Protein...Where do you get yours? May 03 2015
One question I'm often asked is if you choose to start eating more plant based, how on earth do you possibly get enough protein?
Well it's not impossible but it's very important you educate yourself on how and where to get what you need to prevent illness, lethargy and deficiencies.
Protein is built out of amino acids - if you have any gym-going friends you may have heard this term being thrown about from time to time. All humans need a certain amount of protein in order to function, grow and repair tissue. Having a variety of each amino acid is the main cause for concern for those following a plant based diet (take note, if you eat processed foods this can affect you to, even if you eat meat!) Amino acids come in three different forms:
NON-ESSENTIAL: our bodies have a supply or are able to make them on its own;
ESSENTIAL: We must get these from the food we eat, and
CONDITIONAL: not essential unless our body has been put under serious stress like illness or a marathon...
NOW... this doesn't mean you have to make sure your body is getting ALL of these amino acids at one meal in order to make a complete protein source! It’s more important for your body to consume a wide variety of amino acids every single day! You’re body is pretty darn amazing and can make up for lost amino acids on the days your diet may be lacking in them.
Protein is so important for your body's functionality it helps you digest food, re-build muscle after exercise, hormone production, keeping the immune system working and gives you a lovely healthy glow (think lush skin, hair and nails!)
You can get your protein from all sorts of amazing sources (not just chicken and beef!) And this is especially important for anyone looking to eat a more plant-centric diet! This is not just good for our bodies, but also for the planet!
If you do choose to add meat to your diet go for the best quality sources such as Wild caught fish, free range and organic eggs, grass fed beef, milk and butter.
Those that are naturally sourced and are as unprocessed as possible (Quorn does NOT count).
Here are my top 5 plant based natural protein sources that you can use to put a little more variation into your diet! There is life after meat!!!
Little tiny morsels of pure protein power, 3 tbsp = 10g protein. They are also a vegan source of omega 3 fatty acids. Sprinkle on salads, add to smoothies and soups or into porridge to boost the protein content and keep you fuller longer! Juice Warrior also do a delightful Hemp mylk which is a great dairy and nut free mylk alternative for those who are intolerant.
One of my favourite pseudo cereals. It's technically a seed, but contains carbohydrates and fibre. It replaces starches in many recipes that call for grains. Completely gluten free and high in protein about 1/2 a cup of cooked quinoa has between 7 - 9 g of protein. Use it in place of rice with a curry, as a porridge alternative!
Soy (Tempeh, organic tofu, edamame)
So soy doesn't always get such a good reputation, but organic pure and unprocessed sources can be highly nutritious for a plant based diet. Tempeh, tofu, and edamame contain all amino acids, and are therefore the easiest source of a complete protein. If you can't get organic tofu i would stick to Tempeh as it contains healthy gut friendly bacteria from fermentation. A rough serving of soy products gives around 20g protein. Tofu is a good meat replacement for those who miss out on a solid protein source on their plate. Use in stir fries or scramble tofu like eggs in a little coconut oil and turmeric for a nutritious weekend breakfast treat!
Beans are an amazing source of protein, carbohydrates, and fibre. They are quite starchy, and some people find them a little hard to digest. Therefore I would personally recommend sprouting or soaking all beans and pulses before cooking to break down any phytic acid in the outer husk. It’s also a good idea to avoid combining pulses with other starches or protein sources. So next time you make a three-bean chilli, omit any meat and serve with a side of cauliflower rice instead! A cup of cooked beans packs a punch of 15g protein.
Possibly my favourite subject! Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios...etc are so rich in minerals such as selenium ad vitamin E; heart healthy fat; Vitamin E as well as being protein rich! a 1/4 cup of nuts can give you 7-9g of protein, so make a really good post-gym snack. They are also incredibly versatile, from making mylks, butter, cheese (you heard me), energy balls and adding to savoury meals to boost the protein content. Despite being so nutritionally amazing, watch your portions as a small handful can work out as a pretty energy dense snack! If you find nuts slightly harder to digest, it may be worth soaking them overnight before you eat to breakdown the tough outer layer that our bodies tend not to like much!
There is no one definitive way of eating, it’s all about variety (it's the spice of life, right?) But it may be worth while giving your body a break every once in a while from meat and dairy, and try incorporating some amazing plant sources of protein. Not only will it leave you feeling light and energised, but you will also benefit from the fibre, minerals and fats that these plant sources provide!