As a plant-based eater or someone looking to incorporate plant-protein meals into your diet, you might wonder how you can do that if all you’ve ever known was eating meat to get more protein.
While plants can be an excellent source of protein, it’s essential to understand how to consume complete proteins to meet your daily requirements.
In this article, we’ll explore why protein is vital in a plant-based diet and the differences between complete and incomplete proteins. We’ll also offer tips on how to complete plant proteins to ensure you’re consuming a well-rounded diet.
Our focus will be five simple and delicious ways to boost your protein intake with various plant-based foods, including quinoa, lentils, vegan breakfast burritos, and protein shakes such as the Naked Shake.
Why Protein is Vital on a Plant-Based Diet
Protein is vital to our overall health and well-being, regardless of our dietary choices. However, on a plant-based diet, understanding the importance of protein becomes even more crucial. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth and maintenance, and maintaining a strong immune system.
When following a plant-based diet, it’s essential to ensure an adequate protein intake as plant-based protein sources tend to be lower in certain essential amino acids than animal-based sources. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and our bodies require a variety of them for optimal functioning.
Protein is also beneficial for weight management, as it helps promote feelings of satiety and can aid in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Additionally, protein contributes to the production of enzymes, hormones, and antibodies necessary for various physiological processes.
By prioritizing protein on a plant-based diet, you can meet your body’s needs for essential amino acids, support your overall health, and thrive on a plant-powered lifestyle.
Complete vs Incomplete Proteins
When it comes to proteins, they are often categorized as either complete or incomplete based on their amino acid profile.
Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce independently. Animal-based proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are complete proteins.
However, it doesn’t mean that you only need to eat animal proteins; you can certainly get what you need with the right plant combinations.
Are All Plant Proteins Incomplete?
While animal-based proteins are considered complete proteins, not all plant proteins are inherently incomplete. However, most plant proteins individually lack one or more essential amino acids, making them incomplete. For example, grains are typically deficient in lysine, while legumes may be low in methionine.
However, this doesn’t mean that plant proteins are insufficient. You can easily obtain all essential amino acids by combining different plant protein sources throughout the day. Pairing complementary proteins, such as rice and beans or tofu and quinoa, creates a complete protein profile, ensuring that your plant-based diet meets your nutritional needs.
With a well-rounded and varied plant-based diet, you can enjoy a wide range of complete proteins without relying solely on animal sources.
How to Complete Plant Proteins
To ensure we’re hitting all the essential amino acids needed for our body, we want to do a variety of food combinations. Typically it’s a combination of legumes with grains, soy-based products or nut/seed-based products. For example:
- Tofu salad with quinoa
- Almond butter on whole-grain toast
- Beans and rice
5 Tips to Eat More Plant Protein
- Incorporate a variety of legumes: Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are excellent sources of plant protein. Include them in your meals by making hearty bean-based soups, stews, or chili. You can add them to salads or use them as a base for veggie burgers or patties.
- Explore whole grains: Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, and farro not only provide carbohydrates but also offer a decent amount of protein. Experiment with grain-based recipes like quinoa salads, brown rice stir-fries, or oatmeal topped with nuts and seeds for added protein.
- Try plant-based meat alternatives: There are numerous plant-based meat alternatives available on the market made from soy, seitan, or peas. These products can be used as substitutes in your favorite meat-based recipes, such as vegan breakfast burritos, plant-based meatballs, or veggie sausages, providing a protein-rich alternative.
- Include nuts, seeds, and nut butter: Nuts and seeds like almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds are not only rich in healthy fats but also contain protein. Snack on a handful of mixed nuts, sprinkle seeds over salads or yogurt or spread nut butter on whole-grain bread for a protein boost.
- Protein supplement shakes that offer a superior amino acid profile (pea protein is a great alternative to whey for this reason) can be found in a vegan powder such as this vegan chocolate protein from Naked Shake.
Final Thoughts on Plant Protein
Incorporating a variety of plant-based protein combinations is essential for meeting your protein needs on a plant-based diet. When combining legumes with grains, soy-based products, protein powders, or nut/seed-based products, you can ensure a diverse range of amino acids, resulting in complete protein sources and a well-rounded plant-based diet.