By Mitchell Blume, RD, CDE, PA
When we think of protein, most of us revert to animal-based options. This includes meat, eggs, animal-dairy, cheese, etc. These are all excellent sources of nutritious protein that can also be considered lean and healthy; however, multiple studies and newer guidelines are starting to recommend we try to substitute some of our animal-based protein with more plant-based options.
Some of the benefits of moving to plant-based protein include: no cholesterol, lower saturated fat, higher healthy unsaturated fats, and ease on those with sensitive digestive systems. In turn, this change can decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even diabetes.
There are many options for plant-based protein; however, unlike animal protein, all plant-based proteins (with the exception of soy and quinoa) are considered “incomplete”.
What does this mean?
A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids your body requires and an incomplete protein lacks one or more essential amino acids, so it is considered insufficient to meet your protein needs if consumed alone.
Why is this important to know?
If substituting a large amount or all of your animal proteins with plant proteins, it is extremely important to consume a variety throughout the day to ensure you are meeting your bodies protein needs. This helps to convert an incomplete protein into a complete protein. A couple examples of this include:
- brown rice + legumes (black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
- whole wheat toast + nut butter
As long as you consume a variety of foods throughout the day, you shouldn’t have any issue meeting your daily protein needs. Below are some examples of plant-based protein:
- Edamame / soy bean (1 cup) – 17 grams
- Brown rice (1 cup) + legumes (1/4 cup) – 14 grams
- Tempeh (1/2 cup) – 15.5 grams
- Tofu (1/2 cup) – 10 grams
- Quinoa (1 cup) – 8 grams
- Almond (1 ounce) – 6 grams
- Pecan (1 ounce) – 2.6 grams
- Cashew (1 ounce) – 5 grams
- Walnut (1 ounce) – 4.3 grams
- Pistachio (1 ounce) – 6 grams
- Whole wheat toast (1 slice) + nut butter (1 tbsp) – 7 grams
- Broccoli/cauliflower (1 cup) – 2-3 grams
If moving to a plant based diet or incorporating plant based protein into your meal plan feels overwhelming consider trying to eat plant based 1 meal per week or 1 day per week. Many of our EduPlated RDNs and clients have moved to eat 100% plant based 1-2 days per week as a way to incorporate the movement into a healthier lifestyle.
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