Plant Proteins & Amino Acids
Plant proteins alone can provide enough essential and nonessential amino acids for the human diet. But, as the American Heart Association suggests, those who rely solely on plant protein need to vary plant sources and ensure the caloric intake from those foods meets energy needs.
Even foods we dont traditionally think of as high proteinwhole grains… and some vegetablestheyll have good amounts of amino acids, said Cara Harbstreet, a registered dietitian in Kansas City.
Soy protein has been shown to be equal to proteins of animal origin, and can be a sole protein source if you choose. Soy is always a good fallback, Harbstreet said. Its now at a level where its real reachable to consumers, with soy milk, yogurt, and tofu.
Protein In The Vegan Diet
by Reed Mangels, PhD, RDFrom Simply Vegan 5th Edition
Summary:It is easy for a vegan diet to meet recommendations for protein, aslong as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein combining is notnecessary it is more important to eat a varied diet throughout theday.
SomeAmericans are obsessed with protein. Vegans are bombarded withquestions about where they get their protein. Athletes used to eatthick steaks before competition because they thought it would improvetheir performance. Protein supplements are sold at health foodstores. This concern about protein is misplaced. Although protein iscertainly an essential nutrient which plays many key roles in the wayour bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it. Only aboutone calorie out of every 10 we take in needs to come from protein.Vegan athletes, especially in the early stages of training, may havehigher protein needs than vegans who exercise moderately or who arenot active. Vegan athletes protein needs can range from 0.36 to0.86 grams of protein per pound 2. Protein supplements are notneeded to achieve even the highest level of protein intake.
So, in theUnited States it appears that vegan diets are commonly lower inprotein than standard American diets. Remember, though, with protein,more is not necessarily better. There do not appear tobe health advantages to consuming a high protein diet. Diets that arehigh in protein may even increase the risk of osteoporosis 4 andkidney disease 5.
Protein Per Cup: 4 Grams
With more than 1,400 quinoa products currently on the market, it’s safe to say that the ancient grain is here to stay. Quinoa is higher in protein than most other grains, packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and is also a great source of fiber, a nutrient that can help you feel fuller, longer. It gets better: The mild-tasting grain is also a good source of the amino acid L-arginine, which has been shown to promote muscle over fat gain in animal studies, explains Gina Consalvo, RD, LDN, Eat Well with Gina. Though we can’t be sure findings will hold true in people, it can’t hurt to add more of this healthy grain to your plate.
Eat This! Give quinoa bowls a try or pair the ancient grain with veggies beans to create a well-balanced meal, use the grain to make a veggie burger or up the flavor and nutrient content of a green salad with a scoop.
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Protein Per Cup: 6 Grams
Tomatoes are brimming with lycopene, an antioxidant which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, and reduce your chances of developing coronary artery disease. They’re also rich in fiber and contain ¾ of your RDA of potassium, which is essential for heart health and tissue repair.
Eat This! Throw ’em onto sandwiches and burgers or add them to a homemade salsa.
What Are Amino Acids
Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins 11). Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of life that help maintain and repair muscles, organs, and other parts of the body.
Animal protein includes all of the building blocks that your body needs. Plant proteins need to be combined to get all of the building blocks that your body needs.
In the human body, certain amino acids can be converted to other amino acids, proteins, glucose, fatty acids or ketones. For example, in the human body, glucogenic amino acids can be converted to glucose in the process called gluconeogenesis they include all amino acids except lysine and leucine 12), 13).
Ketogenic amino acids, are amino acids that can be converted into ketone bodies through ketogenesis. In humans, the ketogenic amino acids are leucine and lysine, while threonine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan can be either ketogenic or glucogenic 14). Ketones can be used by the brain as a source of energy during fasting or in a low-carbohydrate diet.
When proteins are digested or broken down, amino acids are left.
The human body uses amino acids to make proteins to help the body:
- Break down food
- Repair body tissue
- Perform many other body functions
- Amino acids can also be used as a source of energy by the body, like proteins, they can provide about 4 Calories per gram.
Other functions of amino acids:
Amino acids are classified into three groups:
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How To Get Protein Without Meat
Vegans and vegetarians need to rely on plant proteins to fulfill their daily protein requirements, but you dont have to belong to either group to enjoy the benefits these proteins provide.
Plant based proteins are so nutritious that NASA are evaluating them to feed astronauts in space
Although most plant proteins are not complete proteins, its possible to get all the essential amino acids your body needs by combining two or more plant proteins.
Speak to someone in the sports or fitness industry that is on a plant based diet ask them if they are getting enough of the right kind of protein. Then step back and feel their wrath!
When one provides the amino acids the other lacks, its a winning combination.
Have you ever heard the phrase strong as an ox? Im guessing you probably have.
Well, oxen are strong. So are bulls, elephants, and many other animals that eat a plant diet.
The protein in meat from eating the flesh of cows and sheep, etc. could be seen as plant protein thats being passed on.
Protein Per Cup: 467 Grams
Quinoa isn’t the only “ancient grain” that comes loaded with health perks. Amaranth, a naturally gluten-free seed, is a good source of digestion-aiding fiber, as well as calcium and bicep-building iron.
Eat This! Amaranth takes on a porridge-like texture when cooked, making it a great alternative breakfast option. Whip up a batch and be sure to top off your bowl with some tasty, nutrient-packed oatmeal toppingsthey work well in all types of hot cereals, including porridge.
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Vegan Foods That Are Crazy High In Protein
Have you been told that animal flesh is the only viable source of protein? Lots of us have been but now we know its a lie. Theres protein in just about everything: even a simple bread roll has 11 grams of it. Plus, over half of the calories in the Vegemite on your roll also come from protein! Google it right now. Yep, youd have to eat some kind of weird apples-and-jelly-beans diet to avoid getting enough protein.
The Easy Way For Vegans To Get Enough Protein Every Day
As it turns out, I weigh around 140 pounds, so the 83 grams of protein mentioned above is right about what I aim for.
So how do I get my 83 grams of protein per day?
My approach to getting enough protein is very simple:
Make sure you include a decent protein source, even if just a little bit, in every meal or snack.
Mainly, this just keeps you mindful and prevents you from slipping into junk-food-vegan, carbohydrate-only mode.
So what does this mean in terms of actual foods? Try these:
- Adding protein powder to your smoothie.
- Eating a whole-wheat bagel with peanut or almond butter for a snack.
- Including beans in your pasta dishes .
- Lots of lentils.
- Hummus on a whole wheat pita for a snack.
- Putting nuts on your salad or eating them alone as a snack.
- Eating quinoa as part of the main dish or a side.
- Occasionally eating soy products, like tempeh, but dont forget all the high-protein vegan alternatives to soy!
See? No huge numbers here, but mix in a few of them every day, and its no problem at all to get anywhere from 60-100 grams of protein, especially when you count all the other foods you eat that contain smaller amounts of protein. My point here isnt to get you to start counting protein grams throughout the day I certainly dont do that but you can see just how easy it is to get the protein you need.
A few other favorite, high-protein vegan recipes:
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Protein Per Oz: 6 Grams
Think of almonds as a natural weight-loss pill. A study of overweight and obese adults found that combined with a calorie-restricted diet, consuming a little more than a quarter-cup of the nuts can decrease weight more effectively than a snack of complex carbohydrates and safflower oilafter just two weeks!
Eat This! Eat your daily serving before you hit the gym. Because they’re rich in the amino acid L-arginine, almonds can help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, according to a study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Protein Per Scoop: 15 To 20 Grams
Eating veggiesand supplementing with vegan protein powder shakesis one of the best ways to burn fat. A study in Nutrition Journal found that “plant protein intakes may play a role in preventing obesity.” We love Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake, Vega Sport Performance Protein, and Sunwarrior Warrior Blend.
Drink This! Blend up one of these healthy protein shakes!
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Top 10 Vegan Sources Of Protein
Veganism is a diet that avoids all foods from animals. This includes meats, seafood, cheese, milk, and eggs. Some vegans are concerned about getting enough protein and all the essential amino acids.
Several companies have gone into business creating artificial meat products using soy and seitan . This list avoids such foods, sticking instead to natural, whole and healthy foods.
Whole and healthy vegan sources of protein include tofu, beans, lentils, soymilk, green peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, peanut butter, spinach, sweet corn, and mushrooms. The daily value for protein is set at 50 grams per day. This is a general target meant for most people.
Nuts Grains & Legumes
Next up I would like to talk to you about nuts, grains, and legumes. Nuts, though higher in fats and calories, are great sources of non-meat protein. A great snack to munch on is a piece of fruit paired with a handful of nuts. The protein that is within nuts will keep you feeling full for a longer amount of time than if you were to solely snack on a piece of fruit. Nuts are great additions to salads or on top of soups and stews as well. Who doesnt love an extra crunch every once in a while? Grains and legumes, such as beans, when paired together are known to create a complete protein. The beautiful thing about these pairings of foods is that they are extremely affordable and have an extremely long shelf life. If you are leading a waste-free lifestyle on top of your plant-based lifestyle, beans and grains are also super convenient to purchase in bulk. One of my favorite ways to eat protein-rich non-meat foods is to have a bean stew, or chili and pair it with a warm bed of grains such as rice or quinoa. These meals are also super easy to meal prep, so if you lead a busy lifestyle I suggest giving them a go.
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The 18 Best Protein Sources For Vegans And Vegetarians
A common concern about vegetarian and vegan diets is that they may lack sufficient protein.
However, many experts agree that a well-planned meatless diet can provide all the nutrients you need, including protein .
That said, certain plant foods contain significantly more protein than others, and new and older studies alike suggest that higher protein diets can promote muscle strength, feelings of fullness, and weight loss (
Protein Per Tablespoon: 11 Grams
“Garbanzo beans are high in lysine, and tahini is a rich source of the amino acid methionine. Individually these foods are incomplete proteins, but when you combine the two together to make hummus, they create a complete protein,” explains Consalvo. Just be aware that not all store-bought hummus brands contain tahini. One that does: Pacific Foods Organic Classic Hummus. It’s not only tahini-infused, but also shelf-stable, making it ideal for on-the-go snacking.
Eat This! Spread hummus onto sandwiches in lieu of mustard, mayo and other spreads, or use it as a dip for raw veggies.
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High Protein Fruits And Vegetables
All fruits and veggies contain small amounts of protein, but some more than others.
Fruits and vegetables are most often enjoyed raw, cooked, or blended into smoothies and sauces. You can enjoy them at any meal or snack.
Similar serving sizes of high protein fruits and veggies pack the following amounts of protein (
- Broccoli : 2.5 grams
- Sweet potato : 2 grams
- Artichoke : 3 grams
- Spinach : 2 grams
- Banana : 1.5 grams
- Blackberries : 2 grams
- Guava : 4.5 grams
Incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet is a great way to meet your protein needs. Guava is particularly rich in protein.
What Is Protein Quality
The macronutrient labels like fat, protein, and carbohydrate, are categorical terms that embody a range of molecules.
For example, fats include fatty acids with different chain lengths and degrees of saturation , and carbohydrates include subcategories like sugars, starches, and fibers.
Similarly, the term protein includes amino acids, nine of which are deemed essential meaning they can only be obtained from your diet.
Protein, like carbohydrates and fats, are important for a healthy, well-balanced diet..
The bioavailability of a nutrient the bodys ability to access, digest, absorb, and use that nutrient can be affected by other nutrients in foods that interact with them or the nature of what those nutrients may be chemically bound to in that particular food item.
Therefore, according to a report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN , protein quality is a term designed to incorporate both the breadth of available essential amino acids within a food item, as well as the bodys ability to digest and absorb those amino acids.
This takes into account limiting amino acids. All amino acids need to be present to work together during various metabolic functions. If one amino acid isnt there, it can slow down the entire process of protein production.
Therefore, a limiting amino acid is the amino acid in the lowest concentration .
With that in mind, here are the top non meat sources of protein for each of 6 food group categories.
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Vegan Proteins To Eat When Youre Allergic To Soy
As an increasing number of people ditch animal products in favor of plant-based options, the availability of innovative new vegan products also grows. Trumping stereotypes that vegans miss out on their favorite eats, meat-free diners can now enjoy anything they desire plant-based burgers, hotdogs, ice cream, and seafood are still on the table for the veg or the veg-curious.
However, due to its versatility and health benefits, many of these items are made with soy. This is not ideal for those who are trying to eat fewer animal products but suffer from a soy allergy. It means items like miso, tempeh, soybeans, and tofu, as well as soy-based dairy, are off the cards.
Thankfully, there are plenty of a vegan soy-free options out there that are just as nutrient-rich and dont compromise on taste.
Protein Per Cup Cooked: 5 Grams
One cup of spinach has almost as much protein as a hard-boiled eggfor half the calories! Maximize its nutrition by steaming spinach instead of eating it raw: That helps retain vitamins, facilitate absorption of calcium and wards off the veggie’s bloating effects.
Eat This! Add spinach to your salads, stir-fries and omelets. It’s super versatile.
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Why Do We Need Protein
Forget the protein shakes, powders and supplements, let’s get back to basics. Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids and is essential for repairing damaged cells and building new ones. It’s essential in the building of tissues, muscles and bones, so it’s important to make sure your body has what it needs.
Protein Per 1/4 Cup: 6 Grams
While you may have never heard of this hearty whole grain before, it may become your new favorite. This wheat-rye hybrid packs 12 grams of protein per half cup and is also rich in brain-boosting iron, bloat-busting potassium, magnesium and heart-healthy fiber.
Eat This! Use triticale berries in place of rice and mix it with soy sauce, fresh ginger, cloves, shiitake mushrooms and edamame to make a healthy, Asian-inspired dish. If you prefer to firing up the oven to using the stove, use triticale flour in place of traditional flour in your baking.
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