LOOK at any part of your body: You are made up of proteins, every nerve, muscle fibre, skin cell, organ, hair, nail, enzyme, immune cell, blood vessels, every one of your 37.2 trillion-plus cells is made up of proteins.
Protein is one of the three major macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats, that is necessary for functionality, growth and repair of all your life-sustaining systems.
Contrary to some beliefs, protein is required for much more than muscle building. Proteins are literally the building blocks of life. This, in part, explains why modern society is obsessed with protein intake.
There is some debate regarding how much is required for sustaining health, but no matter how much we think we need, the fact is, proteins are essential nutrients.
If you are interested is weight loss, it is known that protein:
• Has been shown to be the best of the three macronutrients to increase fullness;
• Increasing protein to 30 per cent of total caloric intake adds to greater feelings of satiety and fullness;
• Higher protein diets result in test subject consuming 441 fewer calories per day;
• Yes, higher protein and low carbs does help, but eliminating carbs has been shown to lessen overall health and shorten lifespan.
Benefits of plant proteins
The big difference between many other organic molecules and protein is nitrogen. Only plants can extract nitrogen from the atmosphere and combine it to produce proteins. Plants are the origin of all nutrition on the planet, protein included, and natural plant — source protein is the cleanest, safest and healthiest available.
There are advantages in having plant-based proteins in your diet, such as:
• A diet higher in fibre, essential for gut health and lowers the risks of cardiovascular disease;
• A wide spectrum of essential micronutrients, needed for immunity and all other body functions;
• Increased antioxidants, fighting the daily threat of your free radical-triggered cell damage;
• Researchers have confirmed that diet of plant-source proteins or a diet consisting of days with animal-source proteins and days with plant-source proteins is beneficial to overall health and longevity;
• Significantly less saturated fats than animal source proteins;
• The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that processed red meats are carcinogenic (cancer-causing);
• People on a predominantly plant-based diet tend to have healthier lifestyles and are more mindful of their foods (still, remember to avoid processed plants, flour and refined sugars);
• Plants can and do provide enough protein and iron;
• Replacing one to two servings of animal-based protein with plant-based protein can reduce cholesterol markers by roughly five per cent;
• Better hair, nails and skin; and
• Increased plant and decreased animal agriculture is highly beneficial to the environment and climate.
Opting for all plant-based eating at least two days per week will positively affect your wellness. To help you get started, I have compiled a list of plant protein sources (with a few animal sources for comparison), most of these items are completely natural, a few are mildly processed, and even fewer are manufactured.
Important point of note:
• Compared to the available animal protein, some plant sources may be relatively high in: Calories — the same quantities of plant protein will usually have more calories than animal sources; carbs — animal proteins are not carb sources but plant proteins are also sources of carbs, therefore, your macronutrient ratios must be adjusted for plant protein sources; sugar — plant proteins usually have sugar, sometimes significant amounts, so remember to include their sugar content when keeping below your safe 25 grams of sugar per day maximum.
• Most plant sources are high in micronutrients, but it is a good idea to tend towards those with good mineral and iron content.
• If you choose a full vegan diet, it is advisable to take a B12 supplement as there is no plant sources which provides a reliable supply of this highly essential vitamin. However, they are artificially fortified products.
There have also been cases of non-supplementing vegans who appear to get sufficient dietary B12, perhaps from insects, worms, eggs, larvae and other animal materials often found with vegetables, in any case, make regular medical check-ups a part of your yearly routine.
In choosing a plant protein source, attempt to focus mainly on plant sources with the higher protein levels, and relatively less calories and carbohydrates.
And, always remember, utilising the widest spectrum in plant source proteins is strongly advised, as the nine essential amino acids (the building block of proteins) are practically never found in any one plant source. The last thing you want is for even one negative to outweigh the many benefits.
3 ounces of ground beef: 224 cals, 15g of protein, 0g fibre, 7g sat fat, 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 1.5mg iron, + Vitamin B12 (+ B12)
3 ounces chicken breast: 83 cals, 17.3g of protein, 0g fibre, 0.4g sat fat, 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 0.5mg iron, + B12
3 ounces shrimp: 90 cals, 17.3g of protein, 0g fibre, 5 g sat fat, 0.8g carbs, 0 g sugar, 1.3mg iron, + B12
3 ounces salmon: 153 cals, 16.9g of protein, 0g fibre, 1.9g sat fat, 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 0.3mg iron, + B12
Non-meat animal sources
1 medium whole egg: 60 cals, 6g of protein, 0g fibre, 1g sat fat, 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 0.7mg iron, + concentrated B12
½ cup Greek yogurt: 85 cals, 11g of protein, 0g fibre, 1.5g sat fat, 5g carbs, 3g sugar, 0.2mg iron, + B12
1 cup whole milk: 146 cals, 7.9g of protein, 0g fibre, 4.6g sat fat, 11g carbs, 11g sugar, 0.1mg iron, + B12
1 scoop protein whey powder: 140 cals, 27g of protein, 0g fibre, 2g sat fat, 3g carbs, 2g sugar, 0mg iron
1 cup spinach: 7 cals, 0.9g of protein, 0.7g fibre, 0g sat fat, 1.1g carbs, 0.1g sugar, 0.7mg iron
1 cup broccoli (chopped): 51 cals, 5.7g of protein, 5.5g fibre, 0g sat fat, 9.8g carbs, 2.7g sugar, 1.1mg iron
1 cup Brussel sprouts: 38 cals, 3g of protein, 3.3g fibre, 0.1g sat fat, 7.9g carbs, 1.9g sugar, 1.3mg iron
1 medium potato (irish potato): 161 cals, 4.3g of protein, 3.8g fibre, 0.1g sat fat, 36.5g carbs, 2g sugar, 1.8mg iron
1 medium potato (sweet potato): 162 cals, 3.6g protein, 5.9g fibre, 0.1g sat fat, 37.3g carbs, 11.6g sugar, 1.3mg iron
½ cup amaranth: 360cals, 12g of protein, 6g fibre, 2g sat fat, 60g carbs, 8g sugar, 5.4mgs iron
5 sheets nori seaweed: 25 cals, 5g of protein, 5g fibre, 0g sat fat, 5g carbs, - g sugar, 1.8mgs iron
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes: 139 cals, 7.6g of protein, 6.6g fibre, 0.2g sat fat, 30.1g carbs, 20.3g sugar, 4.9mgs iron
1 cup guava: 84 cals, 1.4g of protein, 8.9g fibre, 0.3g sat fat, 19.6g carbs, 10.7g sugar, 0.5mg iron
½ cup roasted almonds: 340 cals, 14g of protein, 8g fibre, 2g sat fat, 10g carbs, 2g sugar, 2.2mgs iron
1 medium artichoke: 60 cals, 4.2g of protein, 6.5g fibre, 0g sat fat, 13.4g carbs, 1.2g sugar, 1.5mg iron
½ cup beans (broad): 256 cals, 19.6g of protein, 18.8g fibre, 0.2g sat fat, 43.7g carbs, 4.3g sugar, 5mgs iron
2 tbsp organic peanut butter: 200 cals, 8g of protein, 3g fibre, 2g sat fat, 7g carbs, 2g sugar, 0.7mg iron
½ cup cashews: 393 cals, 10.5g of protein, 2.1g fibre, 6.3g sat fat, 22.4g carbs, 3.4g sugar, 4.1mg iron
½ cup pistachios (roasted & salted): 320 cals, 12g of protein, 6g fibre, 4g sat fat, 10g carbs, 4g sugar, 2.2mgs iron
1 cup walnuts: 420 cals, 10g of protein, 4g fibre, 4g sat fat, 8g carbs, 2g sugar, 1.4mg iron
1 cup chickpeas: 240 cals, 12g of protein, 12g fibre, 0g sat fat, 36 g carbs, 2g sugar, 2.9mgs iron
6 oz. tofu: 200 cals, 28g of protein, 2g fibre, 2g sat fat, 10g carbs, 0g sugar, 3.6mgs iron
1 cup green peas: 45 cals, 3g of protein, 3g fibre, 0g sat fat, 6g carbs, 3g sugar, 1.1mg iron
1 cup white peas/navy beans: 296 cals, 19.7g of protein, 13.4g fibre, 0.3g sat fat, 53.6g carbs, 0.7g sugar, 4.8mgs iron
1 cup shelled edamame: 240 cals, 22g of protein, 18g fibre, 3g sat fat, 26g carbs, 6g sugar, 3.6mgs iron
1 cup pinto beans: 200 cals, 12g of protein, 14g fibre, 0g sat fat, 38g carbs, 4g sugar, 3.6mgs iron
1 cup tempeh: 320 cals, 30.8g of protein, 0g fibre, 3.7g sat fat, 15.6g carbs, 0g sugar, 4.5mgs iron
1 cup lima beans: 190 cals, 11.9g of protein, 11.6g fibre, 0.1g sat fat, 35.9g carbs, 0g sugar, 4.4mg iron
½ cup black beans: 100 cals, 6g of protein, 5g fibre, 0g sat fat, 19g carbs, 4g sugar, 1.4mgs iron
Seeds and legumes
1 cup lentils: 200 cals, 16g of protein, 18g fibre, 0g sat fat, 34g carbs, 4g sugar, 5.4mgs iron
2 tablespoons chia seeds: 120 cals, 4g of protein, 8g fibre, 1g sat fat, 8g carbs, 0g sugar, 1.8mg iron
½ cup pumpkin seeds: 340 cals, 18g of protein, 4g fibre, 5g sat fat, 6g carbs, 0g sugar, 5mgs iron
½ cup chia seeds: 480 cals, 16g of protein, 32g fibre, 4g sat fat, 32g carbs, 0g sugar, 7.2mgs iron
½ cup hemp seeds: 453 cals, 26.7g of protein, 2.7g fibre, 2.7g sat fat, 5.3g carbs, 1.3g sugar, 7.2mgs iron
½ cup hemp hearts: 427 cals, 26.7g of protein, 8g fibre, 2.7g sat fat, 10.7g carbs, 2.7g sugar, 12mgs iron
¼ cup teff: 10.25 cals, 6.5g of protein, 3.75g fibre, 0.2g sat fat, 35.25g carbs, 0.9g sugar, 0mg iron
1 cup cooked quinoa: 223 cals, 8g of protein, 5g fibre, 0.4g sat fat, 39g carbs, 1.6g sugar, 2.7mgs iron
1 cup oats: 300 cals, 10g of protein, 8g fibre, 1g sat fat, 54g carbs, 2g sugar, 2.9mgs iron
1 cup buckwheat: 583 cals, 22.5g of protein, 17g fibre, 1.3g sat fat, 121.6g carbs, 0g sugar, 3.7mgs iron
1 slice Ezekiel bread: 80 cals, 4g of protein, 3g fibre, 0g sat fat, 15g carbs, 0g sugar, 0.7mg iron
1 cup almond milk (unsweetened): 30 cals, 1g of protein, 1g fibre, 0g sat fat, 1g carbs, 0g sugar, 0.7mg iron
1 cup soy milk (unsweetened): 80 cals, 7g of protein, 1g fibre, 0.5g sat fat, 4g carbs, 1g sugar, 1.1mg iron
1 cup rice milk: 45 cals, 1g of protein, 6g fibre, 0g sat fat, 10g carbs, 0g sugar, 0.4mgs iron
Organic veggie burger: 100cals, 14g of protein, 4g fibre, 1g sat fat, 8g carbs, 1g sugar, 2mgs iron
Plant source protein powders
1 scoop (33g) green pea protein powder: 120 cals, 24g of protein, 0g fibre, 0g sat fat, 1g carbs, 0g sugar
1 scoop brown rice protein powder: 120 cals, 24g of protein, 0g fibre, 0g sat fat, 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 1.4mg iron
1 cup spirulina: 43 cals, 8.6g of protein, 0.5g fibre, 0.4g sat fat, 3.6g carbs, 0.5g sugar, 4.3mgs iron
1 cup nutritional yeast: 240 cals, 32g of protein, 12g fibre, 0g sat fat, 20g carbs, 0g sugar, 2.9mgs iron
1 cap portobello mushrooms: 24 cals, 2g of protein, 3g fibre, 0g sat fat, 4g carbs, 1g sugar, 0.4mg iron
Organic Raw Plant Based Protein Powder (29g), Vanilla, Vegan, Soy-Free, Gluten-Free: 130 cals, 20g of protein, 2g fibre, 1g sat fat, 5g carbs, 2g sugar, 0mg iron
Yuve Vegan Protein Powder with Superfoods (35g): 110 cals, 15g of protein, 8g fibre, 0g sat fat, 13g carbs, 2g sugar, 25mg iron, B615%, B12 10% Vit Bs
Raw Organic Fit Protein Powder (46g): 170 cals, 28g of protein, 9g fibre, 0g sat fat, 12g carbs,
Tofurky Deli (3) Slices: 103 cals, 13g of protein, 3g fibre, 0g sat fat, 6g carbs, 1g sugar, 1.1mg iron
Vegan Boca Burger: 70 cals, 13g of protein, 4g fibre, 0g sat fat, 6g carbs, 0g sugar, 1.8mg iron
Veggie hot dogs: 50 cals, 7g of protein, 0g fibre, 0g sat fat, 4g carbs, 2g sugar, 0.4mg iron
Meatless meatball: 150 cals, 14g of protein, 2g fibre, 0.5g sat fat, 7g carbs, 1g sugar, 1.8mg iron
Sources: US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, nutritionix.com, US Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service
Fitz-George Rattray is the director of Intekai Academy, which is focused on helping people live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and weight management. If you are interested in losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, give them a call at 876-863-5923, or visit their website at intekaiacademy.org