Gone are the days of thinking that we have to rely on animals to be the only abundant source of protein. Vegan and Vegetarian diets seem to have shed some of the negative stigma they once had, and now people, experts and even athletes are now asking the question, do I need to rethink everything I know about plant-based diets? And can someone tell me what a “flexi-tarian” is exactly?
Let’s dig into this a bit deeper…
What even is protein?
If your body was a house, the protein would be the bricks. In fact proteins are the building blocks of all living things. Heard of amino acids? This is what our bodies break proteins down into and then very cleverly they get rebuilt into any number of essential things, like tissue and body systems so we can function.
We need around 22 amino acids to be healthy. But 9 of these are considered essential to our health, and we can only absorb them from the food that we eat.
So we need a lot of protein in our diets then?
Really it depends on your body weight and how active you are. In New Zealand the average man is 84.7kg and the average woman is 72.1 kg so really anything from around 45g to 65g would be healthy, to put this into context, one 300g steak has around 80g of protein in it alone.
Does that mean animals are a better source than plant proteins?
That’s a big fat no: variety is the spice of life, and seems to be the key to getting that range of important amino acids.
Let’s have a look at some pros and cons of animal vs plant proteins.
- Animal proteins are high in saturated fat and contain dietary cholesterol.
- Plant proteins are low in saturated fat and have zero cholesterol.
- Animal proteins can contain traces of the antibiotics and hormones used in farming animal stock.
- Plant proteins are an excellent source of iron, calcium and antioxidants.
When it comes to protein it is important to remember that the package it is being sent in, is absolutely just as important as the contents.
What are the best plant-based sources of protein?
In no particular order…
Legumes, beans, soy and lentils.
High in protein, high in fibre, gluten free and packed with vitamins and minerals.
Mushrooms, peas, spinach and other vegetables.
Vegetables of all sorts can be high in protein, the key is once again to get a good range. You’ll be surprised how much protein there is in the produce section.
Quinoa, almonds, seeds and nuts.
High in protein, and high in fat. Not necessarily a bad thing if you have removed saturated fat from your diet and you are living fully plant-based. A great source of iron too.
Oats, grains and rice.
Lower in protein and higher in calories than legumes but these are also a great source of fibre.
What about plant-based protein supplements?
There are now more plant-based protein supplement options than there have ever been.
Because these days people are so keenly tuned into where their food is coming from. Pea protein powders are now common place alongside whey and collagen products, especially for athletes and gym goers who are looking for the boost in their diets to help with muscle repair and growth. If the question is “Can I get enough protein from a plant-based protein powder to build muscle?” the answer is a resounding YES! On top of a healthy varied plant-based diet, a protein powder supplement can be very helpful.
We like Nuzest Clean Lean Protein powder, it contains the world's highest protein content of any vegetable protein and it is gluten-free and lactose-free making it easily digestible.
This was helpful, thank you!
No thank YOU! The great thing about being plant-based is that its easy to get enough protein but hard to get too much, proving that a vegan, vegetarian or the newly coined “flexitarian” (eating vegan meals regularly) is an exciting evolution in rethinking what a “healthy diet” means.