The Importance of Protein in Plant-Based Diets

The Lovegrove Journal

Protein is extremely important in all diets, but vegans need to be extra mindful about their protein consumption.


Proteins are complex molecules that play major roles in the body, especially during the creation and maintenance of all cells. They help repair cells, build muscles, produce hormones, boost immunity, provide structure and support for cells, transport atoms and molecules, keep bones healthy, and so much more. Proteins also have very short lifespans. For reasons like these, it is important to obtain a healthy amount each day. It is also important for people to consume quality protein and the right amount daily, so they get the nine essential amino acids (complete proteins) that they need. The reason these nine amino acids are so essential is because the body cannot produce them on its own. The body is only able to produce about 11/20 of them. The nine amino acids are called phenylalanine, leucine, lysine, tryptophan, methionine, valine, threonine, isoleucine and histidine.


The different protein sources are either plant-based or animal-based.



Plant based protein sources include: grains, lentils, seeds, nuts, soy, beans and legumes. Plant-based proteins are higher in fiber than animal-based proteins, and they help create a healthier gut environment. Plant-based diets are also said to help people live longer. There are many other benefits like lower risk of heart disease and strokes, but people need to supplement with B12 because it does not occur naturally in plant-based foods. Quinoa and whole sources of soy are complete proteins. Besides quinoa and whole sources of soy, it is hard to get the complete protein from one plant-based protein source alone, so people need to eat many different ones. 



One of the animal-based proteins is whey protein. Whey protein is a big seller for many reasons. It helps people gain muscle mass, it is full of macronutrients and vitamins, it may help lower LDL cholesterol levels, etc. Most of the time, whey protein contains lactose and milk proteins. For people with lactose intolerance, whey protein can trigger symptoms like stomach cramps, nausea, bloating, etc. For people with dairy allergies, it can be dangerous to consume. In these cases, plant-based proteins are a better alternative. 


Another animal-based protein source is meat. Meats are a good source of protein and tend to be complete proteins, but it is not good to consume too much because of the health risks. Eating too much meat increases the risk of diseases like strokes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, etc. 


It is recommended that people should have around 0.26-0.36 grams of protein per pound of their body weight. 


Example: A 130 pound person should consume around 33-47 grams of protein per day.


 It is important to get protein from many different sources.