How to Get Enough Protein on a Plant-based Diet
Did you know that protein is essential for human health? It helps in building and repairing tissues and influences almost every metabolic process in the body. Protein is especially essential for athletes and people who are very active. But what if you’re a vegan or vegetarian? Where do you get your protein? do not worry, there are plenty of plant-based sources of protein. Here are some tips on how to get enough protein on a plant-based diet.
What Do You Mean by a Plant-Based Diet?
A plant-based diet is one that emphasizes eating whole, unprocessed plant foods. This includes fruits, grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Some people who pursue a plant-based diet also eat dairy and eggs, but most do not eat meat, poultry, or fish.
What is Protein?
Protein is a nutrient that is vital for human health. It is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all tissues in the body. Amino acids are also involved in many metabolic processes. There are 20 different amino acids that can be used to make proteins, but the body can only produce 11 of them. The other 9 must be obtained from the diet.
What are the Different Types of Protein?
There are two kinds of protein and they are grouped based on their amino acid contents.
Complete proteins comprise all nine essential amino acids.
Incomplete proteins do not have one or more of the essential amino acids.
Most plant-based foods are incomplete proteins, with the exception of quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, and soybeans. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get all the essential amino acids from a plant-based diet. You just need to eat a variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day to get all the amino acids your body needs.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein is essential for human health. It helps to produce enzymes and hormones, build and repair tissues, and transport nutrients in the body. Protein is also involved in many metabolic processes.
What are the Benefits of Getting Protein in your Diet?
Protein is a crucial nutrient that our bodies need to function properly. It is found in many different types of food, and plays a role in repairing cells and producing energy. Protein also helps keep us feeling full after eating, which can help with weight loss or maintenance. Here are some of the most common benefits of getting protein in your diet.
1. Building and repairing tissues
Protein is necessary for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues in the body, including muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Why? First of all, our bodies are made up of proteins. Second, protein is needed to make new proteins. Whenever a cell is damaged or a new cell needs to be made, protein is required.
2. Producing enzymes and hormones
Enzymes are made up of proteins that act as catalysts in chemical reactions in the body. They help to digest food, synthesize nutrients, and eliminate toxins. Hormones are also proteins. They regulate many important functions in the body, such as growth, metabolism, and reproduction. Examples of enzymes and hormones include insulin, collagen, and thyroid-stimulating hormone.
3. Transporting nutrients in the body
Proteins are also needed to transport nutrients in the body. For example, the protein albumin carries fatty acids and hormones through the blood. Other types of protein such as ferritin and transferrin transport iron in the blood.
4. Boosting immunity
Proteins also play an important role in immunity. They help to protect the body from infection by producing antibodies that fight off bacteria and viruses. Proteins play a role in the creation of immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that help fight infection.
Findings from recent studies suggest that amino acids play an important role in regulating immune responses, including the activation of T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes, the production of cytokines, and the generation of memory cells.
5. Regulating metabolism
Proteins are involved in many metabolic processes, such as the breakdown of food and the production of energy. How? Proteins are needed for the proper functioning of enzymes, which are essential for these processes. One example is the enzyme glucokinase, which is involved in the regulation of blood sugar levels.
6. Aiding in weight loss (if that’s your goal)
Getting adequate protein can help you lose weight and keep it off. That’s because protein helps to boost metabolism and reduce appetite. Protein also helps in building and maintaining lean muscle mass, which burns more calories than fat.
7. Reducing risk of disease
Getting enough protein may also reduce the risk of some chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. More research might be needed but, overall, protein is an important nutrient for good health.
8. Maintaining fluid balance
Proteins also play a role in maintaining fluid balance. They attract and hold onto water molecules, which helps to keep tissues hydrated.
Protein has several important purpose and functions in the body. Getting enough protein is especially important for athletes and people who are very active. Plant-based sources of protein can provide all the amino acids you need to support these functions.
9. Preserving muscle mass
Getting enough protein is especially important for older adults, who are at risk of losing muscle mass (sarcopenia). Muscle loss can lead to frailty and a decrease in quality of life. Protein helps to preserve muscle mass by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. It also helps to prevent age-related muscle loss by reducing inflammation and boosting immunity.
10. Healing wounds
Protein is also important for wound healing. It helps to form new tissue and repair damaged tissue. The amino acids in protein are needed for the production of collagen, a major component of connective tissue.
11. Improving mood
Protein can also have a positive effect on mood. That’s because it helps to produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood, such as serotonin and dopamine. Eating protein-rich foods may help to improve mood and reduce stress.
12. Supporting pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time when extra protein is needed. That’s because protein is necessary for the growth and development of the baby. Getting enough protein can also help to prevent birth defects. Good sources of protein include fish, beans, lean meat, poultry, tofu, and eggs.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The amount of protein that you need to have depends on your age, sex, and activity level. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (or about 46 grams per day for a 130-pound person). However, athletes and people who are very active may need more protein than the RDA.
Is There Really No Protein in Vegetables?
Vegetables do contain protein, but not as much as animal-based sources. A cup of cooked spinach, for example, has about 5 grams of protein. But if you compare it from animal based resources, a 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken has about 26 grams of protein. Fish and pork are also good sources of protein.
Do You Need to Eat Animal Protein to Get All the Essential Amino Acids?
No, you don’t need to eat animal protein to get all the essential amino acids. In fact, most people in the world get their protein from plant-based sources. Plant-based proteins include beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts. These types of food contain all the essential amino acids your body needs.
There are some plant-based proteins that are incomplete, meaning they don’t contain all the essential amino acids. But you can easily get all the essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant-based proteins throughout the day. For example, you could have beans and rice for lunch and lentils and quinoa for dinner.
What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Protein?
If you do not get enough protein, you may experience muscle weakness, fatigue, and trouble concentrating. You may also have trouble recovering from exercise, wounds, and surgery. A lack of protein can also lead to a decrease in immunity, which can make you more susceptible to infection.
Again, protein is an essential nutrient that has many important functions in the body. Getting enough protein is especially important for athletes and people who are very active. Plant-based sources of protein can provide all the amino acids you need to support these functions.
Do You Need to Eat Complete Proteins at Every Meal?
No. As long as you eat a variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day, you will get all the amino acids your body needs. This is because the different amino acids are used in different proportions at different times of the day. So, if you eat a complete protein at one meal, you will get the amino acids that are not in that food at another meal.
How to Get Enough Protein on a Plant-based Diet
If you're following a plant-based diet, you may be wondering how to get enough protein. While it's true that plants don't contain as much protein as animal sources, there are plenty of high-protein plant foods that can help you meet your needs. Here are some tips on how to get enough protein on a plant-based diet:
1. Include a wide variety of protein-rich plant foods in your diet.
There are many different types of plants that are rich in protein, including beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. By including a variety of these kind of foods in your diet, you might be able to get all the essential amino acids in your diet.
2. Eat protein-rich foods at every meal.
To make sure you are getting enough protein throughout the day, aim to include protein-rich food at every meal. For example, you could start your day with a bowl of oatmeal topped with almonds and seeds, enjoy a salad with chickpeas or lentils for lunch, and eat quinoa or bean chili for dinner.
3. Use protein powder.
If you find it difficult to get enough protein from food alone, you can also use protein powder as a supplement. There are several plant-based protein supplement powders on the market made from ingredients like pea protein, brown rice protein, and hemp protein. These powders can be mixed into smoothies, soups, and other dishes to boost your protein intake.
4. Snack on high-protein foods.
If you are looking for a healthy snack that will help you meet your protein needs, reach for nuts, seeds, nut butter, or dried fruit. These snacks are not only rich in protein but also packed with other nutrients like fiber and healthy fats.
5. Limit processed plant-based proteins.
While there are some healthy plant-based proteins, such as tofu and tempeh, many others are highly processed and contain unhealthy ingredients. If you are following a plant-based diet, it's important to limit your intake of these processed proteins and focus on whole, unprocessed foods instead.
6. Consider taking a supplement.
If you are not getting adequate protein from food, you may want to consider taking a supplement. There are many plant-based protein supplements on the market that can be used to boost your intake. You can also find supplements made from other ingredients, such as pea protein, brown rice protein, and hemp protein. Talk to a registered dietitian or family doctor before taking any supplements.
7. Talk to a registered dietitian.
If you're following a plant-based diet and have concerns about getting enough protein, talk to a registered dietitian. They can help you create a well-balanced diet that meets your individual needs.
Top 12 sources of plant-based protein
As someone who follows a vegan lifestyle, I'm always looking for new ways to pack in the protein. And as someone who loves variety, I'm also always on the lookout for new sources of plant-based protein. So whether you're vegan, vegetarian, or just looking to add more plant-based proteins to your diet, check out this list of my top 12 favorites!
Lentils are a type of legume that are packed with protein, fiber, and other nutrients. A 1-cup (198-gram) serving of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein, which is about 36% of the Daily Value (DV). Lentils are also a good source of potassium, iron, and B vitamins. They may improve blood sugar control and heart health, and help you lose weight.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzos, are another type of legume that are high in protein and fiber. A 1-cup (164-gram) serving of cooked chickpeas provides 14 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber. Chickpeas are also an excellent source of phosphorus, magnesium, iron,and B vitamins. They may improve blood sugar control and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Quinoa has nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. A 1-cup or 185-gram serving of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein. It may improve blood sugar control and heart health, and help you lose weight. What’s more, they are low in calories and fat and rich in iron, potassium, and magnesium — making them an ideal food for people who want to lose weight or improve their health.
Tempeh is a fermented soy that is high in protein and fiber. A 1-cup (165-gram) serving of cooked tempeh provides 15 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. Tempeh is also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. It may improve blood sugar control and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Soybeans are a type of legume that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. A 1-cup (172-gram) serving of cooked soybeans provides 28 grams of protein, which is about 56% of the DV. Soybeans are also a good source of fiber, iron, calcium, and phosphorus. They may help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Peas are small, green legumes that are often consumed as a side dish or added to soups and stews. A 1-cup serving of cooked peas contains 8 grams of protein, which is about 16% of the DV. Peas also contain fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, and folate. They may improve blood sugar control and decrease the risk of heart disease.
7. Black beans
Black beans are a type of legume that is high in protein and fiber. A serving of cooked black beans provides 15 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Black beans are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
8. Navy beans
Navy beans are high in protein and fiber. It is best for recipes such as soups, stews, and chili. A 182-gram serving of cooked navy beans provides 16 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber.
9. Pinto beans
Pinto beans are a type of legume that is high in protein and fiber. It is best for recipes such as soups, stews, and chili. A 1-cup (242-gram) serving of cooked pinto beans provides 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber.
Edamame is a type of soybean that has a high in protein content A 1-cup (155-gram) serving of cooked edamame provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
11. Kidney beans
Kidney beans are high in protein and fiber. It is also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
12. Lima beans
A 1-cup (172-gram) serving of cooked lima beans provides 15 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Lima beans are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. They may improve blood sugar control and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Get your Proteins!
Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a major role in the function of the human body. It is involved in everything from muscle growth and repair to immunity and cell signaling. While animal-based sources of protein are typically considered the best, there are many plant-based sources that can also provide adequate amounts of this important nutrient. By including a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet, you can ensure that you're getting all the amino acids your body needs.
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