Best sources of vegan protein: everything you need to know

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats, which are a crucial part of our diet. Animal and plant food sources can provide protein, but as a vegan or plant eater, animal sources are excluded, both literally and figuratively.

Research has indicated that eating more plant protein than animal protein can benefit your health. A 2020 article published in Nutrients claims that plant protein may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease because it is low in saturated fat compared to their animal counterparts. They can also decrease the risk of diabetes and potentially certain cancers. Apart from our personal health, choosing plant-based proteins is also great for environmental sustainability and improving the treatment of animals.

Read on to learn more about why it’s important to get enough protein, how much protein you really need, and the best sources of vegan foods that have all the protein your body needs.

Why is protein important?

All cells in our body contain protein, so it’s important to eat enough to repair cells and make new ones. The structure of the protein (which varies from source to source) is made up of a chain of amino acids. According to a article 2018, there are 20 different amino acids that can be found in protein, nine of which are essential. This means that our bodies are not able to create them from other amino acids, so they must be supplied from food sources.

the new one amino acids are:

  • Leucine
  • Valine
  • Isoleucine
  • histidine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Phenylalanine

Animal proteins such as meat, eggs and milk contain all nine essential amino acids, but only a few plant proteins contain them. Plant sources that contain all nine include quinoa, buckwheat, and soy. This does not necessarily make animal sources a superior protein. Combining certain plant proteins, or eating a variety throughout the day, will help fill in the gaps.

Besides being important for muscle and cell building, amino acids also play a role in the production of certain hormones and neurotransmitters.

How Much Protein Do Vegans Need?

Eating protein every day is crucial because it is not stored like its macronutrient counterparts. the Recommended nutritional intake (RDA) for adults under 65 is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Note that this is the minimum amount to aim for, with some experts indicating that plant eaters should go for around 0.9-1g / kg of body weight. If you are an exercise enthusiast, increase it closer to 1.2-1.4g / kg body weight. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 10-35% of your daily calorie intake to come from protein.

If you are over 65, studies have indicated that you probably need more protein to compensate for the reduction in muscle protein synthesis that occurs. A 2019 article published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism indicates that the recommended intake is closer to 1.0 g / kg of body weight per day.

Signs of protein deficiency

Protein deficiencies aren’t common, but that doesn’t mean they’re impossible. In developed countries, such as the United States, people who do not have a balanced diet or those who are hospitalized may be at risk for protein deficiency. Some studies found that about 50 percent of homebound elderly people do not have enough amino acid intake.

When protein intake is low, adults may experience loss of lean body mass, which can lead to an increased risk of disease, infections, and other health problems. You may also notice thinning hair and brittle nails.

Best sources of vegan protein without meat

While there are several plant-based protein options, the following provide a variety of amino acids and can help you easily meet your daily protein needs as a vegan.

Vegetables

Not only are vegetables packed with essential vitamins and minerals, they also contain protein. While you probably won’t meet your daily protein needs with just one salad, different vegetables contain around 1-4 grams of protein per cup.

Legumes

Whether you like lentils, beans, or peas, you get a good amount of protein, fiber, and iron. They are also relatively low in fat and contain no cholesterol compared to their meat protein counterparts.

Nuts

Different varieties of nuts make a great protein snack on the go, and they contain heart-healthy fats. Unfortunately, nuts also contain high amounts of calories, which is why nuts American Heart Association only recommends eating about four servings of unsalted nuts each week. One serving is equivalent to about 1.5 ounces (or a small handful).

Seeds

These tiny seeds pack a powerful protein punch (say three times faster), which is ideal when you want to increase your protein intake without having to eat large amounts of food. For example, 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds can provide a huge 9.5 grams of protein and can be easily added to a smoothie or salad.

Protein supplements to help keep you on track

While it is ideal for meeting your protein needs from whole foods, under certain circumstances you may need to turn to protein supplements to help you meet your daily needs. This can be the case if you are sick and don’t have much of an appetite, or if you train a lot for a marathon. Sometimes when time is tight, when you can’t prepare a full meal, protein supplements come in handy as well. Fortunately, there are plenty of vegan options out there.

When buying vegan protein powder, look for the protein source from options like:

  • Soy
  • Hemp
  • Brown rice
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin

Bottom Line: You Can Get All the Protein You Need on a Vegan Diet

Anyone who wants to try out plant-based or vegan eating can get the protein they need from legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains, and eat healthy with a little planning and understanding that the 9 essential amino acids can be obtained from plants. .


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