Beans Are The Best Source Of Protein In A Vegan Diet

Since I talk so much about beans, I decided to put this chart together to provide a quick visual representation of their importance. You would be hard pressed to find a non-animal food that provides the amount of protein that beans do, in typical serving sizes. (Click to enlarge.)


Protein is important. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is 0.8 g/kg (grams of protein per kilogram of body weight). That’s for someone who is relatively sedentary. Athletes, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people with physically demanding jobs need more.

A 120 pound (54.4 kg) sedentary person needs about 44 grams a day.
A 180 pound (81.6 kg) sedentary person needs about 65 grams a day.

Now, there are safety factors designed into those numbers. Some people say they’re high. But there are reasons for safety factors. As we found with almonds, the amount of a nutrient listed for a food is not the amount that ends up inside us. First, those numbers are averages. How a food was grown and processed affects that number. How a food was prepared (cooked or not) affects that number. Absorption is different between individuals, and within individuals, and can vary based on the time of day we eat, what other foods we eat at the same time, our nutrient status, and our overall health. These are some of the reasons there are safety factors.

Looking at that graph, you can see that beans provide about 7 grams in a half cup serving. Soybeans are an exception, aren’t they. Grains – pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, rice – provide about half that. Vegetables and fruits pull up the rear. If you’re eating an all-fruit diet, you probably aren’t getting enough protein. Raw nuts are hard to gage because our act of chewing them has been shown not very efficient at releasing their nutrients.

Let’s assume that a 180 pound man was a vegan and ate no beans. Let’s say that every 1/2 cup of food he ate (oatmeal, pasta, rice, corn, vegetables, fruit) provided him about 3.5 grams of protein, more or less. He’d have to eat about 19 half-cups of food every day, over 9 full cups, to get that 65 grams of protein. This is a real ballpark calculation, but you can see where I’m going with it. A cup of lentils provides 18 grams of protein, close to a third of his daily protein needs!

So, here, again, is my gift to everyone. Merry Christmas!


Eat beans.

Here’s my data for the chart, in no particular order. You can go directly to Nutritiondata for more info on each food.

1/2 cup Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, Calories: 115, Fat: 0.4g, Protein: 9g
1/2 cup Soybeans, mature cooked, boiled, Calories: 149, Fat: 7.7g, Protein: 14.3g
1/2 cup Beans, navy, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, Calories: 127, Fat: 0.6g, Protein: 7.5g
1/2 cup Beans, black, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, Calories: 113, Fat: 0.4g, Protein: 7.6g
1/2 cup Beans, kidney, california red, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, Calories: 110, Fat: 0.1g, Protein: 8.1g
1/2 cup Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, Calories: 134, Fat: 2.1g, Protein: 7.2g
1/2 cup Peas, green, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, Calories: 62, Fat: 0.2g, Protein: 4.1g
1/2 cup Rice, brown, medium-grain, cooked, Calories: 109, Fat: 0.8g, Protein: 2.2g
1/2 cup Potatoes, boiled, cooked in skin, flesh, Calories: 68, Fat: 0.0g, Protein: 1.0g
1/2 cup Corn, sweet, yellow, frozen, kernels cut off cob, boiled, drained, Calories: 66, Fat: 0.5g, Protein: 1.0g
1/2 cup Cereals, oats, regular and quick and instant, unenriched, cooked with water (includes boiling and microwaving), Calories: 83, Fat: 1.8g, Protein: 3.0g
1/2 cup Spaghetti, cooked, unenriched, Calories: 110, Fat: 0.6g, Protein: 4.0g
1/2 cup Quinoa, cooked, Calories: 111, Fat: 1.8g, Protein: 4.0g
1 medium Banana, Calories: 105, Fat: 0.0g, Protein: 1.0g
1 medium Apples, raw, with skin, Calories: 95, Fat: 0.0g, Protein: 0.5g
1/2 cup Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained, Calories: 27, Fat: 0.3g, Protein: 1.9g
1/2 cup Tomato products, canned, sauce, Calories: 30, Fat: 0.2g, Protein: 1.6g
2 tablespoons USDA Commodity, Peanut Butter, smooth, Calories: 188, Fat: 16.0g, Protein: 7.0g
1 ounce Nuts, walnuts, english, Calories: 183, Fat: 18.0g, Protein: 4.0g
1 ounce Nuts, almonds [Includes USDA commodity food], Calories: 161, Fat: 14.0g, Protein: 6.0g
1/2 cup Sweet potato, cooked, boiled, without skin, Calories: 124, Fat: 0.2g, Protein: 2.2g

11 thoughts on “Beans Are The Best Source Of Protein In A Vegan Diet

  1. Bix Post author

    I forgot to mention that plant protein is less bioavailable than animal protein because of all the fiber and chemicals it comes packaged with (which themselves are beneficial). So, the argument that you need to eat more plant protein than animal protein to end up with the same amount inside … has some merit.


  2. RB

    One of the digs against healthy eating is that it is expensive. But one of the most nutritious family of foods is legumes which are very inexpensive (and also good for the environment). To that end, the United Nations campaign makes 2016 the International Year of Pulses. (see: )

    Beans and rice with some spices (I like turmeric, garlic, onion, jalapeno ) makes a great dish that goes with any meal.


  3. Pingback: 2016: The International Year Of Pulses | Fanatic Cook

  4. Melinda

    Gary said (when I told him about “the year of the bean”) said, “Maybe that’s what the North Koreans were doing with that huge explosion”–meaning a beab-induced fart, of course, measuring 5.1 on the Richter Scale! Tee hee! I wonder how much meat they eat there–they’re a pretty poor country overall–put all the money they have into parades and military manoeuvers, so maybe not much meat?


  5. Pingback: Two Things We Can Do To Stave Off Muscle Loss As We Age: Exercise And Eat Beans | Fanatic Cook

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