Vegans often face the problem of getting complete proteins and have more limited protein options for plant based diets. There are 20 amino acids that make up proteins, of which the body can make eleven. That leaves nine they can’t make. In order to get those, it takes the right type of food. Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, lysine, methionine and valine are the nine essential proteins—amino acids. Food that contains all nine essential amino acids is called a complete protein. It’s far easier to get those nine essential amino acids if you consume animal products, but not as easy if you are vegan.
There are a few complete protein sources that contain all nine essential amino acids.
While they aren’t as easy for people on a plant based to get complete proteins from one food source, it’s still possible. Quinoa, soy and buckwheat are complete. Most protein sources aren’t complete, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t helpful in creating a healthy diet. You simply have to combine them with another protein source that completes them. It doesn’t have to be done all at one meal, but can occur throughout the day, so eating half the amino acids at one meal and completing them at another makes it far easier than what was previously considered, where scientists thought all amino acids had to be eaten at one meal.
Combining sources of protein at one meal makes getting a complete protein even easier.
While it’s true that you don’t have to eat all essential amino acids at one time, if you can do it, why not go for it. You can combine foods at one meal to get all nine essential amino acids. Eating whole grains with beans, like beans and rice or hummus and pita bread. Peanut butter on a whole grain bread also makes a complete protein.
Consider soy products in your diet.
If you’re taking a vegan protein supplement, it probably contains soy. That’s because soy products are good sources of amino acids. You can use edamame, tempeh, tofu or other soy products to get them. Every half cup of tofu has ten grams of protein, while a cup of edamame provides 8 ½ grams of protein per cup. If you’ve never eaten edamame before, it’s immature soybean pods that can be used in main dishes or in snack food. Tempeh is soy that’s been cooked and fermented. A half cup of tempeh has 15 grams of protein. Using soy milk instead of dairy is another way to get protein from soy.
- Some good sources of protein include lentils, which provide 8.84 grams of protein per cup. They also provide other nutrients, such as potassium. You can use them in soups or on salads.
- Ezekiel bread is a good source of protein and is made without any animal products. Use it and nut butter for a high protein sandwich. Add a few sliced bananas or fresh strawberries for sweetness.
- Chickpeas are another good source of protein. Hummus is made from chickpeas. A half cup of chickpeas provides 7.25 grams of protein and you can use chickpeas in a number of ways, so it fits in diets easily.
- If you want to supplement your protein intake with vegetables that also contain some protein, choose kale with 2 grams of protein per cup or broccoli with 4 grams per medium stalk. Adding five mushrooms to your main dish will increase your protein intake by about three grams.
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