Vegetable Proteins: Definition & Explanations

Pflanzliche Proteine: Definition & Erklärungen

A healthy balanced diet consists of many components. One of the most important of these are proteins. They are components of all cells in our body and must be adequately ingested with food. This includes not only animal but also vegetable proteins.

In our article on plant proteins 2020 you will find all the important information on the subject. We will explain to you what role proteins play in the organism and the advantages and disadvantages of plant-based proteins.

the essentials in brief

  • Vegetable proteins are found in many foods and have a high biological value.
  • Vegetable protein or vegetable proteins provide more nutrition and appear to be easier to digest for many athletes. In addition, they can be produced in a resource-saving manner.
  • You can cover your protein needs with the protein powder. It is recommended for different groups of people who need a balanced and healthy diet and do not get enough protein from food.

Glossary entry: The term vegetable protein explained in detail

So that you are fully informed, we have addressed the most important questions about plant proteins in the following sections. So you know what is important and you are an expert when it comes to vegetable protein.

What are plant proteins?

The proportion of vegetable protein in each plant-based food varies greatly. For example, beans, seeds, and nuts are high in plant-based protein, while fruits and salads tend to be very low in protein. Vegetable protein can also be obtained, for example, in the form of a concentrated powder. For example like rice protein, lupine protein, pea protein and hemp protein.

Protein ensures beautiful hair, firm and soft skin, strong muscles and since protein can also be used to make antibodies - it can create a strong immune system.

Many hormones and endogenous enzymes consist mainly of protein. Since protein is also the building block of every single cell, there is not a single structure in the human body that does not contain some form of protein.

Human organisms are therefore dependent on a high-quality protein supply. However, this does not mean that we now have to eat protein-rich foods indiscriminately, nor do they necessarily have to be animal protein.

On the contrary, a purely plant-based diet can cover the protein requirement well.

What do we need proteins for?

Proteins, which consist of different amino acids, fulfill a wide variety of functions in our body. They are the basic components of human cells, represent the secondary energy source of humans and are responsible for many processes in the human body.

To distinguish between proteins, "classes" are introduced, for example:

  • Motor proteins: actin and myosin - responsible for muscle contraction.
  • Collagen forms eyesight and cartilage.
  • Enzymes promote all types of chemical reactions.
  • Transporter - for example: hemoglobin - transports oxygen in the blood.

Protein is also important for all types of anabolic processes, which is why many athletes supplement protein to build muscle.

If you consider how important protein is for the body, you will also understand why a protein deficiency can have negative effects in the long term.

Protein deficiency makes you more susceptible to various infections, makes you feel tired and suffers from joint diseases.

Which is better: animal or vegetable proteins?

Protein is made up of amino acids. Ideally, the protein in our diet should consist of eight essential amino acids that make up human protein. Then the body can metabolize them particularly easily.


Animal proteins contain cholesterol and can be replaced with vegetable proteins. (Image source: Vika Imperia550/Pixabay)

In this case we say that these proteins have a high biological value. This is the difference between plant and animal protein. In terms of amino acid structure, animal proteins are particularly similar to human proteins. Therefore, they can be processed faster by the body. Examples include lean meat, white meat, fish and eggs.

However, many plant-based protein sources can also compete with the biological value of animal protein. These include, for example, chia seeds, legumes and nuts, oatmeal or hemp. When skilfully combined with other plant-based foods with lower amino acid content, they can complement each other perfectly. Therefore, using only plant-based protein can also achieve high biological value. (5)

However, the downside of animal protein is that we tend to consume more saturated fat and cholesterol. Regular consumption of lots of animal protein can increase cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plant-based foods can reduce this risk and usually provide more nutrients, fiber and vitamins.

In addition, animal feed has a significant impact on the environment due to its high water and energy consumption. But meat is not a daily necessity in your diet. Therefore, you can diversify your diet while ensuring adequate protein intake. In the end, it all comes down to a healthy mix of animal and plant-based protein. (7)

What are the benefits of plant proteins?

The problem with animal products is usually that they are high in fat. In particular, the saturated fat and high cholesterol in animal feed can lead to elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, animal protein contains more amino acids and structural sulfur units, which can upset the acid-base balance and affect metabolism. (4)

Many protein-rich foods such as cheese, nuts or beans are difficult to digest. Other high-protein foods such as fish, meat, and dairy products are not appropriate for some people's lifestyles. However, avoiding most of these foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Foods rich in protein are known to be excellent weight loss products. This is due to the so-called "heating" effect of protein and plant protein, which means that protein digestion requires more energy than carbohydrate or fat digestion. (3)

Obviously, up to 30% of protein calories should be burned to digest protein, creating above-average calories. Hence the term "hot". In addition, the vegetable proteins have the following advantages:

  • They do not contain fat and cholesterol
  • They promote weight loss
  • They have a high biological value
  • They are suitable for vegan and vegetarian diets

Vegan protein sources

You can find the best plant-based protein source with the appropriate protein content (in grams per 100 grams or per serving) in our protein source list. In this way, you can easily develop a varied diet plan with a sufficiently high protein content. (7)

plant foods

Proteins are found in many plant foods. (Image source: tangyi178/Pixabay)

However, under certain living conditions, the need for protein increases. Now, plant-based protein powder can be incorporated into the diet and help meet the growing demand in a very simple and healthy way. (1)

Grain Protein content per 100 grams
lupine seeds 42g
Red lenses 27g
mountain lentils 25g
lenses 24g
kidney beans 24g
White beans 23g
Chickpeas 19g
tofu 14g

whole grain cereal products protein content
whole wheat pasta 13g
Spelt 13g
quinoa 12g
couscous 12g
bulgur 12g
Green spelled 12g
oatmeal 11g
millet 11g

nuts and seeds protein content
pumpkin seeds 37g
hemp seeds 25g
peanuts 24g
Chia seeds 22g
almonds 21g
cashew nuts 21g
walnuts 17g
hazelnuts 16g

Protein powder: dietary supplement made from plant-based foods

If you can't rely on nuts, seeds, and beans to meet your protein needs, you can also use plant-based protein powder. If you are allergic to nuts, soy or beans or have a particularly high protein requirement (e.g. because you do competitive sports), this makes a lot of sense.

Soy protein powder

Soybeans naturally contain a lot of protein, well over 30%. In addition to protein, soybeans also contain unsaturated fatty acids, various B vitamins and minerals. This means that soybeans, in various product forms, are an essential part of the diet of vegetarians and vegans.

The main disadvantage is that they can cause allergies in some people. If you're already allergic to soy, consider using a different vegetarian protein powder. (2)

Rice Protein Powder

The protein content per 100 grams of rice protein powder is almost the same as that of soybean protein powder, but the fat content is significantly higher. Rice protein is usually made from whole grains of rice. As a result, it contains a lot of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. However, many greenhouse gases are produced during production.

Pea Protein Powder

The protein content of pea protein powder per 100 grams is similar to that of soybean and rice protein powder. However, there are almost no carbohydrates. Pea protein is an ideal vegetarian supplement for strength training. The high lysine content ensures strong muscle growth.

The combination of rice and pea protein can achieve the best results as the ingredients of the two powders can complement each other. (6)

Hemp Protein Powder

Hemp protein powder is low in calories and may contain more carbohydrates compared to other vegan protein powders. Hemp protein is obtained from the seeds of the hemp plant. These do not contain the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol.

In addition, hemp contains less protein than soy, for example, which is very well suited for the human body due to its composition.

Sweet lupine protein powder

Sweet lupine protein powder has the lowest protein content per 100 grams of powder. However, it contains many important proteins, especially lysine, which is very important for muscle building.

In addition, the sweet lupine protein powder is suitable as a substitute for eggs, so that it can also be used well in cakes. However, the protein is partially destroyed by heating.

Who needs vegetable proteins in the form of dietary supplements?

Athletes often use plant-based protein, but it's highly recommended that people use a quality source of protein - whether you enjoy sports or are lounging on the couch.

woman jogging

Above all, athletes or people who do sports often need proteins. (Image source: Skeeze/Pixabay)

There are many factors that necessitate supplementation in the form of protein powder or simply a balanced diet. Vegetable protein in particular can help in many ways by balancing deficiencies, activating the healing and regeneration process, transferring energy and thus helping to achieve the desired well-being.

In short, plant-based protein is very helpful for the following people:

  • athlete
  • People who are exposed to many stressful situations
  • People with increased nutritional needs , such as under pressure: Under any pressure, the nutritional needs in life also increase. Since high-quality plant-based protein powder provides not only protein, but also important substances, fiber and minerals, it is very suitable for compensating for nutrient deficiencies or for satisfying additional nutritional needs.
  • People on a low-protein diet: If you are vegetarian, vegan, eat fruit, or are a fan of baked goods. In all of these cases, plant-based protein powder can improve a low-protein diet.
  • People with an unbalanced or particularly low-calorie diet : Older people usually eat an unbalanced diet or eat too little. Therefore, you should pay attention to the diet of the elderly and recommend protein powder if necessary. The same thing happens with busy people, they just don't stay up late enough. If you can use protein powder rich in important substances to make up for the shortcomings of the one-sided diet, it is very positive. (8th)
  • People on low-carb diets : People on low-carb diets always enter the stage where the body needs more free amino acids in the blood to produce energy. You are now at risk of losing muscle to get the amino acids you need. Therefore, vegetable protein is very suitable for low-carbohydrate diet plans and ensures that there are always enough free amino acids in the blood. This can prevent muscle failure.
  • People who want to lose weight : Due to its high nutrient density, vegetable protein is very well saturated and at the same time provides many important substances.
  • People who want to gain weight : Underweight people can slowly but surely reach a normal weight with plant-based protein - of course only in the context of other eating habits. (9)
  • People recovering : You may also feel weak or recovering, e.g. B. after illness, pregnancy or other physical exhaustion.

How much protein does the body need?

The human need for protein depends on genetic requirements, age, stress, physical activity and the protein quality of food. Therefore, this can vary greatly depending on these factors. According to scientific calculations, the minimum protein requirement is about 0.34 grams per kilogram of body weight.

It is recommended that men weighing around 70 kg consume 56 grams of protein per day. This corresponds to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Compared to the minimum requirements, this safety pillow is also very telling because the biological value of protein changes and the absorption capacity of the digestive tract is different for everyone. This number should be absolutely sufficient for recreational athletes.

In competitive sports, the protein requirement can be up to 2 grams per kilogram. This is especially true for endurance athletes. Now there are high-quality vegetable protein powder raw materials. It can be a chocolate flavored vanilla protein powder, or it can be a naturally unflavored variety.

Interestingly, Western culture now consumes too much protein, especially when consuming animal products. For example, Germans consume an average of 100 grams of protein per day, which far exceeds the need. Excessive protein intake can put a strain on the kidneys and cause diseases like gout. Protein degradation products are deposited in the joints. (10)


Examples from everyday life indicate: There is no reason to include animal protein in the diet.

On the contrary, substituting plant-based protein can definitely be enjoyed ethically and will help you supplement your diet so you don't have to worry about protein intake and the health risks posed by animal products.


  1. Skin prick test reactivity to lupine in comparison to peanut, pea, and soybean in atopic and non-atopic German subjects: A preliminary cross-sectional study
  2. Beyond the Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Soy Protein: A Review of the Effects of Dietary Soy and Its Constituents on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
  3. Dietary soy and natto intake and cardiovascular disease mortality in Japanese adults: the Takayama study
  4. Meta-analysis of the effects of soy protein containing isoflavones on the lipid profile
  5. Protein digestibility of vegetables and field peas (Pisum sativum). Various differences and effect of domestic processing and cooking methods
  6. The Effects of Whey vs. Pea Protein on Physical Adaptations Following 8-Weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT): A Pilot Study
  7. Nutritional quality of important food legumes
  8. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. whey protein
  9. Acute effects of pea protein and hull fiber alone and combined on blood glucose, appetite, and food intake in healthy young men--a randomized crossover trial
  10. Precipitation of rice bran protein using carrageenan and alginate
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