Trying a Plant-Based Diet?

The new trend is to switch your eating habits to a more plant-based diet for health and the environment. Sounds good, however, there are some considerations to be aware of when it comes to obtaining the nutrients we need for optimum health.  One of the most important is getting enough protein. Proteins are made up primarily of amino acids necessary for making body tissues, some hormones, and enzymes.

Animal products such as meat, eggs, and milk provide all the nine essential acids in sufficient quantity to qualify as complete sources of protein. Plant products such as quinoa and soy may also qualify. But most plant foods only provide some of the essential amino acids, but not all.  Since these nine amino acids are not made by  the body, they must be provided in the diet.  If  they are not available for protein synthesis, protein tissue synthesis ceases or is limited. They are not stored in the body for long so are used for energy instead.

Vegans eating no animal products can meet these needs by combining plant foods to yield complete protein. The goal is to eat a variety of plant foods regularly to provide all the nine essential amino acids necessary. Sources for protein for vegans include beans, peas, nuts, grains and soy products. Combinations to provide complementary amino acids to make a complete protein may include rice and black beans, hummus and bread, tofu and rice, a tortilla with refried beans (a burrito) and pea soup and bread.

Due to the rise in the recent marketing of plant-based burgers, here is the scoop from Harvard Health Publishing.


Where’s the Protein?

Ever since  the advent of plant-based diets, one of the first questions that may come to mind is “how do I get enough protein in my diet?” The following post discusses some protein basics and provides an interesting article on some sources you may not have thought of.

Nearly all people in the United States get enough protein in a balanced macro-nutrient diet each day.  The average intake of protein by adults is 98 grams/day, about twice the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) which is for men (56 grams) and for women (46 grams).

The ability of proteins to support tissue construction in the body varies depending on their content of essential amino acids (must be provided by the diet, we cannot make them). Proteins of high quality contain all nine of the essential amino acids and are called complete proteins and include all animal proteins (meat, milk, eggs, and milk products (dairy) and soy (for adults). Incomplete proteins are deficient in one or more amino acids and include plant sources such as seeds, beans, nuts, grains. Fruits do not contain any significant amounts of protein.

You can obtain all the essential amino acids by practicing protein complementation which is the process of combining proteins from different sources so that collectively they provide the proportions of amino acids required to meet the body’s needs. For example, beans combined with rice become together a complete protein by providing all nine of the amino acids.