All About Plant Based Protein
Of the three macronutrients, protein is arguably the most beloved. Despite the endless controversy that pervades the world of nutrition, most people agree that when it comes to reaching your health and wellness goals, consuming enough protein is essential.
Protein offers a wellspring of benefits including building muscle, repairing wounds, supporting immunity, balancing blood sugar, and satisfying hunger — what’s not to love?
The real protein controversy boils down to which foods you get it from.
There are countless whole food and supplement sources of protein available on the market, but plant based protein has been experiencing a surge in popularity over the last few years.
Here we’ll explore some of the pros and cons of plant based protein including how it stacks up to whey protein.
What Makes a Protein “Complete”?
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 total amino acids the human body uses to stay healthy, but 9 of them must come from your diet because your body cannot manufacture them on its own(1). These 9 amino acids are known as essential amino acids, or EAAs(1).
A protein is dubbed complete if it contains all 9 EAAs in the proper ratios needed to optimize human health(1).
Not too long ago meat, eggs, and dairy products were largely considered the only viable sources of protein because animal based proteins are always complete. This led to the placement of animal proteins on somewhat of a nutrition pedestal.
But modern research flipped that pedestal upside down.
Although there are a few exceptions, protein derived from plant sources are not usually considered complete because they’re lacking in 1 or 2 of the EAAs. These are known as limiting amino acids(1).
But it’s important to note that plants offer a lot more than just protein. In fact, plants tend to contain a wider variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber than most animal based foods(2). Not to mention, research indicates that people who consume more plants tend to have more favorable mental and physical health outcomes across their lifespan(3).
So regardless of whether you choose to include animal protein in your diet, almost everyone can benefit from eating more plants.
Making a Plant Based Protein Complete
You may be wondering, “well if plants are so great, does the incomplete status of plant proteins still matter?” Absolutely — but it’s an easy fix.
You can create complete proteins using only plant based foods by pairing different types together(4).
For instance, one of the most popular plant based protein pairings is beans and rice.
Beans are among the richest sources of plant protein you can find, but they are naturally lacking in two essential amino acids: tryptophan and methionine. Rice contains both tryptophan and methionine, but it’s low in the essential amino acid lysine.
But when you pair lysine-rich beans with tryptophan- and methionine-rich rice, you have just created a nutrient dense source of complete protein.
The best part is you don’t necessarily have to eat the beans and rice at the same meal, you simply want to make sure you consume them within the same day(5).
The best way to ensure you’re getting an adequate supply of EAAs from your diet is to consume a wide variety of plant based protein sources across each meal and snack(4).
Beans, peas, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all excellent options for those seeking to boost their intake of plant based protein.
Plant Based Protein vs Whey Protein Powders: How Do They Compare?
When it comes to protein powders, whey protein and plant based protein are among the most popular.
Whey protein is derived from milk — usually cow or goat. It’s an affordable source of complete protein and it can be easily assimilated into muscle tissue, or anywhere else your body needs it.
Plant based protein powders can be made from a variety of foods including soy, hemp, peas/beans, and rice. SNAP’s new complete plant based protein powder is made from a combination of pea- and rice-derived protein.
Research shows that pea protein is equally effective for building muscle as whey, but there are 3 main reasons why choosing plant based protein may still the optimal choice(6):
Fits seamlessly into all diets
Plant based diets are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason. Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or somewhere in between, there’s no denying the benefits of including more plants in your diet. Adding a high quality plant based protein powder to your routine can help you achieve that goal.
Dairy is one of the most common food allergens in the world. Food sensitivities, intolerances, and digestive problems are on the rise and dairy products are often the culprits behind uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating. Plant based protein powders made from peas and rice are less likely to have the same negative digestive effects because they’re free from all major allergens.
It’s More Environmentally Sustainable
As the global population grows and our vital natural resources dwindle, it’s increasingly important that we become more mindful with the foods we choose to consume. Pea farms require fewer natural resources than dairy farms and they can be used to restore nutrient-depleted soil(7). Thus, eating more plants is not only good for your personal health, but also for the health of the planet.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you choose the foods and supplements that are best for your lifestyle. If including more plant based protein in your diet is one of your goals, be sure to check out our brand new line of plant based protein powders today.