucine. (It provides 400% or more of all of the others.)
        The same is true for virtually all other plant foods. In fact, some plant foods which do not quite provide the requirement for total protein, such as sweet potatoes, do provide the minimum requirement for all of the essential amino acids.

        Because of the sufficiency, or overabundance, of plant protein, animal products (milk, cheese, and eggs as well as meat, fish, and poultry) are completely unnecessary for adequate protein nutrition. Breast milk, incidentally, which has provided human infants with adequate protein for hundreds of thousands of years, provides 6% of calories as protein--far less than that of whole cow's milk, which contains 22% of calories as protein." [SOURCE]

A COMPLETE PROTEIN is one in which all the essential amino acids are in the correct proportion.

An INCOMPLETE PROTEIN also has all the essential amino acids, but are too low in one or more of them (a limiting amino acid) to form a complete protein.

Some foods from the plant kingdom, such as soy and quinoa, are complete proteins. But most plant foods have one or more limiting amino acids. Again, these foods are called 'incomplete proteins'.

For example, the limiting amino acid in grains is usually lysine (Lys); in legumes it can be methionine (Met) and tryptophan (Trp). So, the low level of Lys in grains is complemented by a higher level in legumes, and vice versa, to make a complete protein.


        "Despite a widespread belief that vegetarians must eat grains and beans within a few hours of each other in order to make a 'complete' protein which contains all 9 "essential amino acids", this has never been substantiated by research." [SOURCE

This theory was first advocated by Frances Moore Lappe, who mistakenly argued in the first edition of her very influential book, Diet for a Small Planet, that vegetarians should combine proteins at a meal in order to get the same "protein value" as meat. However, nutritionists no longer agree with that theory. The American Dietary Association stated in its 1992 paper, "Eating Well - The Vegetarian Way", "Vegetarians do not need to combine specific foods within a meal as the old 'complementary protein' theory advised. The paper states: "The body makes its own complete proteins if a variety of plant foods - fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds - and enough calories are eaten during the day." In fact, in the 20th Anniversary Edition of her book, Frances Moore Lappe has altered her views in light of the new knowledge about amino acid storage.

Whenever we eat, our body deposits amino acids into a storage bank, and then withdraws them whenever we need them. So, it’s no longer considered necessary to eat complementary proteins together at one sitting, to make complete protein. Your body does that automatically, from all the foods that you eat over the course of a day or so.

        "Although it is possible to induce deficiency of one or more of the individual essential amino acids in a laboratory setting by providing an elemental diet or a diet based on gelatin (the "incomplete" protein that is commonly found in human diets), it would be highly unusual for such a deficiency to occur in a community setting. It is practically impossible to design a diet based on unrefined starches and vegetables that would fail to provide enough protein, including sufficient amounts of all of the essential amino acids, to support human health. Nor is it necessary to combine "complementary" plant sources to provide complete protein" [SOURCE]

Michael Dye says, "A combination of badly outdated animal experiments and self-serving indoctrination disguised as nutritional education has left most people badly misinformed about our body's protein needs."

Protein Amounts
The below listing is based on a 100 gram serving of each (the equivalent of 3.53 ounces) [SOURCE]

SOYBEANS, raw                  36.4 g
PORK, leg, rump half            30.9
CHICKEN, meat only             30.9
WINGED BEANS, raw            29.6
TURKEY, breast, meat, skin   28.7
LAMB, leg                           28.3
LENTILS, raw                      28.0
HALIBUT                             26.6
PEANUTS, raw                     26.1

FAVA BEANS, raw                26.1
SALMON                             25.7
KIDNEY BEANS, raw              25.3
PUMPKIN SEEDS                   24.5
WALNUTS, raw                     24.3
BEEF, ground                       24.0
PINE NUTS                           24
MUNG BEANS, raw                 23.8
SESAME SEEDS                     17

EGG, whole cooked                13.5
EGG, raw                              12.4
PECANS                                9.1
MILK, sheep                          5.9

Cooked Protein Vs. Raw Protein
The best sources of protein are the amino acids in raw foods. Bypassing the steps of breaking down the protein into usable amino acids, your body creates the protein more efficiently since the body spends a great deal of energy taking protein (found in cooked foods) and breaking it down to usable form by the body as amino acids.

And in comparison, cooked foods have lowered amounts of usable protein (up to 50% less) since the heat ‘bonds’ most of the proteins together. This makes them harder to synthesize and lowers the actual amount our bodies can use. It also takes longer (and more energy) for our bodies to process ‘cooked’ proteins into amino acids.

When food is cooked above 117 degrees F for three minutes or longer, the following deleterious changes begin, and progressively cause increased nutritional damage as higher temperatures are applied over prolonged periods of time: proteins coagulate, high temperatures denature protein molecular structure leading to deficiency of some essential amino acids. Denaturation alters protein and makes it unusable or less usable.

According to Britannica, protein molecules are readily altered by heat: Unlike simple organic molecules, the physical and chemical properties of protein are markedly altered when the substance is just boiled in water. Further: All of the agents able to cause denaturat-ion are able to break the secondary bonds that hold the chains in place. Once these weak bonds are broken, the molecule falls into a disorganized tangle devoid of biological function.

Again, according to Britannica the most significant effect of protein denaturation is the loss of the its biological function. For example, enzymes lose their catalytic powers and hemoglobin loses its capacity to carry oxygen. The changes that accompany denaturation have been shown to result from destruction of the specific pattern in which the amino acid chains are folded in the native protein. In Britannica is the acknowledgement that "cooking destroys protein to make it practically useless"

Plant Foods With High Quality Protein
These plant foods are high quality complete proteins. Again, a COMPLETE PROTEIN is one which the essential amino acids are in the correct proportion.


Averaging at 22.5% complete raw food protein, hempseeds are a great staple in any plant based diet. Hemp protein is composed of 65% globular edestin which is considered the most easily digestible form of protein found in the food chain. The other 35% of hemp protein is albumin, which is also another very easily digestible form. Hemp is also a good source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and zinc. A rich source of B vitamins, they also contain vitamins A, D, and K. They are a gluten-free food. High in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Hemp seeds also contain Omega-6 fatty acids in an ideal ratio to Omega-3s, which are both necessary for healthy human nutrition. I use hemp seed in my cereal in the morning. You can also add it to smoothies, salads, soups (add them when the soup is served) etc.

Aztec warriors of Mexico subsisted on chia seeds during their battles and hunting expeditions. Chia is high in complete protein, containing about 23 percent protein. All essential amino acids are appropriately balanced within the protein, making it complete and nutritious in and of itself. Chia is also touted as having the highest omega-3 content of any plant-based source, containing 64 percent alpha linolenic acid (ALA). A great antioxidant source, chia provides high levels of chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and flavanol glycosides. These are all strong polyphenols. Extremely high in calcium. As well as fiber, phosphorus, manganese and zinc. Chia seeds can be made into a drink, added to breakfast cereal, smoothies, juice, etc.

BUCKWHEAT - untoasted
It may surprise some people to learn that buckwheat is actually a fruit even though it is commonly thought to be a grain. When roasted these gems are known as kasha. Buckwheat has more then 90 percent of the protein value of milk solids, and more then 80 percent of eggs. A pound of buckwheat provides protein equivalent to a half-pound of beef. Buckwheat is also rich in many B vitamins as well as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese, chromium, flavonoids, fiber, and fatty acids. The Yi people of China have a diet very high in buckwheat, averaging about 3.5 ounces per person, per day. When researchers tested the blood of 805 Yi, they found that their buckwheat intake was correlated with lower total cholesterol, lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and a high ratio of HDL or “good” cholesterol to total cholesterol. It is low glycemic and gluten-free. Buy raw buckwheat which is light colored, soak and sprout before using/cooking.

TEMPEH - organic non-gmo
Tempeh is a fermented food made by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus mold (tempeh starter). The tempeh fermentation by the Rhizopus mold binds the soybeans into a compact white cake. Tempeh has been a favorite food and staple source of protein in Indonesia for several hundred years. Tempeh contains the high quality protein levels found in soybeans. It is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese and copper, and is low in saturated fat. Since it is fermented, it does not restrict the body's absorption of minerals. Tempeh is high in essential fatty acids, dietary fiber, and the many of the B vitamins including folic acid. Unlike miso, tempeh is very low in sodium and good for anyone on a sodium restricted diet.

LENTILS - sprouted
Unsprouted Lentils are low in two essential amino acids, but when the lentil is sprouted a magical thing happens, the lentils transform to a high quality complete protein [SOURCE] Lentil sprouts are 26% protein. They are rich in A, C, K, E, B1, B2, B3, Calcium, Magnesium, Choline, Boron, Copper, Selenium, Potassium, Iron. The history of lentils goes bad 10,000 years. They also contain coenzymeQ10, SOD and lignans. Lentils are very easy to sprout. They take about 1-2 days. Once sprouted, you can use them in any dish that calls for lentils, or eat them raw.

Spirulina and Chlorella are single-celled algae that are exceptionally complete plant protein foods. They provide two of the best sources for complete proteins. Spirulina is the world's most digestible natural source of high quality protein, surpassing the protein bioavailability of beef (which most people consider to be the #1 source of protein). The digestive absorption of each gram of protein in spirulina is four times greater than the same gram of protein in beef. And since spirulina already contains three times more protein (by weight) to begin with, the net result is that, ounce for ounce, spirulina offers twelve times more digestible protein than beef. Chlorella and spirulina are both about 70% protein. They both also contain a wide variety of minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids, vitamins, anti oxidants and pigments.  They are said to be the most complete food source, in themselves, for human and animal alike. Be sure to find a trusted supplier of each to get a pure product.

The avocado is one of the most valuable foods which nature has given humans. It is a complete protein and is bursting with nutrients--vitamins, A, B-complex, C, E, H, K, and folic acid, plus the minerals magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, potassium and many other trace elements. Avocados also contain 7 fatty acids including omega 3 and 6. They contain more protein than cow’s milk, about 2% per edible portion. A small avocado will provide more usable protein then a huge steak because cooked protein in meat is deranged and mostly unavailable to our liver, the organ which makes all of our body’s protein. [SOURCE]

The Incas considered it a sacred food and referred to it as the mother seed and gold of the Incas. Quinoa's protein is of an unusually high quality and it is perhaps one of the most perfect non-animal sources of protein on the planet. It is especially high in lysine, methionine and cystine. Quinoa is an excellent source of dietary fiber, containing both soluble and non-soluble fiber. It is high in a variety of vitamins and minerals, especially manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus. High in fiber. It is low-glycemic, gluten-free and easy to digest. Raw quinoa should be sprouted before use to activate its natural enzymes and boost its vitamin content

When sprouted sunflower seeds turn into a complete protein. They are also high in vitamins A, C, E, B1, B5, Folate, Manganese, Magnesium, Copper, Selenium, Potassium, and Phosphorus. They are about 20-25% protein. A highly nutritious food.

Goji berries contain the essential amino acids in a perfect amount making it a complete protein. The berries also contain 21 trace minerals including: calcium, copper, germanium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. For vitamin content they contain vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-complex, and vitamin E. They contain a vast array of unique carotenoids, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Among these it is also believed by many to be one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet.
Soak the berries before use to minimize the concentration of sugar.

NUTRITIONAL YEAST - and brewer's yeast
Nutritional yeast is a complete protein. It is up to 55% high quality protein. In addition, it has 15 minerals in it. One of the important health benefits of nutritional yeast is that it is a rich source of vitamin B complex and chromium, both substances that are easy to be deficient in. The yeast also contains high levels of selenium and zinc. I like to sprinkle nutritional yeast on popcorn, or in soups.

Bee pollen is approximately 25% complete protein containing at least 18 amino acids. In addition, bee pollen provides more than a dozen vitamins, 28 minerals, 11 enzymes or
co-enzymes, 14 beneficial fatty acids, 11 carbohydrates, and is rich in minerals, the full spectrum of vitamins, antioxidants, hormones. It is low in calories. People agree that the bee pollen nutritional profile is one of the most complete in the world. Start out slow with bee pollen (one granule) to determine if you have an allergy.
My Picks!             

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