Protein: Demystified & Simplified for Plant-Based Eaters
Protein is a high-demand nutrient for the cells in the body which is why it is a Macronutrient. Protein builds and repairs cells and body tissues like skin, hair, muscle, and bone. Also, it helps with blood clotting, immune system responses, hormones, and enzymes in the body. It holds a big role in our total physical wellbeing.
It seems we are in and out of love with this critical Macronutrient. We either place too much value on high protein diets or pay insufficient attention to it. Either way, plant-based eaters cannot afford to devalue the benefits it brings to the body. Much of the immune health-boosting information we read hardly mention the role of protein in our immune system, while pushing Micronutrient supplementation like vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc. They all work in tandem each depending on each other with protein holding a big role. Protein deficiency can cause decreased immunity, digestive problems, fertility issues, hair loss, lower mental alertness, slowed growth in children, edema, poor healing and health outcomes. Medical providers use protein status labs to evaluate disease outcomes and dietitians screen heavily for protein malnutrition in critical clinical care.
Building Blocks of Protein
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein is made up of long chains of amino acids. There are 20 types of amino acids and they vary in amounts in foods. The specific order of amino acids determines the structure and function of each protein. There are nine amino acids that our body must get from the food we eat- we call those Essential Amino Acids! The remaining amino acids our body can make on its own are Non- Essential Amino Acids
Complete your protein
Considering what I stated above, protein foods may be either complete or incomplete in all the amino acids. Complete proteins are proteins that have all essential amino acids. All essential amino acids should be present for a food to be considered a complete protein.
Complete Proteins are - Animal proteins, dairy, soy, and quinoa are complete proteins. So if you include those, you could meet your daily body needs for all your amino acids.
Incomplete protein foods are- many plant foods are incomplete proteins, including beans, nuts, seeds. and grains.
Vegans and vegetarians should consider complementing meals or eating a variety of plant-based proteins to ensure they are not protein deficient. Combining incomplete proteins in a day can provide you with all essential amino acids. Examples include rice and beans, or nut butter on whole-wheat bread.
How much protein do you need?
There are many formulas to determine protein needs, but these are simple calculations. In general, those who are more muscular and active will have higher protein needs. Individuals with liver and kidney conditions should get a Registered Dietitian to help determine their unique needs as medical considerations go into determining protein needs. When you consider how much protein you need and where to find it, you should relax and avoid trying to engage in protein overload. More isn’t necessarily better.
Average non-exercisers: To determine your daily protein intake, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. An average person weighing 150 pounds needs 54 grams
Most older adults (50+) will need 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. Getting enough protein can help older adults protect their muscles and quality of life. (Divide your weight by 2.2 to change pounds to kilograms)
Athletes: the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training. Read More
Get the most out of protein by spacing it out
Most of us with a healthy appetite eat enough protein for the day. But a common mistake is we do not balance it well throughout our day to see the greatest benefit. For exercisers and athletes, protein intake should also be spaced throughout the day and after workouts. Paying attention to protein in meals and snacks throughout the day will not only support the body systems but will lead to more satisfying meals allowing you to feel less hungry longer and perhaps eat less. Not only that, but it could help regulate hormones such as insulin and blood sugar which can reduce your cravings for carbohydrates and also help in managing your weight. For those with prediabetes, insulin-resistance, Diabetes, PCOS starting your day with protein could make all the difference in the world. You could potentially feel more energized while managing your weight.
Example of balancing protein: 10grams breakfast, 5 grams at snack, 15 grams at Lunch, 21 grams at Dinner = 51grams
This was a simple overview with more to explain during our on-line plant-based challenge. Knowing how much protein you need and how to include it into your day is as simple as it gets.
Vegetarian protein-based snack to uplift your afternoon!!