Health Benefits of Top Plant Proteins

22 February, 2019


In January we are motivated to make dietary changes and one that is becoming increasingly popular is becoming Vegan. Each year the charity Veganuary promotes the idea of going vegan for January. Its success multiplies with each passing year.

If you are continuing this theme or like me edging in that direction by becoming flexitarian you may feel concerned by how you achieve a good level of dietary protein in your diet. You may believe that plants are not able to offer enough protein.

How much is enough protein?

Recommended protein intake figures vary because the quality of the protein has to be considered. Some proteins are more complete than others. A complete protein contains the essential amino acids:

  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Lysine

Foods that contain all of these amino acids are:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Quinoa

Other foods will be incomplete and so need to be used in conjunction with each other to create a complete protein offering. One such example would be rice and beans.

In addition to the essential amino acids there are an additional 17 that have been discovered so far. This is why we encourage you to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure that you achieve a good balance of these amino acids for your body. It is generally accepted that if you are eating sufficient calories you will be eating enough protein. Mix and match your foods and that way you will have an enjoyable, varied and nutritionally complete diet.

The Vegan society quote research that indicates you should eat 1g protein per each kilogram of body weight. It’s a nice easy calculation! If you weigh 65kg eat 65g of protein a day. Each of us needs to consider our lifestyle; if we are sporty we may wish to eat more protein to build muscle. Equally, if we live sedentary lives we need less food overall.

Plant proteins

The reality is that plants offer us some great levels of proteins. Soy and Quinoa are top complete protein producing plants. Meat may offer bigger percentages of protein but what else does it offer? How much fat are you eating when you eat meat? Soy not only gives you protein it provides complex carbohydrates too. Quinoa is another example of a food offering low fat, iron, B vitamins and vitamin E. It also offers four times the calcium that wheat does.

The best plant protein sources

If you have read this far it won’t surprise you that I have rated Quinoa and Soy as top plant protein sources.

  • Quinoa and Soy are excellent sources of protein because they are complete i.e. they contain all the amino acids. Both foods are versatile and can be used in many ways. With quinoa anything you do with rice, couscous, bulgar wheat or oats is possible.
    • Soy is offered to us in a number of forms – tofu a firm soy product that is ideal for absorbing flavours. Tempeh provides the most protein at 15g per 120ml. Edamame beans are those tiny tasty beans that I love to eat raw – yum! They give us 8.5g of protein per 120 ml. You can also drink soy milk and eat soy yogurts making it an extremely versatile food.
  • Seitan is perhaps something you have not heard of. It is a meat substitute made from gluten. If you want a protein packed food this is the one for you giving you 25g per 100g! Use it in stir frys, stews and pies. Seitan offers you the texture and appearance of cooked meat.
  • Body builders have been using pea protein in their shakes for many years. Not only do green peas offer 9g of protein per 240ml they provide a good level of fibre too.

  • Red and Green lentils are another versatile powerhouse food source giving both protein and fibre. Like soy and quinoa, lentils can be used in so many ways:
    • What about a nice lentil dhal?
    • Shepherd’s pie with lentils not meat?
    • Lentil salad is great, especially sprouted lentils
    • Lentils bulk up stews and casseroles
  • Hummus in all its variants has ensured we all eat chickpeas regularly. There is so much more you can do with chickpeas, like lentils they make a great addition to so many dishes.
  • Beans and rice are ideal to create a complete protein meal; separately they do not offer all the necessary amino acids but put them together they are a wholesome package. Time for a chilli?
  • Like a number of other sources oats offer both protein and fibre. Porridge is a terrific breakfast giving you the energy to keep going all morning. Oats also provide beta glucan; a great support for your immune system.
  • Nuts are another great source of protein. Peanuts produce 20g per 120ml; almonds are not far behind at 16g per 120ml plus vitamin E! All those lovely nut butters are not only a tasty snack they are giving you extra protein and other nutrients too.
  • Seeds are of course part of the list, chia and hemp seeds contribute nicely to your protein intake whilst adding different textures and flavours to your daily diet.
  • Spirulina is a fabulous nutrient that gives us trace elements, minerals, protein, and vitamins. I really noticed the difference when I introduced it into my diet. My hair really benefited from those micro nutrients that spirulina offers.

We hope we have inspired you and helped you see that protein is not all meat based there are plenty of other options to explore. Many new taste sensations and recipes to create. Have fun!

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