Greetings vegans and plant-based warriors and salutations to all of you non-vegans as well!
”But where do you get your protein from?”
We’ve all heard it...or said it. This phrase (amongst others) provides endless hours of amusement at the expense of vegans, including countless memes and animations of vegan girlfriends being utilized as lawnmowers.
But they (you) have a point! Where do we get our plant-based protein from? Well, if you’ve read our article on How to Increase Your Plant-Based Protein Intake with Macro Snacks, then you will already have a basic understanding that vegans can obtain this important macronutrient from a variety of plant-based foods and snacks.
But are they complete proteins?
In order to be classed as a complete (or whole) protein source, foods must contain all 9 essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. It is well-known that animal-derived sources contain complete proteins, but plant-based foods are often touted as incomplete. That’s why you may have seen many people advise vegans to eat complementary proteins to ensure the consumption of all essential amino acids. For example, snacking on rice and beans together will provide you with a complete protein. This is called the theory of protein complementing.
However, the theory has been disproved and it is not necessary to eat all of the essential amino acids at the same time! Researchers have shown that all plant foods that are usually consumed as sources of protein contain ALL of the essential amino acids and that vegans are pretty much guaranteed to acquire enough protein from plant sources as long as we consume sufficient healthy calories. The key thing here is to eat a balanced and varied diet!
Unfortunately, the myth of incomplete plant-based protein has been difficult to shake, even in the vegan health and fitness world. Hopefully, popular influencers and documentaries, such as GameChangers, can help to raise awareness and spread the word.
So...Do Complete Plant-Based Proteins Exist?
Yes! Any single whole natural plant food, or combination of, will provide all of the recommended essential amino acids if eaten as the main source of calories for a day. In other words, unless you mainly eat processed snacks and junk food, it’s pretty unlikely that your vegan diet will be protein deficient.
Nevertheless, if you’re a vegan who likes to indulge in unhealthy snacks and pizza occasionally, OR if you want to increase your protein intake in order to gain muscle, then you may find it interesting to know that there are some super plant-based protein sources. By this, we mean foods that have a much higher content of essential amino acids than most plant-based snacks and can be classed as a complete protein in just one serving.
We have listed a few of our favorites below, alongside some basic nutritional information, health benefits, and snack ideas:
Who doesn’t love these little green monsters? Actually, I used to store peas in my cheeks to flush them down the toilet after dinner. My mum said my face used to resemble a hamster...but, I love them now! Not least because of their impressive nutrient profile. In fact, peas contain almost every vitamin and mineral that our bodies require, including copious amounts of fiber and protein. Half a cup of green peas contains 4g of protein! Plus, they’re low in calories - what more could you want?
Due to their nutrient content, peas are beneficial for our health in many ways. The fiber helps with digestion and maintains healthy gut bacteria, the protein helps to strengthen the immune system and repair muscle, and the antioxidants prevent damage to your cells and neutralize free radicals.
Ok, so a cup of peas doesn’t sound like a very appealing snack, regardless of their plant-based protein content. But you can pretty much chuck them in everything, from your soy bolognese to your creamy mushroom pasta, seitan pie, and eggplant lasagna. Moreover, you can buy pea protein isolate (a powder made from yellow peas) to add to your post-workout shake, plant-based pancakes, or breakfast smoothie.
Whilst we’re on the subject of pea protein isolate, one of our favorite super plant-based protein sources is our very own collection of Macro Snacks (yes, we may be biased). We use a powerful blend of pea protein isolate, brown rice flour, and chickpea flour to pack our healthy chips full of plant-based protein, not to mention complex carbs, fiber, iron, vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
Our healthy snacks typically contain 11g of protein per bag of chips! They’re nutritionally balanced, vegan, gluten-free, and have the perfect ratio of healthy fats, complex carbs, and plant-based protein. Plus, they’re already in the form of a delicious and crunchy snack!
Quinoa has a protein content that ranges between 13.81-21.9% depending on the variety! The balance of essential amino acids makes it superior to other plant-based sources of protein, such as wheat, barley, and soybeans. One of quinoa’s most abundant essential acids, lysine, is important in the production of antibodies, promotes cell repair, helps with the absorption of calcium, and reduces the likelihood of cancer metastasis.
Often mistaken as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed and has been a staple of the Peruvian and Bolivian diets for thousands of years. It’s incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. If you like sweet things but still want to get your plant-based protein fix, then why not try out Nagi’s Chocolate Quinoa Coconut Protein Bars? If you prefer something savory, then what about these healthy quinoa recipes?