PROTEIN » an uncomplicated guide for vegans + printable PDF

The Golden Question

The question of "where do you get your protein?" is posed to vegans the world over at one point or another. While plant-based foods are certainly becoming more popular, protein is still often equated with animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

A vegetarian or vegan diet is readily available in protein.

Not only is it possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet, it's relatively easy to do so without having to eat tofu all day long, everyday. And the amount you need may not be as difficult to obtain as you may think...

Protein-packed Lentil Quinoa Salad (protein sources featured: lentils, quinoa, edamame, tahini, & pumpkin seeds)

What does Protein Do?

Without getting too into the nitty gritty, protein is one of the 3 macronutrients (alongside carbohydrates and fats). It's EXTREMELY important in the overall structure, function and metabolism of our body. Here are just a few of its functions: + Structure: it's the major structural component of muscles and other tissues (ex. collagen, keratin and elastin) + Hormones: which act as chemical messenger to transmit signals (ex. insulin) + Enzymes: for several metabolic processes in the body + Transport proteins: such as hemoglobin which carries oxygen from the lungs to body tissues + Immune defence: from the antibodies & immunoglobulins for protection of the immune system

Each type of protein consists of a specific sequence of amino acids: these are the small "building blocks" of protein molecules and there are 20 of them all together. The human body requires all 20 identified amino acids for proper growth and development on a day-to-day basis:

+ 11 "non-essential" amino acids: these our bodies are able to produce on their own (i.e. we do not need get them from our diet).

+ 9 "essential" amino acids: these our bodies cannot produce and we need to consume them from foods.

Beginner's Green Smoothie: Peanut Butter & Banana (protein sources featured: peanut butter, spinach, soy milk)

How Much Do I Actually Need?

How much protein a person needs can vary based on their age, build, activity level, health status, presence of any illnesses, and so on. It's true that plant-based proteins may not be as efficiently absorbed in the body but the difference is quite small. By eating within the range below, you can easily and adequately meet your needs (1).

The protein requirements for an average adult is 0.8g/kg - 1.0g/kg of body weight (recall that 1 kg = 2.2lbs). So, for example if someone weighs 143lbs (143 / 2.2 = 65kg), then their general protein requirements would be 52-65g per day. Fairly simple, right?

» Keep in mind that requirements will be different (higher) for young children, elderly people and for pregnant women. It's encouraged these groups to speak to a dietitian regarding their specific protein requirements.

Spicy tempeh tacos with cashew lime sauce (protein source featured: tempeh and cashews)

Plant-Based Protein Sources

There are loads of plant-based food sources, below are a list of just a few top ones - gathered from here and here.


  • 1 cup (170 g) green peas: 8 g

  • 1 cup (190 g) artichoke: 6 g

  • 1 cup (190 g) spinach: 5 g

Grain Products

  • ½ cup (85 g) buckwheat, cooked: 10 g

  • ½ cup (80 g) rolled oats: 5 g

  • ½ cup (90 g) quinoa, cooked: 5 g


  • ½ cup (80 g) tempeh, cooked: 20 g

  • ½ cup (80 g) edamame: 12 g

  • ½ cup (100 g) tofu: 11 g

  • ½ cup (50 g) lentils, cooked: 10 g

  • 1/4 cup (35 g) peanuts: 10 g

  • ½ cup (100 g) beans (most varieties), cooked: 8 g

Seeds, Spreads and Other

  • 1/4 cup (40 g) hemp seeds: 14 g

  • 1/4 cup (60 g) chia seeds: 10 g