Ever wonder why nuts are not a great source of protein?

  • Ever wonder why Vegans have trouble gaining muscle?
  • Ever wonder why nuts are not a great source of protein?

My Protein Quality Tool rates the protein quality in plain english for over 5000 foods! All protein is not created equally. The essential amino acid profile, the digestibility, and the macros of the nuts all factor in to determine how much you actually have to eat to get the equievelent of 30g high quality protein like that from isolated whey, eggs, or chicken breast.

Lets look at the example of peanuts, they have a *lot* of fat in them.  “So what” you say, “its good fat”.  None the fat provides a lot of calories, so much so that peanuts are only 11% protein.  The next issue is the amino acid profile.  Peanuts are lacking in lysine, in fact, peanuts only have 41% as much of lysine as chicken breast does which means you have to eat that much more peanuts to insure that you get sufficient amounts of this essential amino acid.  Then there is the digestibility.  Not all the protein in nuts can be digested, in fact, the PDCAAS of peanuts is only 0.52 which means you need to double the amount of nuts to get the protein you want.  Add up the lysine shortage and the digestibility and you need to consume nearly 5x the protein with nuts than you would for something like nonfat milk or chicken.

To get 30 grams of high quality, usable protein you can either eat 120 calories worth of isolated whey or 5000 calories of peanuts!


Dont get upset, I’m not picking on nuts.  I *know* you can combine complimentary foods to make up for the lysine deficiency.  This is an educational tool to show things that you need to be aware of when choosing your protein sources.

Please help me this Protein Quality Tool better!

Please use my Protein Quality Tool and give me feedback so I can make it better!

  •  Bugs?
  • Things that are confusing?
  • Additional information needed?
  • Suggestions?

Please put your suggestions here!

50 thoughts on “Ever wonder why nuts are not a great source of protein?”

  1. This “vegan have trouble gaining nuscle” realy began to bug me, so I googled “vegan bodybuilders” and stumbled on on Avi R. Lehyani.

    Check him out on vegan bodybuilding & fitness, you may change your view about that.

    He is a power lifter so it has never been on stage so he is not easy to spot. Anyways, muscles he does have.

  2. Scooby — thanks so much for building this tool! I’m a vegan, so I’m always chasing after amino acids, and it’s really hard to find good info. This makes things so much easier.

    I’d love to see some protein powders added (I know you have whey and soy isolates, but there are some vegan protein powders like hemp, pea, and mixes designed to have a complete amino profile), and things like hemp seeds.

    Thanks again!

  3. Hi Scooby. The tool is really amazing. From what you explained about protein quality, I understand that one gram of protein per pound, means one gram of useful protein per pound. If I’m right and depeding on one’s diet, many people may not be eating enough protein and not obtaining optimal gains. Now I’ve checked your tool, I’m thinking on my diet… Am I doing it right? As soon as I’ve time I’m going to check what I eat an average day, and this lead me to a “feature” request or suggestion, Could you implement an option to select different foods and display the total amount of proteins, useful proteins,…?

    Thanks for sharing all the info and tools, You’re great man!

  4. Scooby, the protein profile calculator is very cool. But I think your baseline comparison to chicken is completely wrong. If for example I look at egg white, it tells me I have to eat 1.6 times as much egg whites as chicken because egg is deficient in histidine, which is true when you compare eggs to chicken. But this is because chicken has more histidine than is probably needed. Another example, Quinoa, it says I would have to eat 1.8 times as much Quinoa as chicken because Quinoa is deficient in lysine. Finally black beans (one of your favourites) it says you have to eat 2 times as much beans as chicken because its deficient in methionine.

    I say this is poppycock, since all of these foods are “complete proteins”, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board.

    The following table from wikipedia, is originally sourced from Nutrition Data website (Which is where you get the data behind your protein quality tool right?)

    Essential Amino Acid mg/g of Protein:

    Tryptophan 7
    Threonine 27
    Isoleucine 25
    Leucine 55
    Lysine 51
    Methionine+Cystine 25
    Phenylalanine+Tyrosine 47
    Valine 32
    Histidine 18

    You should use this as the baseline for comparisons. I then think that eggs quinoa and black beans will look more favourable as protein sources. Which they should be.


    1. I agree with GMan; why not compare foods to the “ideal” amino acid profile needed for muscle development? Chicken is not perfect, so it doesn’t make much sense to use it as a benchmark.

      Actually, why not allow the user to choose their comparison? I still think it should default to the typical daily requirement, though.

  5. Scooby,

    How much protein should you be taking in a day if your trying to build muscle? I always here a guide is about a gram for every pound of bodyweight, but is that really true or is just an old legend? Is it hopeless for Vegans? I can get 185 grams a day and still be vegan, eating beans and drinking some vegan protein shakes, but I am getting the impression from your post(s) that perhaps its the quality of the protein is lacking. Thanks for a great site!

  6. Scooby, the protein profile calculator is very cool, and its coming along nicely. I still don’t understand why it says “Calories(g)”. Another thing, although it is nice to compare everything to chicken, could I have an “Advanced mode” where I can compare to a protein profile such as the following from wikipedias “Complete Protein” page:

    Essential Amino Acid mg/g of Protein:

    Tryptophan 7
    Threonine 27
    Isoleucine 25
    Leucine 55
    Lysine 51
    Methionine+Cystine 25
    Phenylalanine+Tyrosine 47
    Valine 32
    Histidine 18

    I also think mg is a more appropriate unit for displaying the micronutrient values.

  7. Hi Scooby, I just need some answers right now. I’m training to be a
    fitness model. I’ve been in training for 2 months now. I’m also a
    pescetarian. I do cardio and weight lifting. I can see my body
    transforming, but not my stomach. My p/t said that’s the last thing that
    will go away and you mention it as well. I eat plenty of fruit and
    vegetables, tofu and eggs. But, I eat maybe 2 or times a day and that is
    because I’ve been oversleeping due staying up late doing h/w. What can I
    do to lose the stomach?

        1. Stop eating the peanuts, pistachios, almonds and pecans, you want about half a handful a day at most! Instead why don’t you put about 1 tsp of flax oil in existing meals instead. you can get all your daily EFA’s from flax and (since your are a pescetarian) from fish and fish oils.

          1. Yes, I add flax seeds in my protein drink. I really thank you guys for the help. I want to make sure I’m on the right track.

    1. Keep up with the daily cardio and eat the right amount of daily calories ;)
      Also how much cardio are you doing? you need to do about 20-30 minutes of running every day.

        1. Your cardio sounds good, so long as that is every day. Also get a heart rate monitor, its fun to know and you can guage how effective your stairmaster is. Check your calories (maybe too many nuts) Your PT is right your belly is the last place it will come off. Assume you want to get 6-pack, its going to take a lot of dedication and up to 2 years of hard work. Towards the end you might need to look at carb cycling, but that’s quite extreme.

          1. I think you will have to decide for yourself, some research shows its estrogenic. (I personally avoid it) Others say its non-sense. I don’t know what scooby’s opinion is. I know that scooby does generally recommend “Everything in moderation”.

            Also, are you male of female? (I originally thought female from your nickname)

          2. Ah, ok. Generally the reason why men would want to avoid estrogen is because it counters the effects of testosterone which is the main androgenic hormone associated with building muscle. (Quoting scooby here) Because men’s testosterone levels are much higher, their bodies are able to respond to the resistance training by adding more muscle whereas the ability of women to do this is very limited.

            I am not sure you should worry about estrogen in plant sources, since as a woman your body will produce lots of estrogen naturally, and less testosterone. So the effects of soy on your hormones are likely to be negligible. In my opinion ;)

      1. Scoob, again would really like to hear you opinion on this. What you think about phytoestrogens? They are present to some extent in all beans, but are said to be particularly high levels in flax seeds and soy beans. Are the fears that phytoestrogens produce estrogenic effects in men in fact another load of poppycock? If so could you add a section to your bodybuilding myths about it. Because I hear/read about it quite often.

  8. When looking for a complementary foodstuff, what is really needed is to know which food has the most available Lysine (for example) per calorie, *not* which has the best ratio of Lysine to other amino acids. They are not the same thing.
    E.g. I eat oat groats every day. It is low in Lysine. What should I eat to bring the Lysine up to the ideal level that has the least amount of calories?
    Maybe I’m being lazy, but I think it’s possible to give a direct answer to this question rather than just listing likely candidates.
    Scooby’s app suggests parmesan as best complement for oats. Yet it only has 9.5mg Lysine per calorie, Vs chicken breast which has 22.1 mg Lysine per calorie.

    1. Hmmmm, you are correct. Let me mull that over. This feature was just a baby step toward my ultimate tool which is a protein combiner tool. An ideal tool would let you guide the choice of the complementary food by letting you choose plant or animal source and then it would list the best matches. The true test of a best match is that when you add up the essential AAs in both foods that the combined AA chart would look similar to chicken, egg, or whey.

  9. Tiny thing: in the table just above the plot, you indicate the units of “Calories” as ‘(g)’. (Yes, I’m an engineer….and a nit-picker).

    Also, it might be neat to do not just ‘gram of protein for gram of protein’, but also a ‘calorie for calorie’ comparison.

    Very neat tool.

      1. Your protein quality tool is going to be enormously useful!! I was surprised to see that “pork
        frsh loin tenderloin ln only raw” is almost of identical quality
        as chicken. Any thoughts why is pork not as popular as chicken? Pork
        loin is way cheaper than boneless, skinless chicken breast.

  10. on this tool, which type of whey is “normal” whey? Like typical Optimum Nutrition Natural Gold Standard Whey? On the tool there are various forms (dry, acid, fluid, etc.). I’m trying to figure out if whey is ok as a main source of protein. I’m not a big meat eater, so I’d say 85% of my protein intake is from whey. I’m wondering if this is ok.

  11. There was some confusion that I just fixed. Peanuts are not actually a nut but a legume so I changed the category from “Legumes” to “Legumes and Peanuts” because a lot of people were having trouble finding peanuts.

    1. Ilie-Cristian Dumitru

      Regarding this, I think i’ve found a little bug, Scooby. The change appears only after you’ve made a query on the tool. If you access it through your websites portal, it still reads only “Legumes”. And a second little bug is that after you have made a calculation, the Protein Quality Tool Calculator disappears completely from the drop down list under the “Fitness Tools” section at the left. It doesn’t disrupt the functionality, but a bug is a bug.

  12. Play with the tool, its cool! Did you know that if you are using peanuts for protein the best complimentary source of protein is cauliflower???? Sounds like a disgusting recipe but from a nutritional standpoint its a good combo!

  13. Very nice and informative tool! Would it be possible to have read only access to the database to make more advanced queries? Btw. I might have missed something, but is there any research that explains why chicken is the “gold-standard” in terms of digestibility and muscle building capabilities?

    1. I will slowly be adding features and flexibility. One thing that I want to add is the ability to compare the selected food to differing “gold standards”. The problem is despite what the advertisers tell us, we still cant prove beyond the shadow of a doubt what the single best protein source for muscle building is. I’d like to be able to compare to chicken, egg, whey, and “complete protein”.

  14. Apparently you have to eat 2262 calories of almonds to get 10g of complete protein. I like almonds but …. only need to eat 1191 calories of cashews.

    Thanks Scooby, it’s interesting playing with these tools to better understand nutrition.

  15. Leonidas Ventresca

    That is great. That is why I normally do not eat peanuts at all. I actually use peanutbutter powder. what it does is keeps the majority of the protien. So it has 5g protien, and 2 tablespoons is 45 calories. But it only has 1.5% fat. So what I sometimes do is put it with a scoop of whey protien, and it tastes like reeses! 32g of protien in a shake for 195 calories.

    1. Leonidas Ventresca

      Hey Phil. That would be a great idea, because a lot of my protien powders I use have a lot of cholesterol. There are a lot of whey protien powders used though haha.

  16. For the love of God please help promote hulled hemp seeds, it is vegan and super calorie dense, every calorie is clean!!!!!! more high quality protein than meat (all amino acids is a perfect balance) and good fats! omegas!!! Its a super food!!! nothing can compare!!! NO DIRTY CALORIES

    1. Alex, I’m a fan of hemp seeds as well, but they are not better protein quality than meat. They are limited by lysine and to a lesser extent tryptophan. Make sure you throw some raw cauliflower in your smoothies!

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