There’s a lot of confusion around protein when it comes to plant-based and vegan diets. A major misconception is that plant-based foods don’t contain enough protein to sustain the average human being. This is certainly not the case!
Let’s delve a little deeper and get a better understanding of this commonly misunderstood nutrient.
What Is Protein?
Protein is composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds that function as the building blocks of proteins. Proteins catalyze the majority of chemical reactions that occur in a cell. They also provide many of the structural elements of a cell, and aid in binding cells together into tissues.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body and play a role in just about every biological process; their functions differ extensively. Their main functions are to build, strengthen, repair or replace things like tissue.
Types of Dietary Protein
Complete/whole proteins: These are a food source of protein that contain enough of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in our diet, like quinoa, soy and buckwheat.
Incomplete proteins: These foods contain at least one essential amino acid, which leads to a lack of balance in the proteins, such as grains, nuts and seeds.
Complementary proteins: Two or more foods containing incomplete proteins can be combined to supply complete protein, like rice and beans, whole grain bread with peanut butter, cereal with almond milk and hummus and whole grain pita bread.
The Best Source of Protein
So, how do vegans get protein? There are a wide range of sources that vegans or those on a plant-based diet can get their protein.
Protein-rich plant-based foods include:
- Seitan: A meat substitute made entirely out of hydrated gluten; the main protein found in wheat.
- Tofu, tempeh and edamame: Originate from soybeans, which are a whole source of protein
- Chickpeas and most varieties of beans
- Nutritional yeast: A deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiaeyeast that’s sold as a yellow powder or flakes.
- Spirulina: A blue-green algae
- Quinoa: A complete source of protein
- Protein-rich fruits and vegetables: Veggies including green peas broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes and Brussels sprouts. Fruits like guava, blackberries, nectarines and bananas.
- Oats and oatmeal
What Are the Signs of Protein Deficiency?
It’s recommended that between 10 and 35 percent of an adult’s daily calories should come from protein. Protein deficiency due to a low intake of protein in the diet is quite unusual, however it can arise if a person has from certain health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gastric bypass surgery
Low protein intake can lead to weak muscle tone, thin and brittle hair, loss in muscle mass, greater risk of bone fractures and so on.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting the right amount of nutrients, especially protein, from your diet then get in touch with Veganvitalife today. Anvita, our certified plant-based nutrition and a Registered Nurse will do a complete review and evaluation of your current health. She’ll create a meal plan specifically tailored to your nutritional needs including recipes, and provide the nutritional guidance you need to help you reach optimal health.
Check out our latest recipes here.