Role of plant protein in nutrition, wellness, and health

Rylee T. Ahnen, Satya S. Jonnalagadda, Joanne L. Slavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Plant-based diets, and more specifically plant-based proteins, have been the subject of growing interest from researchers and consumers because of their potential health benefits as well as their positive environmental impact. Of course, plant proteins are found in plant foods, and positive health benefits of plant foods are linked to dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. In epidemiological studies it is not possible to separate out the health benefits of plant foods in general as opposed to plant proteins specifically. Additionally, few vegans, who consume only plant-based proteins, are included in existing prospective cohort studies. Isolated plant proteins (soy, pea) have been used in intervention trials, but often to improve biomarkers linked to disease risk, including serum lipids or blood pressure. This review is an overview of plant proteins, the whole foods they are associated with, and the potential health benefits linked to consumption of protein from plant sources. Plant proteins and their potential for reducing the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, diabetes management, cancer prevention, and weight management are each discussed, as are the various rating systems currently used to determine protein quality from plant sources. Although additional research is needed that focuses specifically on the role that plant protein plays in the prevention and management of these chronic illnesses, rather than the role played by a more general plant-based diet, evidence suggests that plant proteins offer nutritional benefits to those who consume them. Limitations to plant proteins, including lower protein quality, must also be considered in this discussion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-747
Number of pages13
JournalNutrition reviews
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Life Sciences Institute. All rights reserved.


  • dietary patterns
  • health
  • plant
  • protein
  • vegetarians
  • whole foods


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