When you search the word “protein” on Google, what’s the first thing that comes up on images? Meat and eggs. I can understand why most people only think of animal products when it comes to proteins, but today I am here to change that and prove that there are so many amazing plant based sources of protein that contain all of the amino acids that we need!
This blog will get into what proteins are, the differences between plant and animal sources, the daily recommended amount and 5 high plant based sources of protein⚡️
What are proteins?
First things first, what exactly are proteins and why do we need them? Proteins are one of three macronutrients that the body requires to properly function. The other two are fats and carbohydrates. Proteins play an important role in various bodily processes such as fluid balance, blood clotting, immune system responses and hormone regulation. They are crucial building blocks in our bodies and are also responsible for muscle mass.
Proteins consists of large chains of amino acids- there are 20 of them in total. The human body is capable of synthesizing (or creating) 11 of them and the remaining 9 are known as “essential amino acids” that must come from our diet.
A common argument against consuming plant based proteins is that they are incomplete and must be paired together in order to create complete proteins. Complete proteins are foods that contain all of the 9 essential amino acids. They are typically associated with animal products, however many plant based foods are complete proteins as well such as quinoa, buckwheat, hemp and soy. In addition, it’s important to note that all 9 essential amino acids can be found in plant based foods, in varying amounts.
Meaning that if you follow a whole food plant based diet, you will have nothing to worry about as you will be consuming a wide variety of plants which all contain varying amounts of essential amino acids!
Animal Proteins vs Plant Proteins
Okay so now that we talked a bit about what proteins are and why they’re important, let’s get into why plant based sources are healthier than animal sources.
Plant based sources of protein tend to be lower in calories and fat than animal sources, and higher in fiber and essential nutrients. Therefore, by transitioning to plant based sources of protein, you will increase your nutrient profile and reduce your daily caloric intake.
Take a peanut butter sandwich and 3 eggs for example. Both are popular breakfast foods and you would be very surprised to find out that they contain about the same amount of protein but very different nutrient profiles. A peanut butter sandwich is packed with whole grains, healthy carbs and nutrients whereas eggs contain unnecessary cholesterol, sodium and animal fat.
Plant based sources also keep you feeling full for longer as they are higher in fiber which promotes healthy weight loss and digestion. In addition, when you consume animal products, your body undergoes oxidative stress which depletes the body of beneficial nutrients to neutralize cell damage.
How much protein should I consume?
With any nutrient, it’s possible to consume too much or too little. With protein, it’s no different. However, unlike other nutrients, proteins have a very interesting threshold that one must stay within in order to obtain just the right amount for their body weight and fitness desirability.
It’s very rare to become protein deficient in our society. Essentially all of our foods contain protein, it’s just a matter of choice between plant based sources vs animal sources. The tricky part is getting too much protein. So many body builders, gym fanatics and fitness coaches advocate for eating more protein to get more muscle mass. But getting more protein than the daily recommended amount hasn’t necessarily been proven to build more muscle mass.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the amount of protein that each person should consume is based on their age, sex and level of physical activity.
The general guidelines for a healthy amount of protein ranges from 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight (2.2 lbs) to 2 grams for more active individuals.
Consuming more protein per kg of body weight has been linked to weight gain, constipation, and increased risk of cancer and heart disease. But this is mainly because most individuals associate protein with animal products, meaning that someone who is trying to obtain more protein will most likely do so through consuming animal products.
But as mentioned earlier, if you swap plant proteins in place of animal proteins, you will increase your nutrient profile and boost your metabolism at the same time.
5 Healthy & High Sources of Plant Based Protein
Here are 5 amazing sources of plant based proteins that are both healthy and delicious! Beans and lentils are great additions to add to any diet as they contain a healthy amount of protein, carbs and fiber. These nutrients and macronutrients are great for weight loss, better digestion and a faster metabolism!
- Peanuts: Just one cup of peanuts contains about 25 grams of protein. But if snacking on them isn’t your thing- two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 8 grams of protein. Match that with 2 pieces of whole grain toast (4g protein each) and you already have a breakfast containing 16 grams of healthy plant based protein! 😋
- Black Beans: Black beans are delicious and a great addition to any meal! Just one cup contains 15 grams of protein and lots of fiber which is great for weight loss.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas are one of the best plant based sources of protein with 39 grams per cup. Check out my chickpea tuna recipe for a creative way to incorporate them into your diet⚡️
- Lentils: Lentils are so tasty and perfect for when it’s chilly out. My favourite thing to do is pressure cook one cup of dry lentils with soy sauce, onions, mushrooms and garlic. Just one cup of these bad boys contain 18 grams of protein.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is the perfect substitute for bacon. If you’ve never tried it before- you definitely should! It can be found in the vegetarian/vegan section of most grocery stores. Just one block typically contains 19 grams of protein.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog on proteins- I really hope that you learned something that will benefit your health! The main reason why I wrote this blog is to change the way that people think of protein! Animal sources are not the only sources of protein out there.
There are so many amazing plant based sources that contain all of the amino acids that we need! It’s just a matter of consciously making those swaps 🙂
Macho-González, A., Garcimartín, A., López-Oliva, M., Bastida, S., Benedí, J., Ros, G., Sánchez-Muniz, F. (2020, July 20). Can Meat and Meat-Products Induce Oxidative Stress? Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7402184/
Hernandez-Alonso, P., Salas-Salvado, J., & Ruiz-Canela, M. (2015, April 07). High dietary protein intake is associated with an increased body weight and total death risk. Retrieved January 10, 2021, from https://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(15)00091-6/fulltext