First Class Protein from a Plant-based Diet

Shivani K ·
First Class Protein from a Plant-based Diet

Filling your Plant-based Diet with All the Essential Proteins

Plant-based is a hot word in the food industry today. “But what about your protein?” - The question all vegans are asked at one point or another inevitably. If you are just starting a vegan journey, get ready for the protein question. Chicken and beef are not the only sources of protein. Plant foods for human nutrition is also an ideal option. In fact, plant sources are rich in other components like fibre and vitamins along with a good amount of protein. We will let you in on a little secret. We really don’t need that much protein the fitness buffs have led us to believe. Our lead nutritionist, Dr Shweta, says “You require only a gram per kg body weight, so if a person weighs 60 kgs, they’ll need 60 grams of protein per day.” That can easily be achieved through a wide variety of beans, whole grains, pulses, vegetables and seeds.

There are namely two types of protein (i)first-class protein and (ii)second class protein. First Class Protein is obtained from animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry and egg. Plant-based sources like seeds, nuts and vegetables offer second class proteins. The difference between the two is the number of amino acids. While the first-class protein has all the amino acids, the second class protein provides only a few. The common myth is plant-based protein cannot provide the same amount of nutrients as animal-based because of the lack of amino acids. This is not true, all you have to do is pair complementary foods sources.

What Is First Class Protein?

Protein is broken down into amino acids in the end. First-class proteins are usually referred to as complete proteins due to the good balance of amino acids. These proteins are very similar to those found in human muscle. Net protein utilisation is the term used to denote the percentage of protein available in the food that can be used by the body. Eggs and other animal sources of protein have the highest score of NPU (net protein utilization). Out of 20 amino acids, there are 8 essential amino acids the body relies on. All of these amino acids are found in animal proteins such as meat, eggs, fish and dairy products.


Protein: A Chain Of Amino Acids

Our body needs a number of amino acids in good amounts for cell regeneration and optimal growth. These amino acids can be classified into three types - essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids and conditional amino acids.

  • Essential Amino Acids - These cannot be made by the body and are necessary to be taken through foods.
  • Non - Essential Amino Acids - These are manufactured in the body but they need protein sources to be created.
  • Conditional Amino acids - Only needed in times of illness or stress.

During digestion, the protein you eat is broken down into the following amino acids. Animal-based protein has a set of all 9 essential amino acids and few non-essential amino acids. However, plant-based proteins tend to lack in the number of essential amino acids and hence are remarked as incomplete. But this does not mean that you can’t get all the protein you need from plant-based sources. There is a simple solution to this, you can refer our nutritionist guide on Animal Protein VS Plant Protein: Comparing the Amino Acid Profiles to get to know more about this. 

Animal Protein- The "Traditional" First Class Protein

The popular narrative is that animal protein is an irreplaceable contributor to healthy bodily functioning, especially the indispensable 9 essential amino acids. The traditional animal-based protein sources are listed below.

Egg Whites

The clear thick liquid that surrounds the yellow yolk of the egg is called egg whites. They are made up only of water and protein. They are packed with 67% of all the protein found in the egg and it contains all the 9 amino acids. Although they meet the high protein requirement, they do not provide any other nutrient components like healthy fat, vitamins and minerals.


Chicken comes in different cuts like thighs, wings, breasts and drumsticks. Each of these cuts has varied amounts of protein. Chicken breast is especially popular among fitness enthusiasts and weight watchers. Chicken breast is one of the popularly consumed protein foods. 100 grams of skinless chicken breast offer about 31 g of protein.


The gym goers favourite recommendation for protein - turkey breasts. Similar to chicken, turkey breast are have a white hue due to the lower content of myoglobin. The high protein and low-calorie quality of turkey - is what makes it a great contender for protein foods.


Another lean protein beloved of its exciting flavour profile is salmon. It has become the new best friend for cardio freaks for being a good source of protein with low saturated fats and calories. Three ounces of fish (85 grams) provide 17 g of protein.

Most Abundant Protein in Plants to Replace First Class Protein in your Diet

Yes! It’s a fact that animal-based proteins do contain all the essential amino acids. However, it is not true that you will be in an amino acid deficit if plant-based proteins are your primary source. All you need to do is eat foods that complement each other in the amino acid pattern. Including a wide array of proteins in combination can compensate for the limitations of each other. For instance, by combining complementary foods like peanut butter and beans, you create a complete protein. Being informed will give an idea about the best protein sources for vegans

First Class Protein From Hemp Seeds

Hemp is the only plant that produces a protein component called ‘ Edestine protein.’ This is a highly digestible protein form that is responsible for manufacturing antibodies to fight off disease-causing agents. It is also the backbone of cell DNA, contains all the essential fatty acids and amino acids. It is way superior to any other plant-based protein powder as it is nutritionally dense.

First Class Protein from Lentils & Chickpeas

Chickpea and lentils are the healthiest beans to add to your diet. Chickpeas are also known as garbanzo beans that are a rich source of fibre and protein. A cup full of chickpeas (160 g) provides 14g of protein. Eating chickpeas may also help in reducing blood sugar, increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood cholesterol levels. Lentils can be added to soups and stews for acquiring optimal protein. One cup(178g) of lentils contains 18g of protein.

First Class Protein from Tofu

Low in fats, low in calories but high in protein, tofu is a superfood that everyone loves. It is an ideal weight-loss food and is packed with many nutritional benefits. Tofu absorbs the flavours of the food around it to make a fantastic dish. 3 ozs of protein provide around 18% of protein. Superior taste, convenience and low calories all put it as a top choice for a protein substitute. It is also packed with a complete protein that holds all the 9 amino acids.

First Class Protein from Quinoa

Quinoa has been on everybody's shopping list lately. Delicious quinoa fried rice, quinoa salads and even quinoa protein shakes are making the rounds on social media trends. The popularity of this ancient grain is naturally gluten-free and maintained the buzz of being rich in complete protein (i.e it contains all the 9 essential amino acids). Along with protein, it is a better source of iron, vitamins and fibre.

First Class Protein from Tempeh

Tofu and Tempeh are the two biggest sources of plant protein and are often confused between the two since they are both made of soya. While tofu is made of soya milk, tempeh is sliceable and cookable blocks are made from soya beans. Since it is made from fermented soya beans, it puts it in the category of probiotic food. 100g of tempeh provides 20 g of protein and the dense nature and texture make it closer to meat.

First Class Protein from Edamame

Edamame is a type of soya bean you can eat without having to process it first. It has gained some reputation for being the healthiest fast food, especially the stir-fries. With omega-3 fatty acids and complete protein with all the essential amino acids, edamame gives your body access to a varied range of nutrients from a vegan diet.

Going Against Popular Belief

The very common misconception is that protein can only be acquired through animal sources. It is safe to say that vegan protein has rightfully earned the place at the dinner table against the popular narrative. All the dietary protein is made up of tiny components called amino acids, whether it is sourced from an animal or a plant. The end goal here is to get the complete list of essential amino acids.

Eating meat to meet your protein needs is not a necessity. It is entirely doable to score your protein fix from plant-based alone. Adding foods that complement each other with the amino pattern provides the same protein as steak or a piece of chicken.

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