The popularity of a plant-based diet has skyrocketed recently, as more and more people cut animal products from their diet and feed their bodies mainly with vegetables and other plant-based foods. This is great news for the health of people, animals and the planet.
It is a common myth that the body does not get enough protein from plant-based foods. However, in reality this is absolutely not true. Plant protein is of higher quality and easier for the body to acquire than animal protein sources.
The new Netflix documentary The Game Changers is dedicated to this very topic, and well-known athletes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Novak Djokovic and Lewis Hamilton talk about why plant protein sources should be preferred when doing sports, based on their experience.
We recommend all those interested to review this extremely informative and interesting documentary for themselves, but in summary, we will also now highlight the main advantages of plant protein over animal protein sources.
1. Plant proteins are complete proteins
Protein plays several critical roles in your body, so it’s important to get enough of it. (How much you need depends on your age, gender, weight and activity level). It is a common misconception that plant protein sources are somehow inferior to animal protein sources, but this is not true. You don’t actually need to eat meat at all to get enough protein.
Animal sources of protein usually contain more protein per serving than vegetables, and it is often considered a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot obtain on their own. These amino acids are called essential because we have to get them from our food. (other amino acids are created by our body itself). Many plant foods do not contain all nine essential amino acids and are therefore sometimes called incomplete proteins.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and we need them in sufficient quantities for the body to function normally. However, it turns out that for this we do not need to consume all nine essential amino acids at the same time. It is enough that we eat a variety of foods during the day that together contain all essential amino acids. In other words, the more varied the diet, the better, and the body gets the raw materials needed to make proteins.
Some plant-based protein sources such as spirulina, chia seeds and maca powder also contain all nine amino acids and thus have “superfood” status.
2. Plant-based protein is more sustainable
Climate change and the loss of natural resources have made the topic of consideration for the health of the planet more relevant than ever before. This is also a big reason why many people have decided to do a good deed for the planet and watch more carefully what they put on their food.
It’s no longer news that our food system is a major driver of climate change, pollution and resource depletion. Experts have found that up to 75 percent of total agricultural emissions come from the production of animal products. Without the implementation of technological measures and the collective efforts of people to reduce its impact, the negative impact of our food system on the planet will continue to worsen, making the environment more uninhabitable.
Such thoughts certainly sound gloomy, but our outlook is not entirely bleak. Moving towards a healthier diet plays a critical role in the solution here. Vegetable protein is more efficient and less resource-intensive to produce than animal protein, which is why it is also a better choice from the point of view of the sustainability of the planet.
Beans, peas, and lentils are the best examples of foods that require minimal resources to grow.
Bonus: These foods act as a natural fertilizer by moving nitrogen from the air into the soil, reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers with negative effects.
3. Plant-based protein promotes good health
Plant-based protein contains many vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other compounds that we need to stay healthy. Some plant-based protein sources also contain significant amounts of healthy fats. Beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all plant-based proteins that have great health benefits.
Many studies have shown the health benefits of a plant-based diet. In a study comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians, researchers found that vegetarians gained more fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, non-heme iron, magnesium, and calcium. According to population-based studies, vegetarians have a lower body mass index than non-vegetarians. Studies have also shown that plant protein as part of a plant-based diet reduced body weight and improved insulin resistance in overweight people. So if you want to reach your healthy weight, it would be a great place to start by adding more plants to your diet.
Additional studies have found that a plant-based diet can lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index, and even reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. A plant-based diet has been found to help control blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Additional studies have shown that a plant-based diet can also reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
For people who already have any of the above conditions, there is encouraging news: Chronic disease and heart disease patients who eat a plant-based diet may not need as many medications. A healthy plant-based diet has even been associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality among US adults. Given the benefits, it’s easy to see why doctors and nutritionists recommend a plant-based diet to most, if not all, of their patients.
4. By consuming vegetable protein, you are more animal-friendly
95 percent of US farm animals are raised in factory farms. These depressing, polluted industrial plants created to meet the demand for meat and other animal products have caused untold amounts of animal cruelty and suffering.
Although more and more meat and dairy companies are working to improve the conditions of their animals, there is not much legislation to ensure animal safety. In fact, there are no federal laws to protect animals on farms, and even states with anti-cruelty laws rarely enforce them.
Even if you only consume meat from free-range animals, the fact remains that the lives of these animals/birds ended in a slaughterhouse. We can think to ourselves that “at least they were able to run around on the grass outside for a while during their lives”, but in reality it is still exactly the same industry in every other meat processing plant.
In dairy farms operating under the banner of free-range farming, newborn calves are still taken away from their mothers immediately after birth and taken to the slaughterhouse (for veal production) and dairy cattle are still artificially inseminated in the same way so that they spend most of their lives pregnant and keep on giving milk. (which their own children can never consume, because they are taken away from their mothers immediately after birth)
The simple truth is that eating more plants means eating fewer animals, which is better for the animals, your health, and the planet.
What are the best plant-based sources of protein?
Spirulina, 60g of protein per 100g
In addition to its protein content, spirulina (aka blue-green algae) is rich in iron and other minerals, as well as vitamins, antioxidants, protein and gamma-linoleic acid, a beneficial fatty acid. It is a complete protein and an excellent source of vitamin B12, especially important for vegans and vegetarians. Some studies have found that spirulina lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises “good” cholesterol.
Almond butter, 23g protein per 100g
Almonds and almond butter are rich sources of minerals (calcium, magnesium, selenium) as well as folic acid, potassium and vitamin E to help cover your nutritional bases. According to research, almonds can reduce LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. They are also known to keep blood sugar levels under control and protect against colon cancer.
Hemp seeds, 20.2g protein per 100g
Hulled hemp seeds, called hemp seeds, are high in fiber, vitamin E, potassium and several minerals. Plus, they contain the perfect ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 EFAs that we need for heart and brain health, immune system support, energy production, and other healthy functions.
Maca powder, 11.3g protein per 100g
This superfood provides energy without being a stimulant and is high in vitamin C, potassium, calcium and magnesium. As an adaptogen, it has a balancing effect on the body. Maca helps maintain balance and balance stress levels, and it can relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is recommended to enjoy this superfood in the morning and not before going to bed.
Chia seeds, 21.2g protein per 100g
The high fiber content of these seeds helps you stay regular and can keep you feeling fuller for longer. They’re high in heart-healthy omega-3s and also provide vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants to fight free radical damage that can lead to disease.
People who exercise regularly consume protein powder as an additional source of protein in order to recover faster after exercise and to maintain and grow muscle mass. Here too, vegetable protein could be preferred, because in addition to all the above reasons, it is also much easier for the body to acquire vegetable protein.
Legefit has the largest selection of vegetable protein powders in Estonia.