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Vegan protein sources: the best plant-based protein sources

Vegan protein sources are in no way inferior to animal proteins and also have many health benefits. But which plant-based foods are particularly rich in protein?

Table of contents:
  • Benefits of plant-based protein sources
  • Plant-based protein sources: The top 5
  • Almond, oat, soy drink: is plant milk a good vegan protein source
  • Combining plant-based protein sources - the optimal vegan protein supply

Advantages of plant-based protein sources

Most people associate protein with animal products. Meat, eggs and quark have long been considered the ultimate when it comes to building muscle, especially in the fitness industry. Fortunately, this is slowly changing. Numerous studies, athletes and fitness influencers have shown that plant-based protein also helps muscles grow. What's more, it's not only the better choice for environmental reasons, but also from an ethical and health perspective.

Read more about this topic in the blog post Muscle building: animal or plant protein?

Protein and its building blocks - amino acids - are not only needed to build muscle. Amino acids are also required for the formation of antibodies, enzymes and hormones. Essential amino acids (EAA) play a particularly important role here. The body cannot produce them itself and they must be ingested in sufficient quantities through food. You can read more about the various tasks of EAA here.

Protein is found in almost all foods, including bread, potatoes and mushrooms. The concern that a vegan diet does not provide enough protein is therefore usually unfounded. Those who rely on vegan protein sources also provide their bodies with plenty of fiber and phytochemicals. There is no need to worry about harmful ingredients such as cholesterol and saturated fatty acids with plant-based proteins.

How much protein do you need?

You should consume at least 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a woman weighing 65 kg, this would be 52 g of protein per day. Athletes* have a higher requirement, depending on the type of sport and training intensity, it can be 1.4-1.8 g per kg of body weight.

A protein-rich, plant-based diet has many benefits. Protein satiates longer than other macronutrients, promotes muscle growth and protects against muscle loss in old age or during training breaks. Many diets and weight loss concepts therefore rely on a protein-rich diet. You can read more about this topic in the blog post Protein: Why it makes you slim.

Fancy a protein-rich snack? Then take a look in our store!

Plant-based sources of protein: The top 5

Pulses: soybeans, lentils, chickpeas & Co.
Pulses (legumes) are rightly considered the best plant-based source of protein. Lentils, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, peas, lupins and peanuts provide plenty of protein. Soybeans are the best source of protein. They not only have a particularly high protein content, but also a high biological value.

Edamame, the currently popular unripe soybean seeds, have a protein content of 14 g per 100 g, for example. Foods made from soybeans such as tofu or tempeh are also good sources of plant-based protein. Due to their high protein content, pulses often form the basis of meat substitute products. We also use pulses such as peas and soy in our protein powders.

You can also read more about soy in the blog post Eat more soy: this is how healthy pulses are!

Ideally, pulses should be part of your daily diet. Thanks to the wide range and numerous forms of preparation, this is possible without any problems. Peas, lentils and beans are available in many different varieties, are inexpensive and provide many other health-promoting ingredients in addition to their high protein content.

How about a delicious bean goulash or chickpea patties, for example? Freshly cooked edamame, roasted chickpeas or delicious guacamole made from peas combined with our protein chips make a protein-rich snack. Did you know that chickpeas, kidney beans & Co. can also be used to conjure up sweet dishes? You can find plenty of inspiration in our recipe collection - e.g. our chickpea-based cookie dough sandwich or protein bars with white beans.guacamole made from peas

To the recipes

Quinoa

Quinoa comes from South America and was already an important source of protein for the Incas. The pseudocereal contains 14 g protein/100 g. Quinoa is used in a similar way to rice; you can use it as a side dish, conjure up delicious salads or prepare it as a sweet breakfast porridge. Compared to many other (pseudo) grains, quinoa not only has a higher protein content, but also a high biological value (83).

What is the biological value?

When it comes to protein, it's not just the quantity that matters, but also the quality. The most important criterion here is the extent to which the composition of the amino acids in the dietary protein matches our body's own protein. A high biological value means that all the amino acids we need to build protein are present in sufficient quantities. A low biological value means that one or more amino acids are not or not sufficiently present (= limiting amino acid).

Amaranth

Amaranth is also a South American pseudocereal. It is mainly found in muesli here, but can also be used in savory dishes. For example, there is also amaranth flour for baking. Like quinoa, amaranth is characterized by a high protein content (approx. 15 g/100 g). However, its biological value is slightly lower (75).

Cereals

Our local cereals are also suitable for meeting protein requirements. Spelt (15 g/100 g) and oats (approx. 14 g/100 g) have the highest protein content. However, the biological value is lower than that of pseudocereals, as the content of the amino acids lysine and threonine is lower.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts provide healthy fats (e.g. the essential alpha-linolenic acid) and should not be missing from your diet. But their protein content is also impressive. Hazelnuts, for example, contain 12 g, almonds 19 g and pistachios 21 g of protein per 100 g. Kernels and seeds are also rich in protein. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds lead the way with around 23 g protein/100 g. Due to their high calorie content, nuts and seeds should be eaten in moderation, but they can still supplement your protein supply.

Vegan protein powders and EAA

In our list, we have limited ourselves to unprocessed protein sources. Protein powders are often used to cover the protein supply. Protein powders can be helpful if, for example, there is an increased requirement or there is no time to cook. If certain food groups cannot be consumed - e.g. due to an intolerance - protein powders are also an ideal supplement. If you want to improve the quality of your protein intake, you can also use EAAs and provide your body with only the essential amino acids.

Almond, oat and soy drinks: is plant milk a good source of vegan protein? A wide range of plant-based milk alternatives can now be found on supermarket shelves. There are drinks based on soy, almond, oats, rice, peas or even hemp. The vegan milk alternatives differ not only in taste and consistency, but also in their protein content. At around 3.2 g protein per 100 ml, soy milk contains the most protein and is therefore comparable to cow's milk in terms of protein content. Pea milk is also a good source of protein. With approx. 3.6 g per 100 ml, it even puts soy and cow's milk in the shade. However, plant drinks based on rice, almonds or oats contain comparatively little protein (approx. 0.5 g/100 ml). Hemp and lupin drinks are in the middle with approx. 1.5-2 g/100 ml.

Do you only use oat or almond milk for your favorite muesli? Then you can easily increase the protein content by adding some neutral protein powder. Stirred into muesli or porridge, protein powder provides you with an extra portion of protein and keeps you full for a long time. If you fancy a delicious chocolate or vanilla flavor, you can of course also use flavored protein powders.

To the 3K protein

Combining plant-based protein sources - the optimal vegan protein supply Animal proteins were long considered to be of higher quality. This is because they often have a higher biological value than plant-based proteins. However, as our list above shows, there are also many vegan protein sources that have a high biological value. In addition, the biological value can be significantly increased by combining different protein sources. For example, cereals and pulses complement each other perfectly in their amino acid spectrum and together achieve a biological value that is significantly higher than the value of the individual protein sources. This is why we use several protein sources in our protein powders to achieve a particularly high biological value.

You can read more about this in the blog post Which is better: multi-component protein or individual proteins?

Find out what you should look out for when buying protein powder and which powder best suits your needs here:

Vegan protein powder test - comparison 2022: How to find the best protein powder Protein powder test

To the protein powder test