Proteins are important building blocks of the body. For a long time it was thought that we can only obtain proteins through animal products such as meat, eggs and dairy products and that vegetable proteins are not properly absorbed. Still, vegetable proteins are at least as good, and you can read why below.
Proteins are in the spotlight and that is not surprising. Proteins are essential for building, maintaining and repairing our body tissues, such as the skin, organs and muscles. Proteins also play a major role in our immune system and hormone balance. It is no longer just the athletes who are focused on protein intake.
The documentary The Game Changers also showed us that as a (top) athlete you no longer have to reach for cottage cheese, eggs or chicken to get enough protein. It proves the power of vegan protein. Good sources of vegetable proteins are vegetables, (sweet) potatoes, beans, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and kernels, oatmeal, quinoa, seaweed, tofu and tempeh.
Proteins and amino acids
Proteins are made up of amino acids. The amino acids that you ingest your body sticks together to make a “complete protein”. Nine of the 22 amino acids your body cannot make itself, so you have to get it through your diet. These are also called essential amino acids. The nine essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. To make a complete protein, your body needs all the essential amino acids.
Any animal product may have a more favorable composition of essential amino acids, but by combining vegetable products you also achieve a complete amino acid profile. The secret therefore lies in varied food and food combinations. For example, beans and legumes are relatively low in methionine and high in lysine, while grains, seeds, kernels and nuts are low in lysine and high in methionine.
There are plant foods that contain all the essential amino acids in a ratio equal to animal products. Examples include soybeans, chickpeas, yellow split-pea quinoa, buckwheat, kidney beans, black beans, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, and spirulina. In addition to all proteins, all these products also supply minerals, vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
Vegan protein shake
If you want to be assured of enough protein in your diet, there are always the protein shakes. Vegetable protein powders are gaining in popularity and for exactly the same reasons as described above. In a study in which strength athletes were given protein powder supplements for eight weeks, one group receiving brown rice protein and the other group receiving whey protein, no significant difference was found in strength, performance, muscle mass, or body fat (source).
Good sources of vegetable proteins are sufficient. The powerful combination of rice protein and pea protein creates a complete amino acid profile. Other high-quality sources include pumpkin protein or mung bean protein. Hemp protein is also a complete vegetable protein source made from hemp seed that contains all essential and non-essential amino acids.