Make Sure There’s Enough Protein In Your Plant-Based Diet. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Aria Beheshtaein, founder of B’liev. B’liev is a new plant-based protein shake in three unusual but utterly delicious flavours – Blueberry Muffin, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Brownie. Packed with protein and fibre and fortified with vitamins and minerals, B’liev delivers much more than hydration and great taste and encourages us all to believe that anything is possible. We have to believe in ourselves. Aria will share advice on how to get more protein into a plant-based diet.
Make Sure There’s Enough Protein In Your Plant-Based Diet
Protein is crucial in our diets – we all know that. But do we know why? Quite simply, protein plays a part—in fact, a lead role—in the creation and maintenance of every single cell in your body. It controls hunger, helps maintain blood sugar levels, and regulates hormones. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Over recent years, protein has been increasingly recognised as necessary for sportsmen and women to support their performance. Hardly surprising when you consider that another of its benefits is maintaining muscle mass – indeed, if you lack protein in your diet, your body can dip into your muscle to produce energy. In sufficient quantities, protein can repair muscle and connective tissue. So, it’s little wonder athletes of varying standards are mindful of consuming enough protein.
Whether you are a keen sportsperson or lean more towards the couch potato if you are a vegetarian, vegan or even flexitarian, you are probably aware of the debate surrounding how easy (or not) it is to get protein from sources other than animal-based products.
Does Protein Have To Come From Meat?
Protein comprises amino acids; nine are considered essential (Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valin).
Traditionally, meat has been considered the go-to for fulfilling your protein needs. Along with eggs and certain dairy products, as they include all of the nine essential amino acids and are, therefore, considered “complete proteins”.
This, in principle, causes questions for vegans over how they can get these supposedly essential complete proteins into their diet. And with more and more people choosing plant-based foods over animal-based products, this may be a question prospective vegans are asking themselves, mainly if they are conscious of their protein consumption during sporting activities. If you are one of those people, relax; you do not need to worry.
Firstly, some plant-based foods contain complete proteins, including soy, quinoa, hemp and chia. But it would still be pretty restrictive if those were the only foods you could rely on. So, it’s even better news that the idea that you need to consume all nine amino acids in one sitting is, in fact, not accurate. Your liver will store amino acids. So, by eating a combination of plant-based proteins throughout the day, you can easily consume all the amino acids you need without ploughing into an 8oz beef steak.
Indeed, one study published earlier this year concluded that “… the diverse composition of amino acids from plant protein sources offers simple opportunities to build protein blends that target certain amino acids profiles“.
Brown or white rice combined with beans or lentils give a complete protein, and numerous recipes from around the world provide a vast variety of flavour options for this classic combo.
Are Vegan Protein Sources Healthier?
While it’s widely accepted that a vegan diet is more sustainable and ethical, is it healthier? It stands to reason that if you consume large quantities of meat to boost your protein levels, you are also likely to be ingesting more significant amounts of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol and, therefore, your risk of cardiovascular disease. Consumption of large quantities of meat is also linked to cancer. So, you could assume that turning to plant-based proteins is automatically healthier.
However, it isn’t quite that simple. Take, for example, peanut butter on whole-wheat toast. This is widely heralded as an excellent way to boost protein, particularly as the amino acids in whole-wheat toast combined with those in peanut butter give you the magic nine in one sitting.
And, if you look at two average slices of peanut butter on toast, this does boost your protein intake by about 12g (around a quarter of your daily requirement). However, it is also likely to contain over 500 calories and 40g of fat, including saturated fat and the dreaded trans fats, which we should avoid as much as possible. So, while this may be a tasty way to boost your protein intake, its healthy option credentials can be challenged. Baked beans on toast, however, also give you the magic balance and are much more beneficial. So, like all dietary choices, there needs to be balance, and you cannot just assume that vegan always equals healthier.
What Are Good Sources Of Vegan Protein?
If you want to consume vegan protein, look for simple ingredients that are high in protein and contain a good mixture of amino acids. The entire list is surprisingly long, but here are some I recommend that you keep an eye out for when making your food choices:
These contain almost all amino acids, although they lack lysine.
Beans are high in lysine and, therefore, are great combined with grain in the diet (not necessarily in the same sitting, as mentioned earlier). Fava beans (or broad beans) are a favourite of mine, as they are packed with nutrients and utterly delicious, particularly when young and tender. Try them with a bit of garlic olive oil drizzled over them.
You’d have to have been hiding under a rock not to know that this is a renowned superfood. But did you know it also boasts more protein than most other vegetables? It is highly versatile, can be eaten cooked or raw in a salad, and goes with everything.
Primarily known as the main ingredient of hummus, chickpeas can also be used in curries and stews, making them filling and hearty while packing in protein.
Yes, the humble pea, which might be found as a predictable accompaniment to many meals but rarely the star of the show. Well, step forward, little legume! Pea protein is an excellent plant source because peas contain high-branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, which support muscle recovery and lean muscle mass.
These are a convenient way to top up your protein. For example, they can be scattered over salads or avocado toast and easily transported in your bag. Flax seeds also contain branched-chain amino acids, not to mention being a great vegan source of essential fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are a tasty snack in their own right and great to have in a bowl by the side of your laptop while you work. They also contain all nine essential amino acids, albeit they are too low in threonine and lysine to be considered a whole protein.
Getting Enough Vegan Protein
You can use an online calculator to determine how much protein you should have in your daily diet – you can multiply your weight by pounds by 0.36. On average, women need around 45g per day, and men need 55g, although sportspeople and gym enthusiasts may want to include a bit more.
Eating the foods mentioned above and other protein-rich vegan foods is the obvious route, and it will get easier as you know what to choose and how to incorporate these foods into your diet. There are also plenty of protein powders available. Still, these can be faffy and don’t always fit into a busy lifestyle any more quickly than transporting hummus from home to the office to the gym or making high-protein lunches to take to work.
A great way to conveniently top up your protein is ready-made protein shakes from companies like B’liev. If you have tried shakes in the past and found the taste to be a bit predictable, there are some great new flavours available. Look out for chocolate brownies, blueberry muffins, cookies & cream and, again, seek shakes without added processed sugar or artificial flavours. These shakes are also great to have in the fridge for the end of a busy day when you might be worried that you haven’t packed in enough protein. You can grab and gulp.
Now that a protein-rich vegan diet is achievable, the sky is your limit – enjoy!
I hope you enjoyed that.
About The Author
Aria Beheshtaein is the founder of B’liev, a new plant-based protein shake available in three unusual but utterly delicious flavours: Blueberry Muffin, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Brownie. Packed with protein and fibre and fortified with vitamins and minerals. B’liev delivers much more than hydration and great taste and encourages us all to believe that anything is possible. We have to believe in ourselves.
Combining Plant Proteins study: