Protein is in everything that is edible because it’s a structural component that holds the food together. Living only on raw fruits and raw vegetables may not be sustainable though from a protein perspective. Necessary but minor supplementation with sprouted beans, nuts, and seeds is recommended when following a raw vegan lifestyle.
Here are a few vegetables and fruits from the No Meat Athlete, Matt Frazier, with their calorie counts and protein grams, plus some notes concerning their amino acid profiles:
- 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
- Apricots: dried ½ cup, 190 cal, 3 gm, low in methionine + cystine
- Peaches: dried ½ cup, 185 cal, 3 gm, low in tryptophan and lysine
Eating raw potato and asparagus does not sound very appetizing, but from this list, they are the only vegetables with a complete amino acid profile; therefore, they should be consumed on a raw vegetable and raw fruit only diet.
Artichokes, peas, and corn are also high in protein and can be eaten raw. A single, medium, 128 gram, raw artichoke contains 4.2 grams of protein which is just slightly higher than the protein listed above for raw potatoes. Peas have an amino acid score of 84/100, which ranks it as a pretty decent source of protein: per cup, peas have 7.9 grams of protein. They have more protein per cup than Brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli. Raw sweet yellow corn has an amino acid score similar to peas at 83/100 because it contains 5 grams of protein per cup.
Fruits also contain protein: some high quality ones are avocadoes, dried figs, melon, and nectarines. Per 349 grams, raw avocadoes contain 4.1 grams of protein (keep in mind that’s about 2 ½ avocadoes). Dried figs contain 1.2 grams of protein per 30 grams. Melon contains 2.4 grams of protein per 400 grams of fruit. 480 grams of nectarines (about 3 ½ medium sized fruits) contain 2.9 grams of protein.
All these listings of protein counts is meant to point to the conclusion that although some fruits and vegetables have a high protein content, their protein content is not nearly as high as that of beans or nuts or seeds, none of which really count as a raw fruit or vegetable. Considering that men aged 19 – 70+ need 56 grams of protein daily and women aged 19 – 70+ need 46 grams of protein daily, you’d have to eat around 11 cups of raw corn a day to get your daily protein requirement if you’re a man and 10 cups if you’re a woman. That just seems unreasonably difficult. But if you mix foods in the right proportion, then you can achieve the daily recommended account. For instance, here is a given day solely on a raw fruit and vegetable diet:
- Breakfast: 75 grams (half) of avocado, 1 nectarine (about 2.5 grams of protein)
- Snack: ½c dried apricots, ½c dried peaches (6.0 grams of protein)
- Lunch: 2c chopped spinach, 1c broccoli, 1c Brussels sprouts, 75 grams (half) of avocado (about 25 grams of protein)
- Snack: 1c corn (5 grams)
- Dinner: 1c asparagus, 30 grams dried figs, 1 artichoke (9.4 grams of protein)
Total protein count ~47.9 grams
Now, this is an O.K. protein count for a woman, but men need 10 more grams to fulfill their daily requirement. You have to also take into account that this menu is not ideal for most people who may wish to include more fats or variety instead of just eating foods from the high protein fruit and vegetable list.
Instead of limiting your diet to just fruits and vegetables, you might consider occasionally adding in some high quality protein sources like beans, nuts, or seeds into your diet, even if you do mostly eat protein rich vegetables and fruits every day. If you do not include beans, nuts, or seeds into your diet, you may eventually suffer from protein deficiency symptoms which are all unnecessary and completely avoidable. All in all, strike a balance with your diet, get good variety, and include at least one high quality protein in your diet.
Image source: Sakurai Midori / Wikimedia Commons