Home » Protein 101: How Much You Need, Why It Matters, and Where to Get It from Plants

Protein 101: How Much You Need, Why It Matters, and Where to Get It from Plants

by Big Emma

You can also use online calculators or apps to estimate your protein needs based on your personal information.

What are some benefits of protein?

Protein has many benefits for your health and well-being, such as:

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• It helps build and repair tissues, such as muscles, bones, skin and hair. Protein provides the essential amino acids that your body cannot make on its own and that are needed for tissue synthesis and maintenance.

• It supports immune function and helps fight infections. Protein helps produce antibodies, cytokines and other immune cells that protect your body from pathogens and inflammation.

• It produces enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate various body processes. Protein is involved in the synthesis of many molecules that control digestion, metabolism, blood sugar, mood, sleep and more.

• It provides a source of energy when carbohydrates and fats are not available. Protein can be converted into glucose or ketones when your body needs fuel but does not have enough carbs or fats to burn.

• It helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Protein helps regulate the movement of water and minerals across cell membranes and prevents dehydration and edema.

• It helps curb appetite and increase satiety, which may aid in weight management. Protein takes longer to digest than carbs or fats and stimulates the release of hormones that reduce hunger and increase fullness.

What are some sources of plant-based protein?

Plant-based protein refers to protein that comes from plants rather than animals. Plant-based protein can be a good choice for people who want to reduce their intake of animal products for ethical, environmental or health reasons. Some examples of plant-based protein are:

• Soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame and soy milk. Soy is one of the few plant proteins that contains all nine essential amino acids and is also rich in phytoestrogens, antioxidants and fiber.

• Beans and legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans. Beans and legumes are high in protein and fiber and also provide complex carbs, iron, folate and other nutrients.

• Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds and chia seeds. Nuts and seeds are high in protein and healthy fats and also contain minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

• Whole grains, such as quinoa, buckwheat, oats and brown rice. Whole grains are not only sources of complex carbs but also contain some protein and fiber as well as vitamins B and E.

• Nutritional yeast, which is a deactivated form of yeast that has a cheesy flavor and can be sprinkled on salads, soups and popcorn. Nutritional yeast is high in protein and also provides vitamin B12 , which is often lacking in vegan diets.

• Seitan, which is a meat-like product made from wheat gluten . Seitan is high in protein but low in carbs and fat and can be used to make vegan versions of burgers , sausages , nuggets , etc.

Plant-based proteins have many health benefits , such as:

• They may lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease , diabetes , obesity , cancer , etc.. This may be due to their lower content of saturated fat , cholesterol , hormones , antibiotics , etc., compared to animal proteins.

• They may improve blood sugar control by providing fiber , complex carbs , antioxidants , etc., that help regulate insulin levels.

• They may lower cholesterol levels by providing soluble fiber , phytosterols , etc., that help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

• They may promote weight loss by providing fewer calories , more fiber , more satiety , etc., than animal proteins.

• They may reduce inflammation by providing anti-inflammatory compounds , such as phytochemicals , antioxidants , etc..

• They may support gut health by providing prebiotics , probiotics , etc., that help nourish the beneficial bacteria in your digestive system.

However , plant-based proteins also have some drawbacks , such as:

• They may be less digestible than animal proteins due to their higher content of fiber , antinutrients , etc., which may cause bloating , gas , indigestion , etc..

Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the absorption or utilization of nutrients in plants . Some examples are phytates , oxalates , lectins , tannins , etc.. They can be reduced by soaking , sprouting , fermenting or cooking plant foods .

• They may be less bioavailable than animal proteins due to their lower content of certain amino acids , vitamins , minerals , etc., which may require supplementation or careful planning.

Bioavailability refers to how well a nutrient can be absorbed and used by the body . Some factors that affect bioavailability are digestion , absorption , transport , metabolism , excretion , etc.. Some nutrients that may be less bioavailable from plant sources are iron , zinc , calcium , vitamin B12 , vitamin D3 , etc.. They can be enhanced by combining plant foods with other foods or supplements .

• They may be more processed than animal proteins depending on the source . Some plant-based proteins undergo extensive processing to mimic the taste , texture , appearance , etc., of animal products . This may result in added sugars , fats , additives , preservatives , etc., which may compromise their nutritional quality.

Processing refers to any alteration or modification of food from its natural state . Some examples are peeling , cutting , cooking , freezing , drying , canning , etc.. Processing can have positive or negative effects on food quality depending on the type and degree of processing . Some factors that affect food quality are nutrient retention or loss , shelf life or spoilage ,
safety or contamination ,
flavor or palatability ,
etc.. Processing can be minimized by choosing whole foods or less processed foods .

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