Many people have expressed skepticism about plant-based diets. They ask questions such as What will I eat? and How could I possibly not eat meat? They may even have the misconception that plant-based foods taste bad. We want to dispel some of these myths and concerns and help you understand that there are actually many benefits to a plant-based diet—even if you only replace some of your meat protein sources with plant-based protein.
In America, about 10% of adults claim to be either vegan or vegetarian. A vegetarian—someone who does not eat meat—is different than a vegan, who eats no animal products at all. This includes milk, cheese, and eggs. A vegetarian would get much of their needed nutrition from a plant-based diet, whereas a vegan would get all of their nutrition needs met from their plant-based diet.
A plant-based diet is one that only includes food derived from plants. This diet is mostly made up of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, and whole grains.
But it’s not only vegans and vegetarians who want to add more plant protein to their diets. According to Healthline, even people who don’t consider themselves vegan or vegetarian have added more plant protein into their diets. Healthline cites a survey by the International Food Information Council, which found that “28 percent of people reported eating more protein from plant sources between 2019 and 2020.” It’s clear that people are seeking other sources of protein.
While the reasons vary—from a desire to save animals to having no desire for meat products to wanting a healthier diet—those who choose to eliminate meat or other animal products must know how to compensate for deficits in nutrition. Why? Because protein—one of the main nutrients in animal products—is necessary for our bodies to function properly.
What is protein, and why do our bodies need it?
Protein is made from building blocks called amino acids. Our bodies produce 12 of the 21 amino acids naturally, but the remaining nine must come from the foods we eat. These nine amino acids are typically referred to as essential amino acids.
Protein is vital for our muscles, organs, hair, ligaments, tendons, hormones, and more. Thankfully, we don’t need to eat these essential amino acids all at once to reap the benefits. If we eat a varied diet and include many different types of food into our daily diets, our bodies will have all the material it needs to make protein.
Many think that plant-based proteins are not as healthy as animal proteins, but this isn’t true. There is a difference, however, between what’s termed complete and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins provide the nine essential amino acids that our bodies require. Some of the sources include beef, pork, dairy products, eggs, quinoa, whole sources of soy, and poultry. Plant sources are considered incomplete, but that doesn’t mean they are bad. It simply means we must eat a wide variety to make sure our bodies get the required nutrients.
Although few in number, there are some plant foods are actually considered to be complete proteins. These include chia seeds, spirulina, and maca powder.
Benefits of a plant-based diet
According to WebMD, “Diets that rely mostly on plants for protein have been linked to a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and early death.”
That’s great news for people who have limited the amount of meat in their diets!
Because a plant-based diet provides our bodies with fiber, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients, its benefits are many. For instance, a diet higher in plant-based foods can protect against heart disease. WebMD reports that “a review of eight studies found that people who followed a vegan or vegetarian diet were 30% less likely to die from ischemic heart disease than people who ate meat.” This is so because plant-based diets are lower in saturated fats.
Plant-based diets also offer protection against cancer because of the phytochemicals that are found in them, which naturally help in preventing cancer.
The fact that plant-based diets are high in fiber also helps people control their weight and improve gut health. These diets can also offer protection against strokes. One study found that “a healthy plant-based diet may decrease your risk of having a stroke by 10%.”
WebMD also reports that “people who follow plant-based diets have lower levels of type 2 diabetes than people who eat animal protein.” People eating plant-based diets are also less likely to be overweight.
With all these benefits, you may be starting to feel excited about trying something new or replacing some of your meals with plant-based food. So how do you go about it?
What can I eat?
When eating a plant-based diet, we must remember that it’s vital to get enough vitamin B12, zinc, Vitamin D, calcium, and protein through the foods we do eat. That’s why variety is important.
Thus, if we are cutting out all animal protein (which includes milk), we can drink milk that is made from plants or almonds. For added benefit, make sure it has Vitamin D and calcium.
Whole grain cereals fortified with vitamins are also a great option, as are whole grain breads. Some great foods to introduce into your diet include dark leafy greens, black beans, buckwheat, almond butter, chickpeas, nuts, edamame, tempeh, chia seeds, kidney beans, hemp seeds, spirulina, and pumpkin seeds. All of these are rich in protein and other essential nutrients.
You can also supplement your diet with a plant-based protein powder. Unlike whey protein, a plant-based powder is easier for your body to break down and absorb. Plus, it’s a good source of iron, a good source of healthy fats, and can be gentler on your gut than whey powder. In addition, plant-based powder kickstarts your metabolism, takes longer to digest because of the high-fiber content, and can help you lose weight because you feel fuller longer.
Performance Inspired offers an excellent plant-based protein powder. PI’s plant-based protein not only has 20 g of multi-plant protein and 5 g of fiber, but it has 1B probiotics and digestive enzymes, which aid in digestive health. It also contains 200mg of tart cherry, which helps in recovery after a workout. As with all of our products, we only use clean and natural ingredients. Like our regular performance whey protein our plant-based protein is gluten free, but it is also lactose free so it’s easy on your stomach. Plus, it has zero sugar alcohol and no soy.
This is a great option for a pre- or post-workout meal or for a midday snack.
How much protein do I need a day?
Now that you understand the importance of protein in your diet, you are likely wondering how much you need a day. How much you need is based on your weight and what you want to accomplish with your health and physique.
According to Natures Path:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight—that translates to about 0.35 grams per pound. A person weighing 165 pounds would need a minimum of 60 grams of protein per day. Keep in mind that this is a minimum. If you are trying to lose weight, build muscle mass, or if you exercise regularly, your protein needs may be higher—somewhere in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.
A great way to determine the amount your body requires is to determine the results you want for your body. Once you’ve set your goal, you can calculate the amount of protein you need. Then comes the part that some find difficult and tedious: You must start reading labels and may even need to keep a journal or take notes on your phone. But you will get the hang of it in no time, and you will find foods that you never dreamed you would enjoy.
So go ahead! Take a chance. Make some changes in your diet and reap the benefits of a plant-based diet.
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