Last week we looked at what protein is and the roles that it has in the body. Today we are going to explore this concept further, and look at great ways to make sure you get the recommended amounts through a variety of easy to source foods!
Being able to consume an adequate amount of protein is one of the most commonly discussed topics when it comes to plant-based diets. The common misconception that plant-based diets are protein deficient has been circulated for a long time, so today we are going to take a look at the facts!
Approximately 20% of the human body is composed of protein, and amino acids are the building blocks of this protein.
The tissue, cells, and muscles inside of the body are largely made up of amino acids. Amino acids also have an important role in relation to how nutrients are transported around the body and stored. These amino acids are additionally responsible for how well the body is able heal itself in many different respects.
Essential Amino Acids
Of the 20 amino acids, 8 of them are known as essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are so called because the body cannot produce them, and therefore they must be obtained from dietary sources.
So let’s revisit which ones are the essential amino acids and discuss which are the best plant-based sources of each!
Isoleucine is important for the process of energy production, as well as several other key functions in the body.
Some of the best plant-based sources of isoleucine are soy, cashew nuts, lentils and brown rice. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in quinoa, blueberries, kiwis, and apples!
This amino acid is especially useful for muscle growth and also helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It is also thought that an adequate presence of this essential amino acid can help to prevent the onset of depression.
Some of the best plant-based sources of leucine are peas, pumpkin, and seaweed. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, avocados, dates, olives and bananas!
Lysine is beneficial for helping to keep cholesterol levels down, as well as helping the body to absorb calcium to strengthen the bones.
Some of the best plant-based sources of lysine are beans, hemp seeds, and spirulina. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in watercress, chia seeds, lentils, chickpeas, and legumes!
Methionine is key to the production of bone cartilage in the body, and a deficiency of this mineral can contribute to the onset of arthritis, as well as other related health issues.
Some of the best plant-based sources of methionine are sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and oats. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in figs, beans, legumes, and raisins!
Phenylalanine contributes to the effective production of certain hormones, and a deficiency can lead to depleted energy and feelings of depression.
Some of the best plant-based sources of phenylalanine are seaweed, pumpkin, and avocado. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in almonds, quinoa, olives, and raisins.
The consumption of threonine is essential for optimum immune system function, as well as the health of the nervous system on the whole. The health of the connective tissue is enhanced by the presence of this essential amino acid, and it also promotes the health of the hair, bones, and skin.
Some of the best plant-based sources of threonine are spirulina, hemp seeds and almonds. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in figs, and quinoa.
Without an ample amount of tryptophan in the diet, feelings of stress and anxiety can easily be exacerbated. When tryptophan reaches the brain, it is converted into serotonin - which is the feel good chemical that we can all surely agree is fantastic to have! Furthermore, this essential amino acid encourages a better sleep cycle, and also contributes to nervous system function.
Some of the best plant-based sources of tryptophan are oats, chia seeds, spinach, and bananas. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in asparagus, mushrooms, chickpeas, celery, and carrots.
Valine is key to the growth, repair, and overall health of the muscles.
Some of the best plant-based sources of valine are figs, apples, cranberries, and apricots. It can also be found in beneficial amounts in broccoli, hemp seeds, and sprouted grains.
Mixing Plant-Based Proteins
Including one or more of the aforementioned foods from each essential amino acid group each day is a great way to ensure you meet your protein quota on a plant-based diet!
As you can see, it's not that difficult at all to give your body the protein that it needs with purely plant-based sources.