Day in and day out, people are bombarded with delusions on how to get a healthier body. Amidst the world of supermarket processed meats and plant-eating naysayers, you’ve emerged an environmentally friendly warrior – kudos to you. However, if you’re new to the party and taking your first steps into this natural diet you are probably wondering, “How can I get protein without eating meat?” There’s no need to fret, young Padawan. We’ll help you to discover the best plant-based protein sources that meet your body’s nutritional and physical needs.
Why Do We Need Proteins?
Proteins have an amazingly complex and vital role in your body. To help you understand what protein you need to consume, and why, let’s start by reviewing what they do in your body:
- Structure: Proteins create physical structure (muscle, hair, skin, nails, blood, organs)
- Function: Proteins perform ‘work’ as enzymes which are like internal ‘mechanics’ (folding, bending, shaping, building and breaking other substances, like the foods you eat.)
- Regulation: Proteins create the hormones, neurotransmitters, antibodies of the immune system and even the DNA which controls virtually every aspect of our being!
There is a misconception that plant-based diets lack essential amino acids. A combination of low quality diets, meat-industry propaganda and quick fix articles have obscured the truth about plant-based proteins.
Animal proteins are typically contaminated with multiple chemicals and toxins:
- Antibiotics used to force the animals to grow quicker kill off our beneficial gut flora
- Stress hormones released at the time of slaughter which cause “a dramatic reduction of vitality and sexual potency in humans who “eat the meat” and are linked to multiple diseases.
- High heat processing and cooking damages animal-proteins producing heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are carcinogenic and mutagenic
- Bleaches and ammonia used to sterilize and kill bacteria – TV Chef, Jamie Oliver, won a lawsuit in 2016 claiming that McDonalds ammonia treated “pink slime” (used to make burgers in the US) was “unfit for human consumption”.
To replace old and damaged proteins we need to consume them in our diet. According to the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) we should consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight – for an average person this is about 45 to 60 grams of protein per day as a minimum (to survive and not necessarily thrive!)
However, your overall state of health, activity levels and many other factors influence your protein requirements. Activities like smoking and diets high in refined sugar damage proteins: meaning the body has to replace them more often. A diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables provides lots of antioxidants which helps your body repair proteins.
While nutritional guidelines state how much we ‘should’ eat these guidelines are often influenced by the milk and meat industries and do not accurately reflect the reality of a healthy human herbivore!
Mouth to Muscle
Protein in the diet (from some tasty cashews for example) is broken down into smaller pieces when we chew it and then digested into teeny-tiny pieces called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins and just 20 different amino acids drive the immense complexity of structure and function which proteins provide.
The amino acids are all very slightly different (like the variation you get in LegoTM bricks – each one has a special structure and function and they can be used in various combinations to make anything from Lego cars to Lego houses and more!).
FACT: The human body makes many amino acids itself, as long as you incorporate the 9 essential amino acids in your diet, your body can produce the 20 that it needs to build and maintain the miracle that is you!
High Quality Plant Proteins
It is not the quantity of protein that you eat which is important but the quality. Makes sense right? If you built a house from broken bricks you wouldn’t be surprised if cracks started appearing! If you find that you are low in energy, have cuts which are slow to heal, have trouble concentrating, experience mood swings or have aching joints you could be lacking high quality protein.
There are many plant-based sources of protein and even plant-based protein powders available to satisfy your stomach and efficiently meet your nutritional needs. With the latest scientific research we bring you the facts, instead of a sugar-coated version of the truth, to help you develop the knowledge and confidence to be a happy and healthy herbivore.
Sources of Protein
It is not just humans and animals that use protein as a vital structural, functional and regulatory substance. Plants, fungi, bacteria and every other aspect of Mother Nature’s organic bounty are also made from proteins! This is what makes the misconceptions so ridiculous, many strong and vital animals only eat plants (horses, gorillas, pandas, rhinos, elephants) – have you ever considered an elephant to be weak or underfed?
FACT: There are several plant-based sources of protein which contain all 9 essential amino acids, these are called “complete proteins” – Cannabis seeds are an amazing and tasty source of high-quality complete protein.
So, get ready and grab your dinner plate…..what can you eat to bring you the best plant-based protein for your palette?
Nuts & Seeds
This group of food is the most popular when considering plant-based proteins. Why? Their protein levels are amazing for your health and body. Not only that, but they are a great source of fiber and contain loads of other micronutrients, essential fats and antioxidants and are perfect for a quick snack or a crunchy addition to a salad or breakfast. Pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pistachio and sunflower seeds are 20 to 30% protein.
FACT: Peanuts aren’t nuts at all – they’re legumes – and while they are a good source of protein they are high in fat, often genetically modified and can be a source of aflotoxins and even salmonella.
The nutritional benefits of seeds is enhanced by soaking them first to activate their enzymes – seeds are packed with nutrients as they are designed to start a new life for the plant. You can bless yourself with this highly adaptable and rich source of protein but don’t overdo it, limit yourself to 3 ounces per day maximum.
Beans, Pulses, & Legumes
Bloating and gassiness aside, beans and pulses have gotten a bad reputation for being troublesome because they contain phytic acid. Phytic acid is an ‘anti-nutrient’, but small doses of it aren’t bad at all and can even considered to be slightly beneficial. This food group is also naturally high in fiber which will keep you regular and your bowels in tip top condition.
Soaking will remove some of the anti-nutrients, also cook thoroughly or sprout them. Black beans, black eyed peas, lima beans and sprouted peas, lentils or soybeans are some of the best sources of bean-based protein with 5 to 10g per cupful. Experiment with the endless varieties and flexible texture to find which work for you as a dish, homemade bean burger or delicious dip.
Fruits & Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain protein too, but not that much, and they also add vital anti-oxidants, vitamins, and other nutritious goodness to your diet! Potatoes, sweet corn, artichoke and greens contain the highest amount of protein in the veggie domain with 3 to 5g per cupful. Berries, pomegranate, peaches, apricots, strawberries, kiwi and melon all have about 2 to 5g per cupful.
Grains and Rice
Grains, rice and pseudo-grains have been under dietary scrutiny for quite some time. Sadly, the spotlight won’t escape these products any time soon, but there is still hope as they hold a little bit of protein value when cooked. Brown rice (contains 5 grams per cup) and quinoa (8 grams per cup) can be used as substitutes for less healthy carbohydrates such as pasta or bread.
A couple of lesser known grains with higher protein benefits than quinoa are amaranth and kamut. These “ancient grains” contain 20 to 40 percent more protein than quinoa, amaranth having 26 grams of protein per cup to the kamut grain’s 11 grams per cup. The best thing about these grains is that they’ll fill you up fast and keep you full for a long time.
Herbs & Spices
In addition to adding flavor and herbs and spices contain a bit of protein too but this is just a tasty bonus – you’d find it hard to meet your nutritional needs eating just herby leaves! Dried herbs and spices like basil, tarragon and parsley have about 1g of protein per teaspoonful.
Protein Supplements and Powders
Many people choose to simplify their protein requirements by supplementing with plant-based protein powders consumed in shakes, pills or sprinkled over other foods. These can be useful from a time and convenience perspective while ensuring you get sufficient quality protein without having to think too much about it.
The dramatic rise in popularity of plant-based protein powders (a 4,000% rise in google searches over 5 years!) is testament to people’s changing nutritional needs. Getting high quality proteins will ensure your body has all the building blocks needed to thrive in sufficient qualities, taking the guess work out of eating. Delicious flavor combinations in nutritionally balanced products, blended with other superfoods, is making life much easier for those of us striving for the healthiest nutrition possible.
FACT: Consuming specific high quality sources of protein can speed up metabolism and increase muscle growth aiding weight-loss and muscle gain.
There is a huge difference between eating enough protein to survive and consuming sufficient of the specific amino acids needed to help us thrive! Plant-based proteins are often lower in certain amino acids (specifically lysine, tryptophan, methionine, and phenylalanine) so you need to eat foods which naturally contain these in abundance or find a high quality organic plant-based protein powder.
Lysine: produces collagen and aids calcium absorption – found in pumpkin seeds and white beans
Tryptophan: stabilizes moods and sleep patterns – found in chia and sesame seeds
Methionine: builds cartilage and prevents liver inflammation – found in walnuts and soy (GMO-free please).
Phenylalanine: creates DNA and signals in the brain – found in pumpkin seeds and lentils
Steps to Success!
Changes to your diet should be done gradually, taking small steps toward your goals. Aim for fresh and seasonal foods when possible and buy organic when you can. Remember, you can absolutely get enough protein from plants and anybody that tells you that you can’t is lying, sponsored by the meat and dairy industry or simply misinformed.
Remember it is quality over quantity when it comes to proteins and simply adding some nuts and seeds or legumes to your plate can make a big difference. If you feel you may be lacking high-quality protein, or are concerned about meeting your nutritional needs, protein powders are a cost effective and convenient way to put your mind at ease.
Let People Know the Truth
With your help we can share the vital truth about plant-based nutrition. By sharing this article on your favourite social media channels it raises awareness. Google uses social shares to measure trends and increase visibility. Stand united with people from all around the world in creating a healthy plant-based future. Every single action you take makes a difference, start sharing now.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834504/ ?
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27608639 ?
- http://omega77.tripod.com/meatandstress.htm ?