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What are the foods with the best price per protein ratio in the UK? I feel that protein is the main obstacle to a vegan diet, and so I would like to learn about possible options from you experienced folk.

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Here is a list of foods ranked by grams protein per British pound, which may vary in the US, but not likely by that much (note its a bit of a random selection). The third column is protein per unit of money, and the second column is percent of calories that are from protein. For example, peanut butter is very cost effective for obtaining protein but it also contains a lot of fat, so its protein per calorie is relatively lower than for example tofu. Depending on your priorities, the which column is most important to you may vary.

 Food                  % cals protein    g protein per GBP (British pound)
 Peanut butter          16               84*
 Soy protein isolate    97.6             78
 Textured Veg Protein   44.6             77**
 Peanuts                17.6             61
 Soy milk               36.4             43
 Seitan (wheat gluten)  78.4             36
 Red lentils            30.4             35
 Baked beans            23.2             28
 Black-eyed beans       27.6             26
 Edamame beans          40               25
 Black beans            28.8             22
 Chickpeas              22.4             22
 Almonds                13.6             21
 Tofu                   44.4             17
 Mixed beans            16.4             17
 Cashew nuts            14.8             17
 Broccoli               33.6             14.6
 Tempeh                 39.2             14
 Kale                   34.4             10.75
 Quinoa                 12               6.1

A chart from reddit on percent protein

The data and chart come from this Google spread sheet. Note that this chart unfortunately isn't well referenced (so take it with a grain of salt) but it is the best I could find for a one stop comparison of many foods.

As others have pointed out, the most important point is that as long as you aren't eating only the same one or two foods at every meal, you will get enough protein on a vegan diet. Vegetables, potatoes, rice, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy etc. all contain plenty of protein. Some are deficient in one or two amino acids that the others contain, so as long as you eat different things throughout the week you will get enough protein to meet your daily requirements in every amino acid. Note you do not have to mix foods at meals, just have to mix them up throughout the week (as is well documented in the peer-reviewed literature).


*I thought I'd actually try and see how accurate these numbers are, so I checked out, whole foods, and peanut butter is 26g protein per 100g. and 42 g/British pound this site. Its quite expensive at whole foods, but price points at amazon start as low as 2 pounds per kg and the premium brands are mostly around 6 pounds. This puts you in the 40-130g/british bound range. So the numbers in the table seem quite reasonable when doing a quick check. I think this is important given that the list isn't sourced.

**Textured Vegetable protein isn't in the original spreadsheet, but thought I should add it given the other answer. The nutrition info is from whole foods (see link) but the price is from amazon, because whole foods is notoriously expensive. Although it didn't make a difference.

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    Thank you, this was exactly the kind of answer I was looking for – mrnovice Jun 19 '17 at 12:16
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    We should probably pay attention to the amino acid balance. Vegetable protein sources might have a quite different amino acid balance than is ideal for us. So, relying on a single source may be less nutritious than the simple protein content suggests. You might want to combine several quite different protein sources. – badjohn Jan 4 at 14:18
  • @badjohn It is true that if you only eat peanut butter, exclusively, your whole life, and nothing else, you will get an amino acid deficiency. However, if you eat a variety of plant-based foods you will never get a protein deficiency. You don't have to think about it. For example cereal or oatmeal or toast for breakfast one day and beans in your dinner the next day = complete and balanced amino acids over those days. It would be almost impossible for a vegan to be deficient in an amino acid unless they ate the same thing at every meal or were calorie deficient. – WetlabStudent Jan 4 at 15:07
  • I know and I am quite confident that I get a good balance of amino acids. My concern here was that this question and answer might encourage a restricted diet that was not so healthy. With good data and some mathematical analysis, we could calculate the cheapest healthy diet. I expect that it would not be a single source but a combination of several. – badjohn Jan 4 at 15:11
  • @badjohn Sure but that wasn't the question. Please ask a separate question on that topic if you want. – WetlabStudent Jan 5 at 0:23
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Actually I disagree with you that protein is a major obstacle to going vegan. It's everywhere!

Grains and pulses are probably the cheapest protein-rich foods. Protein content in beans, peas and lentils when cooked varies from around 6 to 10%. Porridge oats contain about 20% protein, wheat flour around 11%, and cooked brown rice about 6.5%

TVP ("textured vegetable protein") - sold dried and made from usually partially defatted soya beans - is a good value option that has the advantage of absorbing flavours well. In its uncooked dry state its protein content is around 50%, but it triples in mass during preparation, so the final protein content is around 17%.

Tofu is high in protein (at least 7% for the highest water content type, more for firm types) and can be inexpensive when bought in bulk, especially if you have access to an Asian grocery. You might be able to save money by making it yourself from soya beans - the only other ingredient required is a coagulant (traditional nigari or epsom salts can be used) which can also be bought cheaply.

Many vegetables also contain significant quantities of protein. Dried kale (kale crisps) contains 20% protein, surprisingly enough, and broccoli is a decent source. Nuts, which are often expensive, are high in protein. Peanuts are the cheapest; their protein content is about 25%.

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I've found that dry beans and lentils have been by far the cheapest source of protein, followed by the canned forms. Don't forget to eat a variety of foods, or combine protein types over the course of the day, so grains would be a good second type to add, or whatever nuts (not peanuts for complementing purposes) happen to be on discount, and vegetable sources as noted by another answer.

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