My Top 7 Sources of Plant Based Protein
27 September 2016
I think its safe to say that we all know just how important protein is for our bodies. So much so, that you actually cannot have life without protein. What we are a little less familiar with though is how to best access rich protein sources – and I am not just talking about animal protein here.
I know that we have all been conditioned to believe that the primary source of protein in our diets should come from animals, but take it from someone who leads a predominantly vegan lifestyle – that this couldn’t be further from the truth!
I am not saying animal proteins aren’t a good source of protein, or that you shouldn’t be eating them, what I am saying is that it is more important to access protein in your diet from a variety of sources that include animal and plant based proteins. Everyone has different nutritional profile needs, so of course some of us may need animal protein in greater proportions than others. Some of us are also better equipped to digest animal protein than others, and it is no secret that animal tissues are much harder to digest. So these factors are also important to consider when choosing your source of protein.
Some Realities about Animal Protein
When animal protein is cooked, and it turns from pink to brown, the amino acids are damaged and denatured, so you may only be absorbing about 50% of the protein you think you are…with the rest being removed as toxins. Consuming too much animal protein can actually place added stress on your body (especially on the detoxifying organs of your kidneys and liver), which in turn will increase your pH levels into a more acidic range. Red meat – or fatty meat – is one of the hardest things for us to digest. In order to break it down, your body will produce hydrochloric acid in greater and greater amounts, and so your body will have to cope with neutralizing high levels of acidity.
Animal protein also doesn’t supply dietary fiber to help keep your digestive tract healthy, clean, and functioning at its best, or any of the Omega 3s, antioxidants, or other vast range of thousands of micro-nutrients you can get from a plant-based diet.
So, in conclusion, while animal protein has its place, it is certainly not the be all and end all when it comes to effective protein sources.
There are many high quality sources of protein for us to choose from, from nuts and seeds to vast selection of nutritious and delicious fruits and veggies.
So where should I look for high quality protein?
In the plant world, vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds all contain significant levels of high quality, clean burning proteins.
My top 7 Plant-Based Protein Sources:
If you are concerned about getting adequate protein for athletic performance from a plant-based diet, then enjoy these sources of protein in abundance, knowing they are excellent wholesome protein sources
1. Raw nuts and seeds
These include all pumpkin seeds, almonds, hemp seeds, and walnuts
This group of foods are incredibly effective sources of protein powerhouses. The great thing with nuts and seeds is that they pack an amazing nutritional punch in small doses, so you don’t need much to benefit from them. A little really goes a long way.
Hemp Seeds are certainly a stand out source here as once serving delivers every known amino acid in one neat little package, including those that our bodies cannot produce.
This, together with its incredible fibre, vitamin, mineral, and natural healthy omegas profile help to support immune health, and protect against diabetes and cancers.
2. Chia Seeds
I absolutely love Chia seeds and enjoy these almost daily. My Chocolate Chia Pudding is a staple recipe of mine, that combines delicious flavor with protein packed chia. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein while also offering antioxidants, vitamins, and a variety of minerals such as calcium. Chia also supplies a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.
You can add chia to just about anything – from granola and smoothies to soups and stews.
3. Plant Based Protein Supplements
Protein bio-availability is absolutely key in deciding what type of protein supplement to use. With so many options out there, it can be a bit confusing, so I get a lot of people asking me what the best choice really is. I personally opt for a high quality plant based supplement made from a variety of plant-based sources, such as hemp seed powder, lentil or pea proteins. The amino acid profile of pea protein is also particularly good, making it an ideal source to supplement with. I prefer to stay away from dairy choices (whey) or soy protein powders, as these are often genetically modified and can cause bloating. Hemp protein and brown rice protein are also great choices. Just be sure to always look for non GMO, organic supplements! Oh and be careful of the added ingredients – rather find supplements that are just the protein and that aren’t flavoured or sweetened.
4. Sprouted grains
These are grains such as buckwheat, oats, millet and quinoa. and are all rich in precious dietary fiber which most Westerners are chronically deficient in. Dietary fiber is essential to keeping the digestive tract clean and healthy while naturally lowering blood pressure and helping fight cancers.
Buckwheat and quinoa both provide antioxidants to help bolster the immune system and fight off the early signs of aging. In addition to being rich in vitamins A, E and the amino acids lysine and methionine, quinoa is possibly the most complete source of quality protein in the grain world. What’s more, 100 gram serving of quinoa has less than half the fat of a similar serving of lean beef, but offers a higher quality, cleaner burning protein than can ever be gotten from any animal tissue. So Quinoa for the the win!!!
You might be surprised to learn that greens have high-quality, easily-assimilated amino acids. It can be difficult to eat enough of your leafy greens in a day, so the easiest way to get in your greens is by juicing or combining a variety of greens into a your breakfast smoothie. Think spinach, banana, green apple, celery, coriander, cucumber and parsley with hemp seed powder and crushed almonds. This will keep you energized, focused and alert for the whole day.
Beans and legumes are a highly economical and widely available food choice that can really add dimension to any meal.
Like all foods that are high in fiber, they fill the stomach so you won’t find yourself getting hungry between meals. They are also great sources of calcium, iron, and yes, protein!
When eaten in combination with high protein whole grains like buckwheat, millet or quinoa, legumes can provide a balance of all of the essential amino acids needed by humans.
Tip: Soaking our legumes overnight makes them easier to digest, which can help prevent bloating and gas. Your can also take digestive enzymes before eating them to help with digestion.
Also, make sure that you don’t consume any other sugars within 2 to 3 hours of eating beans, and avoid pairing them with potatoes in the same meal.
Spirulina contains 60 percent protein by weight and all the essential amino acids your body needs. It also provides twice as much protein as carbohydrates. Spirulina often gets misclassified as an herb, but it’s actually a bacterium, or blue-green algae that’s found in pristine freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. It is most commonly recognized as a superfood as it offers health benefits to practically every organ and bodily function. Spirulina has also been shown to enhance athletic performance, mental focus and physical endurance. I like to add spirulina to my morning smoothies for an extra amino boost.
So you see, when you are following a wholefoods lifestyle, you can be certain that you are getting plenty of high quality plant-based protein (without having to obsess about tracking and counting every bite you eat). Stick to a wide variety of plant-based foods, and your body will do the rest.
See you back here soon!
Yours in Health Always,