Proteins are macronutrients that are made up of complex smaller units called amino acids that are attached to one another in long “chains” of peptide bonds. The nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine are sourced from the foods that we eat. Proteins have a multitude of functions, including assisting in the formation of new molecules and providing energy for the body.
People switching to vegetarian and vegan diets sometimes worry that giving up meat will decrease the amount of amino acids (and proteins) that they’re able to pack into their eating routine. Animal proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids needed in a human diet. Though meat foods are a rich source of protein, these foods come with many other properties, like saturated fats, low amounts of fiber and carcinogens. The risks associated with animal products and meats make it unideal for routine consumption.
What Are the Best Plant-Based Sources Of Protein
Luckily, plant-based foods contain protein. Plant-based proteins are generally good for reducing in LDL cholesterol levels, improved heart health and lengthening your life-span, as they are not linked to cancers like some of their animal protein counterparts, namely red and processed meats. Not all plant-based proteins provide a complete amino acid profile, but they can increase your intake of other nutrients, such as potassium, iron, fiber, magnesium, and folate. To best supply your cells and tissue with a complete supply of all necessary amino acids, one should eat a diverse array of foods from multiple food groups. This includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pulses (chickpeas, lentils, beans, etc.), nuts, and seeds.
For those who are searching for protein-dense foods especially, I’ve compiled a short list of options for you. Lentils, which have anti-diabetes, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties, are a well rounded source of protein. Soy is also considered to be a source of protein because it has all nine essential amino acids. What’s more, soy is high in B vitamins, which aid in cellular energetic processes and metabolism. Mushrooms deserve honorable mention not only for their high protein content and the fact that they contain all essential amino acids but also for their polyunsaturated fats. The list goes on for plant-based protein options: tempeh, nutritional yeast, nuts, edamame, quinoa, seeds, plant-based yogurt and peanut butter. If you or someone you know is seriously thinking about transitioning to a plant based eating routine, be sure to eat an adequate amount of calories from multiple food groups, this simple tricks helps mitigate the chances of missing any essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and (healthy) fat sources.