Nourish - How To Get Enough Protein On A Plant-Based Diet |Part 1
Whether or not you’re fully plant-based or simply looking to add more plant sources of protein to your diet, this blog has got you covered. We’ll be covering:
- what is protein and what does it do for you
- what kinds of food contain it
- when should you eat it
- can you eat too much
- how to properly assimilate it
In part 2 of this blog post, we cover exactly what meals you can add into your diet to make sure you are getting enough protein on a plant-based diet. Check out part 2 here.
What is Protein and What Does it Do For Me?
Protein is made of important amino acids, the building blocks necessary for each and every part of your body. Proteins are essential for the normal functioning of the human body. They are used to manufacture hormones, immune cells, enzymes, cellular messengers and be a vital fuel source for the body.
Protein is needed to make up every cell, tissue and organ, from your red and white blood cells to your hair and skin. It is needed for proper growth and healing, cardiovascular function and muscle contraction.
It is a crucial macro-nutrient for everyone, especially for pregnant women, growing children and those who lead very active lives. We recommend a well-balanced diet and include lots of whole, clean protein-rich foods.
Have a read of some of our previous blog posts covering more about proteins role in skin and hair health and pregnancy:
- Nutrients to Nourish your Hair from the Inside – Part Two
- Starting From The Inside Out: Why Skin Problems Are Often An Internal Issue
- Shopping list for Pre-conception, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
- 5 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy
What Kind of Protein Should I Have?
It is important to choose the right kind of protein. The best protein comes from eating whole food, found in both plant and animal sources.
For those of you eating a high, but not totally plant-based diet, you will be adding in the upcoming foods, plus protein from animal sources into your meals. These include organic eggs, wild fish, greek yoghurt, bee pollen and ethically sourced meat
For those on a fully plant-based diet, you’ll be looking to add in the following plant-based protein sources:
- seeds e.g chia seeds, hemp seeds
- green leafy vegetables
- tofu, tempeh, and edamame
- natural sourced protein powders e.g hemp, rice, pea
- plant yoghurts e.g cashew/almond/coconut-based
- you’ll also find that many fruits and vegetables contain at least some amount of protein, therefore eating a plethora of them each and every day will top you up bit by bit.
When Should I Eat It?
Eating protein with every meal is optimal, and eating it at breakfast is essential. Protein stabilises your blood sugar levels allowing a slow release of energy into your cells. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels balanced, which means your moods, hunger and energy levels will remain balanced.
Protein also helps to prolong the feeling of fullness after eating. This means you will be less likely to run for a quick sugar fix two hours after eating. Having it with your evening meal will help keep you from munching when you should be sleeping.
This also means that weight management and weight loss goes hand in hand with adequate protein consumption. Less unhealthy sugar-filled grazing = less weight gaining opportunities.
For more on proteins role in blood sugar balancing, have a read over these blog posts:
- 10 Tips to Help Beat Sugar Cravings Naturally
- 13 Natural and Easy Ways To Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels
And of course, for optimal weight loss or general weight management, eating a clean, whole, unprocessed and unrefined diet is essential. This includes plenty of fresh vegetables, healthy fats and of course, exercise, is recommended.
Naturally, eating protein pre and post-exercise are also optimal times to ensure you’re getting in your protein. I cover more about that in the following blog posts:
- Workout Prep and Recovery: What to Eat and Drink and When
- 6 Top Snacks to Fuel Your Yoga Practice
- Plant-Based & Healthy Pre-Workout Snack Tips
Can I Eat Too Much Protein?
Put simply, yes.
Yes, we need protein to create new cells, repair our bodies, stabilise our blood sugar and give us energy. However, this doesn’t mean you need to increase your amounts beyond the necessary levels. Excessive intake of protein can cause extra strain on the kidneys and increase acidity levels in the body.
The recommended general guideline is to eat 0.8g of protein per 1 kilo of body weight. So, if you weigh 55kg then you’ll need about 44g of protein every day.
You must also take into account your age, gender, physical build, physical activity levels and health. Everyone is different so please make sure to check your RDA before you begin to add extra protein to your diet.
To avoid putting extra strain on your body, include clean whole food sources of protein from a variety of foods into your daily meals. Drink plenty of pure water and eat lots of green veggies.
So now you know how great and useful protein is….
How Do You Add it into Your Diet Effectively?
Firstly, take in to account your digestive system. Suddenly upping your plant-based protein levels and eating large quantities of it will very likely cause you some digestive difficulties at first.
That’s often the case for people who aren’t used to eating beans or lentils, or that many green leafy vegetables. They might find that they have difficulty breaking down their food and perhaps experience excess gas or stomach cramps after meals. Maybe toilet visitations increase and the end result is quite different looking!
If your sudden swap from meaty pies to lentil pies is causing a great deal of discomfort, don’t worry! Your system will get used to it over a short period of time and you’ll be ok. But since no-one likes the feelings aforementioned, I’ll give you some handy tips on how to help:
Try Consuming Something Bitter Before or During Your Meal
Try eating foods such as rocket or dandelion leaves, or even drinking some dandelion tea or tincture 15 minutes or so before a meal. It’s a great way to enhance digestion as it stimulates enzyme production that signals to the body “food is coming!” This encourages the enzymes to break down the food that is consumed meaning better absorption of food.
Take a Digestive Enzyme
One cause of poor digestion is the under-production of digestive enzymes. This can be from a diet lacking in enzyme-rich foods (think raw fruits and veggies) through to rushed eating and a lack of chewing. Try adding in a digestive enzyme 15 minutes before each meal and see how things go. Over time your own production will improve and you can reduce the number down for only larger meals. After a while, you might not need them at all.
Make Sure You Chew Your Food Well
Your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Therefore you must make sure to chew your food until it is basically liquid. Your mouth and saliva are the first part of the digestive system, therefore it is essential to get that bit right if you’re struggling from digestive issues.
Also, if you have sensitive digestion in general, breaking down the protein and absorbing the essential amino acids from the food may be a difficult task for your digestive system.
Follow the same steps as above and if you’re still struggling, check in with a dietician/nutritionist. They may recommend you take some additional supplements such as Solgar Betaine Hydrochloride with Pepsin to help break down proteins. Betaine Hydrochloride is an acidic form of Betaine and is often used to support levels of stomach acid. Pepsin is produced in the stomach and is one of the main digestive enzymes helping to digest proteins in food.
That wraps up part 1 of How To Get Enough Protein On A Plant-Based Diet.
See here for part 2 where we cover meals and snacks that offer plentiful amounts of plant-based protein 🙂
– Emily Nöth
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.