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Slaying the protein myths

What you should know about plant-based protein

Protein is the building block of life.

It's an important component of every cell in your body. Our bodies need protein for pretty much everything: building and repairing tissue, making enzymes and hormones, building muscle, skin, bones, hair, and nails, triggering neurotransmitters in the brain to improve our mood, lowering our blood sugar, and even helping us focus.

Because our body doesn't store protein, it's important to get enough of it during the day.

Proteins can be gained from many food sources, including plants and animals.

Many assume that one can only fulfill their bodies’ needs if animal products like meat, eggs, cheese, or milk are consumed. For most, it's hard to imagine getting the protein you need from plant- based sources. 

But let's think back fondly to a childhood memory of Popeye, a cartoon man who ate spinach to stay strong and grow his muscles. There was some truth to that!

Many vegetables like almonds, legumes, beans, oats, broccoli, peas, potatoes, spinach, brussels sprouts, corn, and Portobello mushrooms - to name a few - are high in protein. Despite knowing that protein can be obtained from plant-based sources, there are still many myths surrounding the topic, which we hope to clear up once and for all.

Plant-based protein Myths:

  • Plant-based proteins don’t contain all the necessary amino-acids.

Many plant-based foods (such as hemp, chia, sprouted brown rice, soy beans, and quinoa) are filled with all the essential amino acids. However, it's important to make sure to "eat the rainbow" of veggies and grains to ensure you're getting a variety of amino acids. Don’t only focus on broccoli or spinach. Make sure to try a variety of food sources. This is key!

  • Plant- based options don’t build muscle as well as animal proteins. 

Why not? Think about strong and fierce animals like gorillas, rhinos or elephants who are all plant-powered herbivores!  There are many vegan bodybuilders and athletes who demonstrate you can stay fit and strong. It’s interesting the phrase, "As strong as an Ox" is so popular when in reality, Oxen eat almost any vegetation including grass, leafy plants, mosses, herbs, and shrubs!

  • Plant-based proteins are high in carbohydrates and thus higher in calories.

Not necessarily. The right plant-based foods can be an excellent source, often with fewer calories than animal products. For example, chia seeds are rich in fiber and contain healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and are low-calorie foods like many other vegetables (broccoli, spinach, kale, mushrooms, asparagus, hemp seeds, etc.). It is also known that high-protein diets help reduce body weight.

  • You can´t get enough protein from plant-based sources. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a minimum daily protein intake of 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram of body weight ¹ .  Protein from plant-based foods provide enough proteins if one gets it from a variety of food sources containing, for example, lentils, nuts, vegetables, and grains.

  • Eating plant-based proteins is worse for the environment than consuming animal derived ones.

Not so. Nutritionally valuable food is being fed to animals to produce meat, but by not using animals as meat-producing machines, this food could be freed to help those that need it most. Vegetarian (and more so, vegan) diets use up far less of the world’s resources of food, land, water, and energy.

  • Consuming a lot of plant proteins is bad for your health.

Plant proteins can do a better job of meeting your protein needs than animal products, because they are less concentrated sources of protein (making it less likely that you’ll get too much) and because they are more likely to be present with other nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and healthy fats ² . Excess animal protein is linked to kidney disease, osteoporosis, cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

 

[1] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2540540

Overview of plant-based protein sources

Avocado4,2 grams /cup
Asparagus2,1 grams /cup
Broccoli5 grams / cup
Spinach1,8 grams / cup
Kale5 grams / cup
Mushrooms2 grams / cup
Soybeans28 grams /cup
Lentils18 grams / cup
Kidney beans13-15 grams / cup
Quinoa8 grams /cup
Brown rice7 grams / cup
Sesame seeds6,5 grams / 1 oz
Hemp seeds11 grams / 1 oz
Walnuts5 grams / ¼ cups
Cashews4,4 grams / 1 oz

 

Conclusion:

Vegetables are great for and are good for our health, the environment and are certainly the best choice to help reduce animal suffering! You can adopt the 3R principle (Reduce, Refine, Replace) to help you take small steps towards adopting a more animal and environmental friendly diet.