Plant-Based Protein: What’s the Benefit?
Have you grown up with the idea that the main source of protein comes from animals? Contrary to popular belief, animal products are not the only sources of protein. This essential nutrient can also be sourced from plants, consuming a wide variety of plant foods will ensure we take in the necessary amount of protein on a daily basis.
Today, there’s a growing body of research promoting plant-based sources as the best sources of protein. How is plant-based protein any different from its animal-based counterpart?
Plant protein and its benefits
First, let’s take a look at what protein really is and its role in the human body.
As a macronutrient, protein is one of the body’s energy sources, along with carbohydrates and fat. It plays a huge role in building, repairing, and maintaining the body’s structure, especially the skin, bones, muscles, and hair. Yes, protein from animal products can still perform the same role. But for plant-based sources of protein, you can expect to enjoy the following benefits:
- Antioxidants – Antioxidants are known for their protective effects on the body. They get rid of free radicals from the cells and help prevent certain types of cancers. They can be sourced from fruits and veggies.
- Fiber – Opting for plant-based protein also increases your intake of fiber, which benefits your metabolism and digestive health. Specifically, mung beans, quinoa, lima beans, Chia seeds, and broccoli are rich in both protein and fiber.
- Low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol – Animal products contain high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, which are the common triggers of cardiovascular health conditions. People usually opt for plant-based proteins to avoid these two contents.
- Variety – Getting your daily dose of protein from plants also gives you variety. You can prepare different bowls of salads for lunch and dinner all with different protein-rich fruits and veggies in them. You can also mix and match plant-based sources depending on your diet preferences. Aside from salads, you can also prepare protein-rich shakes and smoothies.
Enjoying a variety of the thousands of plant foods out there isn’t just about satisfying our taste preferences. It also affects the amino acids we take in, which are essential components to building protein.
So what are amino acids?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The human body needs a combination of 20 types of amino acids for optimal health. However, the human body can’t produce 9 of these 22 types, which means they are essential and we need to get them from a wide variety of plant-based whole foods we eat on a daily basis. This is when variety comes in. By preparing different types of meals and snacks and varying the types of plant foods you eat, you’re making sure that you’re getting enough of the essential amino acids every day.
There is a myth that certain foods must be combined with each other in order to get the advantages amino acids bring. However, our bodies are intelligent and can combine the different amino acids and string them together to create protein all on its own. The trick is to make sure we’re eating varied sources of protein from the best plant sources somewhat close to each other over a few days. Our bodies don’t function based on 24-hour time schedules, so we must break free from this mindset!
Consuming plant proteins instead of animal proteins
Have you now considered transitioning to plant sources for your daily protein needs? Do you think it’s too challenging considering you’ve been consuming animals for protein for a long time? If yes, these tips might help make your switch a little easier:
- Add variety to your diet – Create a list of the best sources of protein. Be creative and try new foods! You can also visit a nutritionist or dietician to ask for examples of a menu.
- Seek support – Join groups that promote a plant-based diet. You can find apt communities to join online or offline to meet people who’ve done the switch and are doing well in their journey to a plant-based diet. Many of these groups are also moderated by health professionals.
- Make it fun – Learn to experiment in the kitchen and prepare your own foods. The fun starts with buying ingredients you’ve never used before and trying new foods. Plant-based foods can actually be fun and exciting once you research the best recipe inspiration like Bosh! All you need is a little patience to hone your cooking skills and some creativity.
- Set goals and celebrate small wins – Don’t forget to reward yourself when you’ve achieved your goals and stayed on your healthy path! The process of trying something new should always be fun, and you’ll feel excited when you start to notice gains in your athleticism.
- Remember that exercise and activity is an important part of staying healthy. If you are an athlete, do some research about plant-based athleticism and learn more about the performance benefits you can receive from changing what you eat. Don’t fret – you can still buy the biking gear you’ve been eyeing at your favorite cycling online store, or invest in that premium weight lifting set you want.
Protein is an essential part of our diet. And if you’ve been relying on animal-based meat for protein for a long time, it could seem challenging to switch to plant-based sources. But don’t give up. It’s really just a matter of understanding the benefits of transitioning to plant foods and taking the time to experiment with something new and exciting!
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