Plant Based Proteins

Plant Based Proteins

In the last decade we have seen the emergence of a number of plant-based proteins, each claiming to be the most protein-packed. But the abundance of information out there, paired with our busy lives means that for most, it’s difficult to research exactly which plant protein will work best for your lifestyle, and how the protein content of each type stacks up. 

We decided to compare the protein content between 100 grams each of  lentils, peas, hemp seeds, chickpeas, lupin, edamame, chicken, quinoa, chia, soy and chochos. We examined whole food protein as opposed to protein powders, as well as additional nutritional benefits associated with each type. 

Lentils are well-known as a great source of plant-based protein, but fall far short of other lesser-known sources. In 100 grams of mature seeds, cooked and boiled, there are just 9 grams of protein [1]. However, along with their protein content, lentils also contain high amounts of slowly digested carbs, and plenty of fiber. 

Peas are a popular source of protein, but contain just 5 grams of protein per 100 grams of raw, uncooked peas [2]. While they are touted as a good source of protein, peas are a lower quality of protein [3], ranking “Low” on the DIAAS scale. Pea protein powder is an isolate. This means that it is not a whole food protein, and can be difficult to digest because of the processing that goes into producing it [4]. Additionally, because of the low protein content in the raw form, the majority of the plant material is going to waste when isolating the protein. 

Hulled, raw hemp seeds contain 32 grams of protein per 100 grams [5], and while this is much higher than pea and lentil protein levels, they have 49 grams of fat and just 4 grams of fiber per serving. 

The clear frontrunner for protein content per 100 grams is chocho, which contain 52 grams of protein [6]. Not only is chocho the highest in protein content among plant-based protein, it is also high in fiber, with 19 grams per 100 gram serving. Chocho contains 23 grams of fat per 100 grams, significantly less than hemp. 

Mature, raw chickpeas contain 21 grams [7], and mature, raw lupin seeds contain 36 grams [8].

Prepared edamame contains 12 grams of protein per 100 grams [9], and cooked quinoa contains 4.4 grams of protein [10]. 100 grams of dried chia seeds contains 17 grams of protein [9], and mature, raw soybeans contain 37 grams of protein per 100 grams [11]. 

When it comes to deciding which protein is best for you, the amount of protein in a sample is just one factor. It is also helpful to assess protein quality. To assess the quality of a protein, you need to look at its bioavailability, as well as its amino acid profile. Several scales have been formulated to rate proteins, including the PDCAAS and the DIAAS. 

The current official scale to measure bioavailability of protein is the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) [12], which takes into account bioavailability as well as amino acid profile. 

Another updated scale from the PDCAAS is the DIAAS (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score) [13]. The two scores differ where the sample is taken. To determine the PDCAAS of protein, you analyze the feces. To determine the DIAAS of protein, you analyze the content of ileum. For those curious about the quality of the protein they are ingesting, both scales provide an accurate analysis of protein. 

When analyzed, chocho contained all nine amino acids, with especially high levels of tryptophan. Additionally, chocho is gluten-free [14] and can be used as a flour alternative when the beans are ground. 

With the abundance of plant-based protein sources available, it is important and necessary to explore which source will work best for your lifestyle.