Nov 6, 2012 by APRIL McCARTHY
Thriving on Plant-Based Protein Without Ever Having a Deficiency: Top 9 Sources
The number question meat eaters pose to vegans is where do you get your protein from? This question could also be posed to a gorilla or a horse which have purely vegan diets. Do you think they suffer from protein deficiencies with their muscle mass? Leafy green vegetables and plant-based sources are the natural staple diet of all primates, including humans, and they were the source of protein for our earliest ancestors.
Some say that giving up our vegetarian ways and choosing to include meat into our diet is what led to the decline of human health, however it's difficult establish this by any measurable standard. What we do know is that mass meat production is terrible for human consumption and certainly does not advance our health. Our ancestors also ate meat fresh and did not allow the lengthy decaying process that became the norm once refrigeration and factory meat farms proliferated.
It also important to note that
there are millions of people in the world that could never possibly go on a vegan diet even if they wanted to. Most of our compatibility with a purely vegan based diet depends on our ancestry and genetic lines and what they ate. Veer too far off course and you'll likely be experiencing some negative health effects. This goes for herbivores, omnivores and carnivores. I've know many meat eaters who try and become vegan and it becomes destructive to their health, and vice-versa.
Some analyses of human saliva have confirmed that its enzyme makeup is more of a vegetable eating animal and not similar to the enzyme profiles found in many carnivores. When humans began ingesting meat, the resulting drastic change in diet caused the appendix to atrophy meaning we cannot extract protein efficiently from raw vegetable matter as our ancestors once could. So it is essential that we focus on highly absorbable plant-based proteins if we are to maximize digestion.
There is an abundance of such sources in plant-based foods and none of them carry the risks of factory meat farming. The lowest sources of nutrition on the food chain actually do carry a high-grade of protein where amino acids are in their purest form.
Here are 10
Excellent Sources of Plant-Based Protein:
1. Quinoa: 11g Protein / Cup
A complete protein, it has all the essential amino acids needed to build metabolism-revving muscle. A grain like seed, quinoa is a high protein alternative to rice or pasta, served alone or over vegetables and greens. It provides a good base for a veggie burger and is also a fantastic breakfast cereal when served cold with almond or coconut milk and berries.
2. Seitan: 24g Protein / 4 Ounces
An excellent substitute for beef, fish and soy products, one serving provides about 25% of your RDA of protein. But not for those with gluten sensitivities, as it is made from wheat gluten.
3. Tempeh: 24g Protein / 4 Ounces
A fermented soybean-based food, tempeh is a healthy protein-packed alternative to it’s non-fermented cousin tofu. It makes for a great veggie burger and doubles as a tasty meat alternative to meatballs in pasta, or over brown rice and vegetables.
4. Lentils: 17.9g Protein / Cup
Delicious, nutritious and super easy to prepare. Besides the protein benefits, these legumes are rich in resistant starch (RS), a carbohydrate that may encourage fat burning and shrink fat cells.
5. Hemp Seeds: 16g Protein / 3 Tbsp
With a perfect ration of omega-6 and omega-3 EFA’s, hemp seeds are another bioavailable complete protein rivaled only by spirulina. A simple and great addition to a multitude of dishes, from breakfast cereal to salads to smoothies to vegetables and rice.
6. Beans (Black, Kidney, Mung, Pinto): 12-15g Protein / Cup
Great on a veggie burrito, in chili and soups, on salads or over rice with vegetables, beans of all varieties are rich in antioxidants.
Chickpeas 12g Protein / Cup
A major source of protein in mostly vegetarian cultures. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are popularly used in soups, salads and other dishes. The high protein and low fat content of chickpeas makes them attractive to those interested in a healthy lifestyle.
8. Peas 9g Protein / Cup
Pea protein is valued for its high digestibility (90-95%), low potential for allergic responses and no negative health controversies associated with it.
9. Spirulina: 6g Protein / 10 grams
A blue-green algae, spirulina is a highly bioavailable complete protein containing all essential amino acids. At 60% protein (the highest of any natural food), it’s a plant-based protein powerhouse.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.