The Daily Beet

24 Sep Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: The Percentage of Calories From Protein in Plant Foods

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QUESTION:  “I see many graphics and lists on the internet such as this one here,  that list the amount of protein in plants and some of them seem really high.  Are they accurate?

I have seen the same lists and some of the numbers are accurate and some aren’t.  To clarify the issues, I created the following charts, which are based on the latest values from USDA Standard Reference Release 26, which is the most up-to-date values.  I have listed the specific NDB# I used for the calculation as different forms (raw, cooked, frozen) of the food and different varieties (russet, yukon gold, red, white) will come up with slightly different numbers.  In addition, check out my articles on protein below.


You can download a PDF of the charts here.


Other articles regarding protein by Jeff:

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Jeff Novick
Jeff Novick

Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN is truly a unique dietitian and nutritionist. With over 24 years of experience in nutrition, health, fitness and natural living, he offers expert health advice distilled into powerful, easy-to-understand language on a variety of current topics.Novick’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition, with a minor in exercise science.Novick serves as Vice President for Executive Health Exams International and lectures at the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and at the Engine 2 Immersion program in Austin, Texas. He is also the Director of Nutrition for the Meals for Health program, which is helping empower low-income families to achieve optimal health.For almost a decade, Novick served as the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center in Aventura, Florida, and as Vice President of the Board of the Directors for the National Health Association (NHA). He also served as the Director of Health Education for the NHA and as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Health Sciences for Kaplan University.Novick has taught nutrition classes at Indiana State University, Indiana University Medical School, the University of Miami Medical School and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. He regularly lectures at medical conferences across the country. While in Indiana, he created and taught the Nutrition Education Initiative, a preventive medicine curriculum for medical doctors, residents and medical students. In recognition of this groundbreaking project, Indiana’s governor awarded Novick the Indiana State Public Health Excellence in Health Science Award and Indiana State University awarded him the Graduate-of-the-Last-Decade Award.He has been interviewed by Newsday, Parade, Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s World and has appeared on Fox News, Discovery Health, the Today Show and other media outlets nationwide. He recently appeared in the documentary Processed People and the movie Fatboy, which won the Best Documentary award at the Fort Lauderdale and Queens Film Festivals.

  • Laurie
    Posted at 14:02h, 24 September

    What a helpful chart! I would be interested to see a chart of different animal products for comparison. The next time I am asked, “Where do you get your protein?”, I will answer, “The same place you do . . . from the foods I eat!!”. Yeah for plants!!

  • denali
    Posted at 16:14h, 24 September

    How does Spelt compare to all the other whole grains? I was surprised not to see it on the chart.

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 19:36h, 24 September

      Spelt is 16.7% Protein.

      However, remember, a plant based diet based predominately on a variety
      of minimally-processed lower-fat plant foods low in SOS, is more then
      adequate in protein and all the essential amino acids and that is the
      main point in regard to protein. Such a diet is also void of
      cholesterol, lower in fat, saturated fat, and rich in fiber and
      nutrients, including phytochemicals, and has been proven to prevent and
      even reverse disease, even in those seriously ill.



      • denali
        Posted at 14:06h, 25 September

        I’m sorry, but what does SOS stand for? I know several acronyms that use those three letters, but I’m having difficulty relating them back to the topic.

        • Jeff Novick
          Posted at 19:41h, 26 September

          SOS = added Salt/sodium, Oil/fats, Sugars/sweeteners


  • Don
    Posted at 16:49h, 24 September

    I really can’t see the value in this chart. A pound is a lot and compared to servings has quite a different meaning, to me at least when I add items to my plate. What would be more useful is comparing a typical serving of each of the foods.

    • Jeff Novick
      Posted at 19:22h, 24 September

      Thanks for your comments.

      The percentage of protein would not change if I had done the math per serving, per 3.5 ounces, per 100 grams, per 100 calories, etc but I used per pound. I know most people do not consume a pound of these foods but I used calories and protein per pound as a standard across the board to equalize things. And, by using the higher numbers, there is less change for rounding errors and the numbers are more accurate.

      Also. the percentage of protein is a constant and is the same regardless of
      how much you eat. And, that is exactly how it was listed (incorrectly) in the
      other charts that I was correcting, which was the purpose of this
      article, so I used the same system.

      Lastly, percentage is most important and easiest to use because regardless of
      how much you eat of a food, the percentage of calories from protein will
      be the same.


      • Don
        Posted at 19:25h, 24 September

        Thanks for the clarification.

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