Plant-Based Protein Alternatives
A common concern people have when switching from animal-based protein to a plant-based diet (or mainly plant-based) is how they will get enough protein to maintain their body's functioning and overall health. This concern is especially prevalent amongst athletes and exercise enthusiasts–as they need even more protein to sustain their high activity.
Fortunately, there are many high protein plant-based foods that make great options for vegans, vegetarians, or those who simply want to cut back on animal-based proteins. Let's dive into what plants have protein, some favorite protein-packed plants, and their health benefits.
Protein is an essential macronutrient needed by our bodies to maintain optimal health and functionality. As a primary component of just about every cell in your body, protein helps to repair tissues, build muscle, and produce critical biochemicals that are used throughout the body such as hormones and enzymes. Other macronutrients such as carbohydrates and fat have reserves in the body, protein is not stored in this same way. As a result, you must regularly consume protein through your diet to supply your body with the proper protein intake.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight in average adults. For example, an individual who weighs 153 pounds should consume at least 53.5 grams of protein each day, at a minimum. Other lifestyle factors should be considered, such as health goals, activity level, medical conditions, and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding in order to fully understand your protein needs.
Best Plant-Based Protein Sources
Now that we understand what protein is, why it's necessary for our health, and how much we need to consume each day, let's discuss some of our favorite plant-based protein options.
- Peas: People frequently think of green peas as a small, simple side dish, but the truth is that these little vegetables are protein-packed with about nine grams per cup–a tad more than a cup of milk! Peas can also provide roughly 25% of your daily fiber, thiamine, manganese, vitamins A, C, and K, and folate–and they are a good source of copper, zinc, iron, B vitamin, phosphorus, and magnesium. Peas do contain all nine amino acids but are too low in methionine and cysteine to be classified as a "complete" protein. Because of this, pea protein is often paired with rice protein–high in both methionine and cysteine.
- Rice: Despite the fact that rice is carbohydrate-rich food, most people don't know that it is also an excellent source of protein that is both vegetarian and gluten-free. After treating brown rice with special enzymes that trigger the separation of its protein and carbohydrate contents, it's possible to isolate the protein. After that, a plant-based protein powder is produced.
- Hemp: Hemp seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They are complete with all nine essential amino acids and the protein content of hemp is well-absorbed by our bodies.
- Nuts: Nuts are a great source of plant-based protein that can make for a great snack and can be added to many dishes to boost their protein content.
North Central Companies for Sourcing Plant-Based Proteins
Getting enough protein in any diet is important. At North Central Companies, we go well beyond the meat to find and source healthy, certified organic proteins from non-animal and other natural sources.