The 411 on protein
Protein always seems to be a thought for people, whether they are concerned with trying to build muscle, lose weight, or are hungry and want something that is going to satisfy them. It is 1 of 3 macronutrients your body needs in large quantities and is made of individual building blocks called amino acids. While the body is able to make 23 amino acids, 9 essential amino acids need to come from the food you eat.
Your body needs protein, and it’s even considered the building block of life. More so, you need to be getting protein from your diet on a daily basis because your body can’t store the amino acids that make up protein. If they aren’t used to make proteins, burned as energy, or turned into glucose, then these amino acids are excreted from your body. As a good rule of thumb, aim to get around 20 grams of protein at every meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and about 10 grams of protein during your snacks. This amount will vary some based off how active you are, your sex, height, weight, and your own bio-individual needs.
Your body relies on protein for some of the following vital functions:
• It’s found in every cell in your body and is the main component of many structures- It’s needed for growth, building and repairing tissue, and movement
• It makes keratin that is used to make your hair and nails
• It is a critical building block for your muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, and blood
• It makes:
o Hormones which send chemical messages between nerve cells
o Enzymes which are responsible for breaking down food, removing water-products, and making larger molecules from smaller ones
What’s a complete protein?
A complete protein is a source that has all 9 essential amino acids. While many plant-based foods are usually lacking one or a few of these essential amino acids, when combined with or eaten in the same day as another plant-based protein source they can make a complete protein in the body. An example of this would be eating brown rice and black beans in the same day, whether during the same meal or separate meals. The awesome news? Every Hilary’s veggie patty has a grain and bean in them, making them a complete protein.
Best sources of plant-based protein:
Now that you have the low-down on protein and why it is so important to your human body, let’s talk where you can get your protein from. Whether you’re following a plant-based diet or like to include some plant-based meals in your diet these foods have you covered:
• Hilary’s veggie patty- 5 grams per patty
• Quinoa- About 7 grams per ½ cup
• Buckwheat- 3 grams per ½ cup
• Spirulina combined (or eaten in the same day) with grains or nuts- 8 grams per 2 tbsp.
• Organic tempeh (fermented soy)- 15 grams per ½ cup
• Hemp seeds- About 10 grams per 3 tbsp.
• Chia seeds- 4 grams per 2 tbsp.
• Nuts like almonds- 5 grams per ¼ cup
• Brown rice and beans (combined or eaten in the same day)- 10-15 grams per 1 cup
• Peanut butter (combined or eaten in the same day as a whole grain)- 8 grams per 2 tbsp.
• Lentils- 18 grams per 1 cup
• Nutritional yeast- 12 grams per 3 tbsp.
• Pumpkin seeds- 3 grams per ¼ cup
• Tahini- 5 grams per 2 tbsp.
Here are some fun (and tasty) ways you can combine plant-based proteins to make a solid meal with a minimum of 20 g of protein:
• Arugula salad with 1 Hilary’s veggie patty (5 g protein), ½ cup quinoa (7 g protein), cucumbers, tomatoes, 2 tbsp. hemp seeds (3-4 g protein), and ½ cup lentils (9 g protein) with Hilary’s Chili Lime Vinaigrette salad dressing
o Estimated total protein- 24-25 g protein
• Smoothie with 1 cup almond milk (2 g protein), 2 tbsp. spirulina (8 g protein), 1 frozen banana, 1 tbsp. peanut butter (4 g protein), ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (3 g protein), 2 tbsp. chia seeds (4 g protein), 1 date, and 1 tsp. cinnamon
o Estimated total protein- 21 g protein
• Breakfast bowl with ½ cup brown rice and black beans (13 g protein), ½ cup baked tempeh (15 g protein), 2 tbsp. tahini (5 g protein), and 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast (4 g protein)
o Estimated total protein- 37 g protein
The next time someone asks you where you get your protein eating plants, you’ll have a lot of tasty food options to share with them.
Britt Martin is the founder of Fitbrittnutrition, a Holistic Nutrition Consultant company based in LA. She is a studying, soon-to-be Holistic Nutritionist and California native who is passionate about helping her clients learn how to nourish their body's and inspiring them to live healthier, more holistic lifestyles. She is an aspiring health writer and regularly blogs for various health sites and on her personal site. Britt considers herself a health-foodie who loves hiking, her rescue dog-child Logan, and traveling the world. Follow Britt on Instagram!