There are many who attempt veganism without the knowledge of proper nutrition requirements of a healthy diet and often end up quitting before they really begin. Yet there are some simple adjustments to a vegan diet that can make all the difference. One such change is the inclusion of enough protein in a vegan diet – something that can be challenging when animal products have been cut from the diet. Protein is a macronutrient required for the body. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.1
Diets higher in protein have many health benefits. These benefits range from increasing muscle mass and strength,2,3 to boosting metabolism4-8 and reducing sugar cravings.9,10 When considering proteins in the diet you must consider the quality of the ‘protein package’. Those low in saturated fat and processed carbs and rich in nutrients are the aim as these macronutrients invariably come along with every protein source. The majority of vegan proteins meet these standards with ease.
Below are 5 high quality vegan proteins to keep your diet healthy, whether you are on a vegan diet or just adding quality to your daily nutrient intake:
Pea protein powder is a high-quality, easily digested protein source made from yellow peas. It’s rich in iron, arginine and branched-chain amino acids and offers benefits like improved muscle growth and feelings of fullness.11,12
Rice protein is a protein isolate derived from brown rice and is made by grinding up rice and adding an enzyme to it which separates out the starch (a carbohydrate) from the protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids, however does not contain enough lysine to qualify as a complete protein, therefore it is best combined with proteins such as pea protein which contains high amounts of lysine to make what may be referred to as a ‘super protein’. The benefits of rice protein are that it is low-allergenic, vegan, eco-friendly and is comparable to whey protein for muscle building properties.13
This ancient grain is rich in fibre and protein, as well as many important micronutrients. In particular, amaranth is a good source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and iron.14,15
Hemp protein powder is a complete protein that includes lots of antioxidants, minerals and fibre. It is relatively new on the protein market and is also rich in omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids that promote energy production and strengthen the immune system, as well as phytosterols which are cholesterol fighting compounds.16-19
Quinoa has twice the protein content of rice or barley, and is also a very good source of calcium, magnesium and manganese. It also contains several B vitamins, vitamin E and dietary fibre. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids in enough quantities to qualify as a complete protein, including lysine and isoleucine, which many other grains lack. It is also high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and small amounts of the heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.20-25
For optimal health, especially when considering a vegan diet, look for a high-quality product that contains a combination of all five of these proteins. This will ensure you are getting a myriad of vegan protein sources in measured doses. There may also be benefits to finding a protein powder that includes fermented greens and nutrients, for an all-in-one wellness product.
*References available on request.