Protein diversity on and off the plate

Consuming a wide range of plant-based proteins—such as fava, lupin, mung, chickpea and pea—is essential for promoting a thriving ecosystem, improving personal health and mitigating the impacts of the current food system, according to Udi Lazimy and T. Callahan of Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners. Read more in the fourth article in a series from the duo.

5 Min Read

This is the fourth article in a series co-authored by Udi Lazimy and T. Callahan of Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners, which explores the fundamental components of the modern food system. Read the first articlesecond article and third article here.

Diversity is one of the strongest indicators of a thriving ecosystem. The same can be said for the makeup of our plates and, as a result, the ecosystem that lives in our gut. Much of this is thanks to the plants in our diet, namely the fuel that plants provide our bodies in the form of protein.

Today’s food market is no longer dominated by the plant proteins we grew up with, like the reliable but unimaginative soybean. While consuming a greater diversity of plants is proven to have positive downstream impacts on personal health, the benefits of a broader scope of plant proteins means an even broader network of stakeholders.

Primary among these stakeholders: all of us and every other being on the planet. We are experiencing unprecedented warming of the planet; as the warmest days in the history of record keeping are happening on consecutive days this summer, we owe it to ourselves to consider the impact a monolithic food system is having on the planet.

By 2050, the agri-food sector will contribute half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), up from around a quarter of total emissions presently, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is also the leading cause of species extinctions, per Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Research is also quite clear that regenerative and diverse agricultural systems are the antidote. The Guardian recently reported that new research suggests “marginal improvements to agricultural soils around the world would store enough carbon to keep the world within 1.5C of global heating.”

One of the quickest ways to implement climate-smart soil management techniques, and therefore stem the tide of global warming, is by increasing the diversity of proteins we grow and consume across our fertile, or once-fertile, lands.

Additionally, diverse protein consumption encourages diverse markets and economic growth. By encouraging a multitude of protein sources, agricultural markets that were once isolated from the global stage are increasingly connected, fostering direct connections between farmers and processors. In turn, new opportunities arise for producers and consumers alike to access these proteins.

Perhaps a speed dating-esque, high-level survey of some of the highest-potential plant proteins is in order. While focusing on pea protein is tempting, as soy’s lesser produced but still massively popular little sister, it would do diversity a disservice to do so.

Luke, I am your fava

Fava beans have become more popular in recent years, particularly among European manufacturers. With a rather high protein bioavailability score—based on concentration of amino acids and digestibility, measured by the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS)—fava beans are known for having a clean taste among the range of plant proteins. Considering recent European investment, U.S. manufacturers are adding fava beans to their portfolios as well.


The peanut’s sweeter cousin, lupin, is an extremely protein-rich legume. The latest lupin breeding projects among our clients reported as high as 60%+ protein content.

Traditionally found in Mediterranean cuisine, lupin is a familiar food in North Africa and parts of Latin America. Lupin protein content is one reason why we’re excited to see its broader adoption. A good source of all nine essential amino acids, including arginine, known to lower blood pressure, lupin is a rising star in advancing the use of alternative proteins in a wide variety of plant-based formulations.


The humble, but mighty, mung bean earned its pre-title credit in familiar applications like plant-based eggs. Mung beans, however, boast benefits that far exceed breakfast.

As consumers and producers alike start to concern themselves more with what goes into producing the foods we eat, low water use and relatively low emissions compared to similar alternatives like eggs, mung bean offers a dynamic and super functional protein.


To round out the top candidates, we can’t leave out chickpeas. According to a scientific review, chickpeas offer a “good source of carbohydrates and protein, and protein quality is considered to be better than other pulses.”

Additionally, from a flavor perspective and due to its protein quality, solubility, availability and other factors, chickpea protein concentrate has gained popularity as a gluten replacement in pastas and other applications. We have seen a strong growth in demand from clients for chickpea protein, and we only expect that growth to continue.

Don’t worry, pea happy

One of the oldest domesticated crops, yellow field peas have been cultivated for more than 7,000 years. Indeed, a high-quality protein source with a high digestibility score, significant agricultural yield, the yellow pea is a great source of iron, and can aid muscle growth, weight loss and heart health. As a highly functional isolate and textured protein, it is an excellent protein for plant-based meat, dressings, mayonnaises, drinks and other alternative protein applications.

Embracing protein diversity both on and off the plate is essential for promoting a thriving ecosystem, improving our gut health and mitigating the impacts of a monolithic food system on the planet. By incorporating a wide range of plant proteins like fava, lupin, mung, chickpea, pea and many others, we not only enhance our own health but also contribute to a more sustainable and climate-smart agricultural system. Embracing this plant-based protein renaissance fosters economic growth, empowers local markets and ensures a brighter, more sustainable future.

With more than 20 years leading sustainable food system policy and innovation at companies and organizations like Eat Just, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Beyond Meat, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Patagonia and others, Lazimy and Callahan hope to encourage new approaches to the challenges that face the U.S. food system with an emphasis on the burgeoning plant-based industry.

About the Author(s)

Udi Lazimy

Founder and principal, Udi Lazimy Consulting LLC

Lazimy is the founder and principal of Udi Lazimy Consulting LLC. With over 20 years leading sustainable food system policy and innovation at companies and organizations like Eat Just, Upcycled Foods Inc., National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Organic Farming Research Foundation, Lazimy hopes to encourage new approaches to the challenges that face the U.S. food system with an emphasis on the burgeoning plant-based industry.

T. Callahan

Freelance writer

Callahan is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

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