As it turns out, you can get your daily fill of protein on a plant-based diet!
For those who are new to plant-based diets, getting that daily protein fix is often something that becomes a major concern. The most common misconception when it comes to plant-based diets, is that one is at risk of not getting enough protein. Fortunately, there are a number of plant-based options that are protein-packed — and delicious, too!
Why Does the Body Need Protein?
So, why all the hoopla around protein? Why is there such an obsession over “getting enough protein”?
When you hear people refer to protein as the body’s “building block,” this is actually quite a literal analogy. Protein is an important component for the growth and repair of all cells and tissues in your body. It also plays a crucial role in major bodily functions, including blood clotting and vision. Needless to say, protein is a key aspect to consider when it comes to one’s diet, especially diets of those in their developmental stages.
It’s important to note that more is not necessarily better when it comes to protein. When your body has used up the protein it requires to function, the remainder will simply be used up as energy. When it comes to protein, getting just enough is the way to go.
What is Plant Protein?
Before delving into what plant protein is, let’s quickly discuss what protein is.
All proteins are built from chains of amino acids. Our bodies need nine particular amino acids to support protein tissues in the body, and because animal proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies need, they’re considered as the most complete sources of protein.
Simply put, plant protein is any protein source that doesn’t come from an animal. While plant proteins may lack in one or more of the nine essential amino acids that one’s body requires, it is absolutely possible to meet our bodies’ protein needs without animal products.
In a 24-hour period, you’ll most likely acquire all the essential amino acids due to the meals you eat throughout the day. Your liver will help store the amino acids that your body uses at a later time, collecting what your body needs.
So, while plant protein sources may not have all nine essential amino acids that you need, your body — being the ingenious apparatus that it is — will naturally figure out a way to ensure that you get the amino acids for it to operate smoothly. (Assuming, of course, that this diet is a balanced one and not filled with vegan junk food.)
It’s also not necessary for those who are considering going on a plant-based diet to worry about eating and combining different types of plant proteins to “collect them all” in one meal. You simply need to ensure that you are eating enough total calories and a wide range of plant-based foods.
Types of plant protein
There are a number of excellent plant proteins you can include in your meals to maintain a healthy diet. We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite ones:
Nuts are a great way to incorporate an extra dash of protein in your diet. Whether you have it as a snack or it’s used in a recipe, nuts are reported to help lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. The recommended daily intake of 1.5 ounces is all you need, with almonds containing 9 grams of protein, and cashews containing 8 grams in the same amount.
Quinoa acts as a great protein-forward base for any meal. With 8 grams of protein per cup, quinoa is also a great source of fibre, as well as other vitamins and minerals. It’s also a very flexible grain that works for almost every dish featuring a grain, perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even desserts.
Seitan is a staple amongst vegans. Made of vital wheat gluten, the main protein found in wheat, seiten is a great meat replacement with its hearty texture. Just 3 ounces of seitan contains 20 grams of protein. In addition to natural foods stores, seitan can be found in most grocery stores as well.
Even those not on plant-based diets are familiar with soy products. From tofu to soy milk, soy is one of the most popular plant-based products that’s coincidentally packed with protein. Some other less popular varieties of soy include tempeh, and like tofu, it can be used as a meat replacement while boasting 17 grams of protein per ½ cup.
5. Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Technically, this should be a subsection underneath soy, since textured vegetable protein (or TVP) is a soy product and contains a derivative of soybeans. This low-fat plant protein is used by many vegans as a meat replacement thanks to its chewy mouthfeel. Since soy is a terrific source of plant protein, TVP is one as well.
Not only is it inexpensive, but TVP is easy to cook, too, and take on flavours easily since it doesn’t have much of a taste on its own. In ¼ cup of TVP, you’ll find an impressive 12 grams of protein. What’s more is that TVP is actually a complete protein, containing all nine of the essential amino acids we were talking about earlier. It’s no surprise that TVP has become such a popular plant protein amongst vegans.
Needless to say, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all plant-based protein sources. Almost all plant food contains some protein, including ones you may not consider to be “protein foods” like broccoli and rice. While they may not have a lot of protein, the protein in the food you eat ultimately adds up to make up your daily requirement. Because of this, there’s no need to worry whether or not you’ll be getting enough when you’re ready to switch to a plant-based diet. You will get enough protein — we promise!
What’s your favourite plant protein? Let us know in the comments!