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Myth or True? - There’s NO WAY You Can Get Sufficient Protein Being Plant-Based

Aug 24, 2021

This seems to always be a concern for people and especially athletes when they hear of someone who only eats plants. Most Americans associate protein with animal products, because that is the way we have been marketed to as consumers throughout our entire life. The only possible sources of protein in America are cows, pigs, chickens, eggs, turkeys, fish and whey protein which has baby cows milk in it. This is the message we are literally fed from a young age, that you have to eat all these animals in order to grow big and strong. This simply couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Now what exactly is sufficient protein intake?

Lots of research has been done on this and for the average person, who isn’t an athlete we need to get in around 0.8g/kg of body weight per day. For example if someone weighs 150lbs that would equate to 55g of protein. For individuals who are more active it is usually recommended around 1.4-2.2g/kg of protein per day. But your body really maxes out protein synthesis output around .75g/lb according to most research and there is no point to waste extra calories on protein when you could be using all those extra calories to eat more carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the major source of fuel for your muscles and for the general functioning of your brain. Following the mindset that 0.75g/lb of protein is the optimal spot a 150lb person would aim to consume around 115g of protein a day. There is this myth that has been pushed around on social media that you have to eat your bodyweight in protein everyday, which according to the research is definitely in excess. 

What is the difference between plant based protein and animal based protein?

Animal based proteins are almost always complete proteins meaning that they have all 9 essential amino acids which aids in the protein synthesis process, to help repair and build structures within the body. Some plant based proteins have all 9 essential amino acids but most are missing 1 or 2 amino acids, this isn’t a problem because as long as you eat sufficient calories and a variety of plants you will get all the amino acids needed. People tend to make such a big deal about this, but the biggest thing is the other potential benefits or harms that come with your choice of protein. Some major harms, according to the research, that come with eating higher intake of animal proteins frequently for decades include higher risk of cardiovascular mortality and all cause mortality. Whereas it was the opposite with higher intake of plant proteins, the individuals had lower risk for all cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality. There are obviously many lifestyle and genetic factors that also contribute to having higher risk for mortality. Everything is multifactorial but it’s clear in the research that animal based protein sources have way more harm and are more connected to disease than do plant based sources of protein.

 

What are some good sources for plant based protein?

  1. Tofu, Tempeh or Edamame

 

All 3 of these products are soy based and have among the highest content of protein in plant protein sources.There is a myth that too much soy products has a link with breast cancer which isn’t backed by science. In fact research has shown that the consumption of soy products at young age decreases the risk for breast cancer and helps those who have been diagnosed limit recurrence and survival. My favorite out of these 3 products is easily Tofu, as it is an extremely versatile protein source that can take on the flavor of whatever dish you want to prepare.

 

Tofu: 20g of protein per cup

Tempeh: 30g of protein per cup

Edamame: 17g of protein per cup

 

  1. Seitan

Another plant based complete protein source that comes about from mixing wheat gluten with a variety of spices. This is a protein source that is wonderful in stir fry dishes or mixed into a flavorful bean burrito.

 

Seitan: 21g of protein per ⅓ cup

  1. Beans & Rice

 

The mix of these 2 plants makes a wonderful complete protein source that is very versatile. My personal favorite is to make burritos with beans, rice, spinach, lettuce, chia seeds and crunched up organic corn chips. Beans help provide a wide variety of nutrients that are vital for our overall health and have an excellent source of fiber to improve your gut health.

 

Beans & Rice: 14g of protein w/2 cup serving

  1. Peanuts & Almonds

 

Nuts are a solid source of protein, they don’t have a ton like some protein sources but pack a nice punch for a snack. The benefit of both of these nuts is that they are loaded with healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Individuals who intake more healthy fats such as the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in their diet are linked to lower risks of heart disease. Both of these nuts are also stuffed with other important vitamins such as Vitamin E, B vitamins, magnesium, copper and more. Add them as a snack or put some peanut butter on some whole grain bread for an extra boost.

Peanuts: 20.5 g of protein per ½ cup serving or 8g of protein for 2 tbsp of peanut butter

Almonds: 16.5 g of protein per ½ cup serving

  1. Lentils and Chickpeas

 

The nice thing about these 2 plants is that they can be used in a variety of dishes such as soups, stews, pastas, salads and more. Lentils are great to mix into a big plant based chili pot and served warm with some other flavorful plants and spices of your choice. Chickpeas are an excellent addition to a big salad bowl mixed in with your favorite leafy greens, peppers, cucumbers and other toppings. The lentils help pack a nice punch of fiber which helps aid in health digestion and they also have a good dose of potassium and iron. Chickpeas are low calorie but packed with fiber and protein to help fill you up quickly, don’t sleep on the simple addition of these plants to some of your favorite dishes.

This is just the beginning of plant based protein sources, if you currently eat mostly animal based protein sources I highly recommend switching out some of your meals with plant proteins to help add some more fiber into your diet. Roughly 97% of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily fiber intake, which is due to the overconsumption of processed junk foods and animal products. The great thing about plant based proteins is their adaptability, you can play with all kinds of combinations and additions of spices to find your new favorite recipes. So get in the kitchen, start cooking and eating in a way that benefits your long term health!!