Can You Get Enough Protein on a Plant-Based Diet?
If you’re vegan or plant-based, you’re probably used to the question ‘how do you get enough protein?’. Whilst a plant-based diet requires a more creative approach to sufficient protein consumption, they can, in fact, easily maintain the recommended intake of protein.
Do Plants Have all the Proteins We Need?
Our body requires 9 essential amino acids for the ultimate source of protein. These are histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, phenylalanine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Amino acids are the simplest building blocks used to make protein.
Plant-based diets are perceived to have insufficient levels of protein. Plant protein and animal protein comprises different amino acids. You can eat a combination of plant-based foods to ensure a complete amino acid profile of the essential amino acids.
Are there any plant-based foods with a Complete Protein Profile?
The answer is yes. Here are some top plant-based sources that make sure you get all your essential amino acids:
- Quinoa: One cup will give you around 8 grams of protein. You can combine this with other complementary protein-rich sources, such as beans and lentils. Quinoa can also be a great alternative for rice with added minerals, such as iron and magnesium.
- Soy-based products: Soybeans are a legume that are a complete protein source. This also applies to soy-derived products such as tofu and tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented version of soy, which means it also allows better absorption of minerals. One serving of tempeh contains around 11 grams of complete protein.
- Buckwheat: This grain, unlike other grains such as rice and wheat, contains complete protein. One cup of buckwheat is around 6 grams of protein, which is the same amount of protein as an egg.
- Nutritional Yeast: Nutritional yeast has the needed amino acids and Vitamin B12. Vitamin B 12 is another challenging nutrient in a plant-based diet. So, if you plan to adopt a new plant-based diet, nutritional yeast is a recommended staple for your pantry cupboard, not to mention nutritional yeast adds great flavor to your meals!
What are other ways to get good Plant-Based Protein?
Besides the foods listed above, you can also combine a variety of ‘incomplete’ plant sources to maintain adequate levels of protein. Rice and beans, for example, make the perfect pair because they each have what the other lacks. Rice is low in lysine, but high in the amino acid methionine. Beans and legumes are the opposite with high lysine but low methionine content.
Therefore, cultures around the world eat rice and legumes together. They make a filling meal with healthy protein. For example, rice and beans in South America, or rice and chickpeas in Asia.
Pita is also eaten with hummus for this same reason.
The perception that plant-based diets lack quality protein is a myth. You just need to learn and know-how to eat the right foods. There are ‘complete’ proteins, like buckwheat, nutritional yeast, soybeans and quinoa that can be eaten on their own. There are also ‘incomplete’ proteins, such as legumes, that can be combined with grains or cereals for ‘complete’ protein consumption.