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BUSTED! The Myth About ‘Incomplete’ Plant-Based Protein


I used to be one of those people who thought that in order to eat vegan, one must eat rice and beans at each meal. Does anyone else remember this mumbo jumbo myth, too? Growing up in South Carolina, I was always taught that if you didn’t have chicken or a burger at the table, then you weren’t getting enough protein in your diet. And breakfast sure wasn’t “complete” without the eggs and bacon. These days, however, we’ve all gotten smarter than that, and burgers and bacon haven’t touched my lips in over 10 years.

Complete plant-based proteins do exist, and you don’t have to eat beans and rice together, or even at all, to obtain enough protein on a vegan diet. Plant-based foods are chock-full of protein, and if you’re concerned about the myth that these proteins aren’t “bio-available” or complete, then not to worry. That idea is likely just a lie someone made up somewhere along the way to make the animal-based food industry a ton of money.

The Real Deal on Protein….

I’m not negating the importance of protein- it’s incredibly important in a major way. Check this out: Protein is basically just a huge string of 20 amino acids, all delicately formed to provide our bodies with support, energy, and sustenance. Fat and carbs do the same, just in different ways. Protein builds our muscles, fuels our brains, keeps our skin and hair healthy, and keeps our organs running properly. It triggers neurotransmitters in the brain to improve our moods, lower our blood sugar, and even help us focus. Protein is an important nutrient, but you don’t need a tub of whey protein or a piece of chicken to get your fill.

The idea that all essential amino acids must be eaten together at each meal isn’t true like we used to think. One can eat a variety of foods that are rich in essential and non-essential amino acids, and completely get their fill of protein. Many plant-based foods are filled with all essential amino acids (hemp, chia, sprouted brown rice, and spirulina, just to name a handful).

Plus, think about this: cows and gorillas grow big and strong from eating nothing but plants (or at least in their natural habitats, that is). Considering that a cow needs nothing more than grass to grow big and strong, why should we think any differently for ourselves? Even vegan bodybuilders know that getting enough protein is absolutely no problem. 

The good news is, you don’t have to graze like cattle or be a gorilla to have access to nature’s finest sources of protein. It’s much simpler than you think, considering that so many vegan foods are packed with high-quality protein. 

Besides, too much animal protein is also a bad thing. It can trigger kidney issues, blood sugar problems, and even weight gain if you eat too much of it. While everyone’s protein needs are different, none of us require animal protein to obtain enough.

Take a look at these awesome plant-based, protein-rich foods:

  • Broccoli: 5 grams per cup
  • Spinach: 5 grams per cup
  • Rye Grains: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Rolled Oats: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Millet: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Amaranth: 6 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Freekah: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Teff: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Buckwheat: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Almond Butter: 7 Grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Spirulina: 4 grams per teaspoon (!!)
  • Chlorella: 2 grams per teaspoon
  • Chia seeds: 10 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Flax Seeds: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Cacao Powder: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Maca: 3 grams per tablespoon
  • Acai: 5 grams per 3 ounce frozen puree
  • Kale: 5 grams per cup
  • Lentils- 18 grams per cup
  • Black Beans- 13 grams per cup
  • Chickpeas- 13 grams per cup
  • Tofu: 10 grams per 3 ounces
  • Tempeh: 10 grams per 2 ounces
  • Endamame (Soybeans) – 16 grams per cup
  • Romaine Lettuce: 3 grams per cup
  • Sunflower Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Almonds: 7 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Coconut Flour: 3.5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Quinoa: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Plant-Based Protein Powders (hemp, pea, brown rice, cranberry bean, soy, etc.) : 17-25 grams per scoop (depending on the brand)
  • Green Peas: 8 grams per cup

Even most fruits and the common white potato have a little bit of protein. One would have to eat refined white bread all day to hardly be short of protein (which I don’t think you would want to do, nor would I even advise it!)

No matter what kind of diet you eat, it’s always best to eat one filled with whole foods. When you eat a whole foods, plant-based, healthy diet, you can be rest-assured that you won’t be protein deficient (or carb and fat deficient for that matter either.)

How to Get Enough Protein and Find the Right Amount for You

If you’re still a little antsy and unsure about getting enough protein on a plant-based diet, just figure up how much you need. Multiply your body weight times .40 and that’s the recommended amount of protein you need for everyday functions. If you’re athletic, eat a little more and divide it up evenly between meals – simple as that.

Here are some awesome plant-based protein-rich recipe ideas to give you a boost: 10 Protein-Rich Quinoa RecipesSugar-Free Vegan Protein BarsBrain Food PorridgeAll About Tempeh and 7 Tasty RecipesCreamy Millet and Cashew PuddingThe Ultimate Superfood Detox SmoothieMediterranean Strength MilletVeggie BurgersBanana Oatmeal with Hazelnut Butter, Raisins, and Baobab PowderSupremely Green Power SmoothieCrunchy Raw Vegan Protein Balls (Gluten-Free).

Mother Nature’s got it covered for us in all areas of nutrition; we sure don’t need to insult her and go through the poor cow or chicken to get our protein. Eat your plants people and rock on with your protein-rich selves!

Health and Clean Vegan Sources of Protein

Image Source: Veganbaking.net/Flickr

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7 comments on “BUSTED! The Myth About ‘Incomplete’ Plant-Based Protein”

Click to add comment
1 Years Ago

Any website that is using "Cups" to "grams of protein" ratio while trying to sound scientific should be laughed at.

Christina Major
3 Years Ago

You completely ignore the importance of the d- and l- configurations of amino acids and the proper balance of the 22 (not 20) amino acids. Most people do need animal protein because they choose not do the complex calculations required. Improper vegetarianism leads to nutritional deficiencies.

Aqiyl Aniys
15 Dec 2014

Most people do not need to eat animal protein. Calculations are not necessary. Plant based foods contains all the amino acids we need, they are just not in the same ratio as animal protein, and that is a good thing. Animal protein (over 10%) of the diet promotes cancer while plant protein doesn\'t. The growth hormones in animal protein and the similarity of animal protein and our own causes this problem. As long as we eat a well balanced plant based diet we get all the protein (amino acids) we need. I have been vegan for over 3 years now, have lost and kept off 30lbs, haven\'t been sick during this time, and I am always full of energy at 47 years old. I am also highly active and I am a boxer. I am faster now, stronger, and have way better cardio. http://bit.ly/plant-based-diet

JAdele Plotkin
3 Years Ago

our teeth

JAdele Plotkin
3 Years Ago

poppy cock. wild apes do eat animal and insect protein just not as much animal protein nor as frequently as people do. proteins are not strings of 20 amino acids. each protein has its own profile of amino acids, not all of which are accessible for digestion. most proteins do not have the essential [about half of the common amino acids] amino acids in balance. balance is needed for proper body function. without balance adverse health effects can occur such as gout, malnutrition, adverse kidney and GI function [for instance see descriptions/ definitions for "wet litter"], etc. etc... That is not to say that balance can not be achieved through a vegetarian or vegan diet, but it is NOT by just counting the amounts of grams of protein in the sources. Read the writings of true medical professionals and agricultural nutritionists to understand more NOT the rantings of myth mongerers with an agenda to promote veganism or vegetarianism at all costs. Note too that out teeth are clearly omnivore teeth unlike cows and we do not have multiple stomachs or other GI features that cows and other herbivores have to allow proper digestion of such a diet.

JAdele Plotkin
27 Sep 2014

our teeth

01 Oct 2014

The cow/gorilla comment in the article is indicative of someone without scientific understanding of physiology and/or microbiology. Seeing as physiology and microbiology are fundamental to any nutrition argument you should probably not try to make comment simply to \'amp up\' a lay reader when it in turn leads to invalidation of your own argument.

01 Dec 2014

Amino acids dehydrate the interstitial fluid between cells and the lymphatic system that moves the cellular waste down the road to the kidneys. When the lymph fluid stops moving it causes acids to damage cells where ever that flow has stopped. We must stay alkali our bodys with real fruits and veggies.
Robert Morse, he is the alpha male in the regeneration of cells!!!https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhMdDSNVzYY

22 Sep 2017


All the analogies in this are so flawed it\'s untrue. Cows etc "grow big" on vegetable matter only because they have a herbivores digestive tract.

We do not. Our digestive system is that of a carnivore. We are not set up the same way as a cow, or any other herbivore. It demonstrates a massive lack of understanding in the subject matter you are trying to be an authority on.

Yes, plants seem to suit cows ok. But that takes the passing of it through multiple stomachs, regurgitating, even the eating of faeces to ensure that all the nutrients are removed.

the digestive systems of herbivores,carnivores and omnivores are all very different. Guess which one the mammals that are people have?

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