Many people consider animal products to be their main source of protein. However, plant proteins are gaining popularity not only among vegans and vegetarians, but also among people following a diet including meat, eggs and dairy foods.
According to a study by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), 28% of the population of developed Western countries will consume more protein from plant sources in 2020 than in 2019.
Why this gradual shift towards plant proteins? One reason, according to UCLA Health senior dietitians, is that people are realizing that plants serve as a good source of protein and offer significant health benefits.
Realistically, when it comes to daily body function, it doesn’t matter where we get our protein. But scientific evidence shows that eating fewer animal products and more plant-based proteins is associated with longevity and lower morbidity.
If you are considering adding plant protein to your diet, the following lines will be helpful. In this article, we will discuss all the essentials related to the nature of plant protein – why it is valuable, what are its benefits, what to watch out for, which foods contain it and which are the best plant protein powders.
Benefits of vegetable protein consumption
There are some indispensable benefits of plant-based protein intake, such as:
- Improve heart health: plant protein sources are often low in saturated fat and high in fibre, which can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Maintaining a healthy weight: plant foods are lower in calories and fat than animal foods, making them a great option for anyone looking to lose weight or maintain a certain weight.
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases: studies have shown that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
Better digestion: the high fibre content of plant protein sources aids digestion and promotes healthy gut bacteria. Sometimes, milk proteins create stomach discomfort and gas. Vegetable proteins do not cause these types of side effects and are an excellent alternative for people who face similar problems.
Comparison between plant and animal protein
When comparing plant-based and animal-based proteins, there are many factors to consider, from taste to price. But if you’re turning to plants for health purposes, it’s helpful to listen to the science about their benefits.
Are they good enough as protein sources (compared to animal products)
Vegetarians have long sought effective ways to get so-called “complete” protein from plant sources. Complete proteins provide all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own and must get from food.
Many vegan proteins don’t contain all the essential amino acids, leading some people to believe they need to mix their foods in a more defined way to create the balance they need. A common example is combining rice and beans.
Today, however, many experts argue that such a combination of specific vegetarian foods is not necessary. A well-balanced diet will provide adequate amounts of all 20 essential and non-essential amino acids.
A 2019 study of people following vegan and vegetarian diets found that they get more than enough protein and amino acids. The authors of the study even claim that the concept of amino acid deficiency is “significantly overestimated.”
And as for Vitamin B12?
However, there is one nutrient where plant proteins cannot compete with their animal counterparts – vitamin B12. It is responsible for proper brain function and the formation of red blood cells. If you are vegan, you will probably need to add Vitamin B12 to your diet through supplements.
Does plant protein have adverse health effects
Choosing plant proteins has many positive effects on health, but you should be careful with some specifics.
Some plant-based protein foods (such as plant-based meats and cheeses) are highly processed, which can lead to ill health.
Depending on the type, the sodium and saturated fat content of this type of by-product is sometimes higher than its animal counterpart.
The best option, according to nutritionists, is to limit over-processed plant-based convenience foods.
People with soy or nut allergies (two of the eight most common types of food allergens) may have difficulty following a diet high in plant protein. The same is true for anyone with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (because of the high fiber content).
Side effects of soy
For years, soy foods have been accused of altering hormonal balance and even causing cancer.
Fortunately, current research shows that there is no cause for concern about including tofu or steamed edamame in your meal.
A 2020 Trusted Source study that tracked over 300,000 women revealed that eating soy foods actually reduced their chances of developing breast cancer. Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society claims that soy foods are healthy and safe. The only thing you need to keep track of is whether the soy is organic.
Good plant protein options – foods to emphasise
- Legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas are excellent sources of plant protein. They can be prepared in a variety of ways and used in dishes such as salads, stews and veggie burgers);
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds are rich in protein and can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, salads or eaten as a snack);
- Wholegrains (quinoa, barley, bulgur and brown rice are not only rich in protein but also in fibre and essential minerals);
- Tofu and tempeh (both are made from soybeans and are versatile sources of protein that can be used in a variety of dishes);
- Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale and broccoli contain moderate amounts of protein and offer many additional health benefits).
Types of vegetable protein powder
You will find a variety of high quality vegetable protein powder options commercially available. Most often they are:
- Soy-based protein – this is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids. Available in various forms such as tofu, tempeh, edamame and soy milk;
- Pea protein – derived from yellow peas, it is a popular ingredient in vegetable protein powders and meat substitutes;
- Rice protein – this protein is derived from brown rice and is often combined with pea protein to create a complete amino acid profile;
- Hemp protein – hemp seed is another complete source of plant protein. Hemp protein powder can be added to smoothies, oatmeal and baked products;
- Mixed plant proteins – many plant protein powders and meat substitutes provide a complete amino acid profile.
You can take a look at our vegan protein powder offerings:
- Vegan protein powder with vanilla flavor;
- Vegan protein powder with cocoa flavor;
- Vegan protein powder with cinnamon cookie flavor.
If you want to eat quality products with this kind of protein, Active Choice also offers vegan protein bars and creams rich in high-quality pea protein. With them, you will enrich your diet and achieve a healthy balance of vital nutrients.
For more useful and interesting topics related to protein, read the Active Choice blog.