You Need Protein. Which Type is Best?
Protein is the most well known macro-nutrient. And for good reason. Our bodies cannot produce the nine essential amino acids that we call protein. So we must consume clean, bioavailable protein every day.
In this post, we'll discuss plant-based protein, how it compares with animal protein, and the best sources for getting plant-based protein into your diet.
Proteins are necessary components of the majority of your body's functions. They are large biomolecules assembled from a variety of amino acids into amino acid chains that are essential for nearly every function of your body. Any particular cell can assemble a variety of necessary proteins depending on the information encoded into its unique genes.
This means that all cells of your body can combine amino acids into proteins that are used to allow its continued functioning. Without amino acids your body's cells would fail to perform actions necessary for life.
Some amino acids are produced in our bodies, and others are found in our food. There are 21 amino acids the human body needs to function. Nine of these amino acids, known as the nine essential amino acids, cannot be produced by your own metabolism, and they must be attained through your diet.
Once your cells have assembled the right amino acids, they construct the necessary proteins. These proteins are then used by your cells to perform DNA replication, to move molecules throughout your body, carry out metabolic responses, build your cells' physical structures, construct enzymes, etc.
As amino acids combine to create proteins, they perform functions essential to your health. Without the right proteins, your body cannot function.
Plant Protein vs Animal Protein
Only 21 amino acids are essential to the human body. Your body can produce about half of these amino acids from chemicals within its own systems, but the other half, known as the 9 essential amino acids, cannot be produced by your body, and they must be introduced into your system via your diet.
Plant and animal tissues contain a variety of micro-nutrients and proteins. By eating a wide range of foods, you're offering your body a wide variety of amino acids that it needs. Plant based proteins offer your body gentle, bio-available amino acids and a variety of micro-nutrients, fiber, and alkalinizing nutrients. Though plants contain less concentrated amounts of proteins and amino acids, they tend to be gentler on your system and on the planet, making them an ideal choice for many when considering the long-term health of your body and our Earth.
Animal protein contains concentrated amounts of protein and some micro-nutrients such as B vitamins, and can be a helpful part of some people's diet. However, considering the energy necessary to raise the animals to be harvested, combined with the difficulty some people have with digesting animal tissue, the complete lack of dietary fiber in meat, and the issue of toxic side-effects, it makes sense to take a hard look at the percentage of protein that you derive from animal sources. Also, diets based on animal protein can sometimes lead to long-term health issues and often cause extensive environmental damage.
The Bigger Picture
Please consider the "values of life" that humans project onto both the plant and animal world. Every item in your diet undergoes a journey through cultivation and harvest to consumption and elimination. This process of bringing food to your plate requires time and energy, and it guarantees that your small decisions about food have a huge effect on you, your health, your planet, and your decedents.
This blog post isn't an argument for or against diets of plant or animal based proteins; it's an invitation and reminder to recognize the power that your smallest decisions have over your world, your health, and your future.
Whatever diet you choose, we recommend including a variety of plant-based proteins in your diet---either as your sole source of protein or in addition to animal proteins. Whether you’re vegan, or following a Paleo diet, or somewhere in-between, there are a lot of misunderstandings about protein and which sources are best for you. Perhaps you want to incorporate aspects of a Paleo approach, or maybe you're inclined to avoid all animal-based foods. Either way, there are excellent sources of plant protein for you!
Benefits of Plant Protein for All Diets
Plant-based proteins are incredibly high in vitamins, minerals, fiber and essential amino acids. Generally, plant proteins are also good for the environment as they can be sustainably grown, harvested and processed. Unlike meat and dairy protein sources, plant proteins do not concentrate toxins the way animal proteins and fats do. There’s also a growing body of evidence that plant-based diets can reduce the risk of many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
What are the Best Sources of Plant-Based Protein?
Here's a brief review of the six most common plant proteins. Find the one that's best for you.
1. Sprouted Brown Rice Protein.
Myth: Many people think that because this protein began as rice that it's still "a grain" with a lot of carbohydrates.
Truth: Plain rice is indeed only about 7% protein and the rest is starch and fiber. But after sprouting it, Rice Protein is 80% pure protein! The remaining 20% is vitamins, minerals, a tiny amount of starch, and some really good fiber. It's one of the easiest to digest, most affordable, and least allergy prone proteins available. A true superfood.
Ideal for vegans, vegetarian athletes, or anybody looking to increase or improve the amount of protein in their diet, Sprouted Brown Rice Protein is becoming a popular plant protein source. Not only does this plant protein offer a full spectrum of amino acids, it is also easily digested, absorbed and assimilated by the body.
One of the best forms of Rice Protein is a bio-fermented, raw and sprouted whole grain brown rice protein, which combines the sprouted endosperm and the bran. Being naturally hypoallergenic, this source of plant protein can be consumed by almost everyone. It is gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free. Being very lean and low in fat, this source of protein is great for those wanting a pure protein that promotes weight loss while also aiding muscle recovery. At 80% pure protein, it's great for everyone from athletes to the elderly.
The Magic of Conversion: Uncovering the Sprouting Process
Let's look at the difference between the protein found in un-sprouted rice and sprouted rice protein. When brown rice is sprouted, it means that it’s been soaked in water and has begun to germinate. The sprouting removes most of the starch that is naturally found in rice. Once sprouted and germinated, the rice actually becomes a potent protein with very little sugar or starch content, unlocking amino acids that drastically improve the body’s ability to utilize and absorb the nutrients, thus becoming very low in starch and sugar. Unlike un-sprouted rice protein, which can actually boost your blood sugar levels and cause a blood sugar “crash,” sprouted rice protein creates an even flow of energy to your body without a crash.
But wait, there's more! The sprouting and fermenting of rice decreases the its phytic acid and lectin content to make it an even more ideal protein source. Another benefit? Sprouted brown rice protein is often much smoother than other plant proteins, making it ideal for blending into smoothies or drinks.
Remember, you'll be much better off if you use products that utilize only organic brown rice protein to eliminate the dangers of residual heavy metals that can be found in non-organic rice.
The bottom line... Sprouted Brown Rice Protein is easy to digest and offers a healthy and lower cost alternative to most of the other plant protein sources.
2. Pea Protein.
This incredibly popular and common protein powder is found in everything from cereals, bars and meal replacement powders. Entirely gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free, this protein is great for vegans or vegetarians. It is known to have a large amount of amino acids, fiber, and high iron content.
Pea Protein is also 80% pure protein and has left behind the excess starches and the other components that many of us find hard to digest in normal legumes and beans. In addition to these great benefits, Pea Protein when combined with Brown Rice Protein includes the three essential Branch Chain Amino Acids or "BCAAs."
Branch Chain Amino Acids. There's a lot of buzz amongst athletes and others who are looking for the absolute fastest and best "recovery protein" after intense muscle action of any kind. Traditionally, most people have had to rely on whey protein with all of its inherent negative qualities. Now, with the increased availability of Organic Pea Protein and the perfect synergy of combining it with Organic Brown Rice Protein, you can offer your body the best of the branch chain amino acids!
Let's talk about BCAAs. BCAAs are amino acids that have side-chains of three or more carbon atoms, and they account for nearly half of all mammalian muscle proteins. The three BCAAs essential to mammals are leucine, isoleucine and valine. These essential amino acids are key proteins for producing lean muscle mass and quick recovery from vigorous exercise or exertion.
Important. Be sure to use only organic Pea Protein! You don't want any residual toxin chemicals in your protein!
3. Hemp Seed Protein.
Hemp protein is one of the most "earth-friendly" plant proteins on the planet. Much like other beans or legumes, hemp seed is an excellent source of protein as it contains all of the 21 amino acids humans need– including the 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Also, unlike soy, hemp has not been subjected to genetic modification and is one of the most sustainable plants around as it needs next to zero pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers.
Hemp is incredibly adaptive to a variety of growing conditions and environments. Because of this, hemp is a safe plant source of protein that requires very little processing to produce. Not only that, but 2 tablespoons of hemp protein powder can provide up to 15 grams of digestible protein.
Hemp seeds are truly a gift from nature. Containing a balanced and concentrated blend of protein, essential fats (Omega 3 & 6), vitamins, and enzymes combined with relatively low levels of sugar, starches and saturated fats, hemp is one of nature’s perfect foods – a true Superfood! Some of the health benefits of consuming hemp seeds whether in powder or whole food form, include weight loss, increased energy, rapid recovery from disease or injury, reduced inflammation, a boost in immunity and natural blood sugar control. You can find this incredible superfood in many protein powder blends, bars, and sold on its own in health food stores.
4. Pumpkin Seed Protein.
Made from select grade organic pumpkin seeds, this pure plant-based protein source includes an ultra-healthy mix of other macro- and micro-nutrients such as Vitamins, Minerals, Fiber and Essential Fatty Acids.
Minerals. Pumpkin Seed Protein is a great source of bio-available minerals such as Zinc, Magnesium, and Iron.
Healthy Fats. Pumpkin Protein is tied for 1st place alongside Hemp Protein as one of the best protein powders that gives you the side benefits of Essential Fats to enhance brain function and build a resilience in your Autonomic Nervious System.*
Alkakizing and Inflammation-Reducing. Pumpkin seed protein contains significant amounts of Phytonutrients such as chlorophyll that can alkalize and cleanse your body. It can also calm and reduce inflammation in your body.*
Non-Allergenic. Pumpkin Protein meets all the proper criteria for being the perfect allergen-free protein alternative to soy protein, whey protein, collagen protein or shellfish protein. Pumpkin Seed Protein is naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free.
5. Sacha Inchi Protein.
Complete Protein. Unlike many of the other sources of plant proteins, Sacha Inchi contains all nine essential amino acids. This qualifies it as a more “complete protein" similar to animal proteins.
Therefore Sacha inchi is a good replacement for animal proteins and makes it easier than ever to get the nutrients you need on a plant-based diet.
Brain Food. Sacha inchi can boost your brainpower! It contains neuroprotective properties that can help to reduce the brain’s vulnerability to acute injuries such as strokes and spinal cord injuries. Sacha inchi has also been shown to improve mental health, and may help to reduce the symptoms of depression.*
Vitamin A. . Vitamin A is one of the most important micro-nutrients, well known for protecting your eyesight, strengthening your bones, and enhancing healthy growth and reproduction.
Vitamin E. Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect cells from harmful free radicals. Vitamin E can support your immune system, and prevent a host of degenerative illnesses.*
Satisfying. Because Sacha Inchi is so high in both protein and beneficial fatty acids, Sacha Inchi can go a long way towards creating a delightful sense of satiety for hours after being consumed.
Sustainable. Sacha Inchi is a highly sustainable source of protein, especially when compared to many common sources of protein like meat or dairy. Overall, plant proteins tend to contribute much less environmental pollution and are typically farmed sustainably in their natural habitat.
6. MicroAlgae Protein.
One of the most intriguing sources of plant protein is that of algae. For a long time, it has been known that algae such as Spirulina, AFA, and Chlorella are incredibly high in the 9 essential amino acids. The protein in AFA, Chlorella and Spirulina is a whole-food ingredient.
Fact: These MicroAlgae Protein sources contain 54% natural protein, no other whole-food can match them in their array of nutrition! Other nutrients include healthy fats, fiber, Vitamins A, B, C, and E; and essential minerals. The wonderful chlorophyl content makes them a true superfood for your body.
Although they're somewhat costly, soon algae proteins may become cultivated on a larger scale which will bring prices down. If this happens, they won't require soil for growth and don't require pesticides... making it very sustainable ecologically and economically. While many people find the taste a little unusual, they can be incorporated into your lifestyle in many ways, especially in smoothies containing cacao or lemon, and you may find the flavor really nice. Whatever your taste preference, it’s worth a try!
7. Seed and Grain Protein.
There are many less common protein powders that you may see in health food products such as sprouted amaranth, quinoa, mung, lentil, and even sprouted garbanzo bean. What all of these plant proteins have in common is that they are all derived from the process of sprouting a seed or grain. Sprouting in general is a great way to harbor many of the plant's nutrients during this first stage of growth.
No longer a seed, a newly emerging sprout consumes much of the grain’s starches, thus altering the foods nutritional content and digestibility. Due to the decreased amount of starch, the proportion of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals within each sprout becomes higher while the glycemic index decreases.
Many people notice that when they start consuming sprouted grains or seeds that their blood sugar drops and they start to see better digestion. Growing quickly, the sprouted grains industry is projected to be one of the top selling food products in only a few years time.
8. A Word About Soy Protein.
Caution! A great deal of disagreement exists about soy protein. Up until 70 years ago, soy was viewed as “unfit” to eat unless it had been well fermented. Although soy contains decent amounts of some vitamins, minerals and fiber, it’s not clear what soy's long-term effects are on the human endocrine system and how our bodies produce and regulate the hormone balance in our bloodstream.
One thing is certain: Commercially grown soy beans have been heavily marketed by the huge agri-industrial complex because it's very profitable for them. They grow enormous amounts of soy to feed to beef and dairy cattle and have plenty of cheap soy beans left over to sell to unsuspecting consumers across the nation.
Perhaps the worst aspect of commercial soy production is that over 95% of soy is genetically modified, and therefore is one of the most contaminated plants on Earth. So, if you're going to purchase soy, buy ONLY organic soy products. Check with your healthcare provider and do your own research to come to your conclusion about soy-based protein. Expert Advice: Use very sparingly unless it's been well fermented and and is organic soy.
Are Plant Proteins Compatible With the Paleo Diet?
Clearly there are benefits of following a no sugar, low refined-carb diet. Many studies show these two factors support certain goals such as weight loss, increased energy and resistance to disease. But are animal proteins the only way to hit those goals? No. With excellent price point of the plant proteins described above, combined with all the advantages that plant proteins have, it's become practical and easy to adopt a plant-based Paleo diets.
Are you concerned about the carb content of plant protein? Remember to make a critical distinction between rice-based protein powder at 80% pure protein, and rice as a grain. Rice is only 7% protein as a grain. But once it’s been sprouted and fermented it jumps to 80% pure protein! And as you may know, even lean meats are not even half that number. So plant proteins can be superior to animal proteins in this way too.
Perhaps the strongest argument for considering a plant-based approach to a Paleo diet is the fact that plant proteins automatically include much more of the other essential nutrients such as dietary fiber, photo-nutrients, vitamins, minerals, bioflavonoids and a host of beneficial alkaloids not found in any animal products.
Go with All or Mostly Plant-Based Protein!
Plant based protein powders can be a huge benefit to everyone from hard-core paleo types to strict vegans. We all need easy-to-digest and super clean protein that is devoid of environmental toxins that accumulate in animal proteins. Plant-based proteins use much less water, land, and harmful chemicals. They are 100% to 900% more efficient at creating high quality protein than animal based proteins. So do yourself and the planet a favor and increase your plant protein as much as possible!*
A Note About Organic and Non-GMO
Whenever possible, it is important to source all of your protein sources organically. Especially those of you who consume any animal-based protein, as toxins accumulate in animal tissues much more than in plant protein. As much as 712% more!
Whatever your dietary choice, you will want your protein sources to be super clean. That means avoiding all non-organic foods whenever possible. It's better for the environment, and it's better for you! Organically-grown plant foods often contain up to 27% more minerals and micro-nutrients than their non-organic counterparts. Consuming organic also helps you avoid adding toxins and unnecessary chemicals into your system. In general, consuming organic and non-GMO is part of a healthier and more environmentally friendly lifestyle for both you and the global community!
A Note To Vegans
Some studies have shown that over time, many Vegans can develop issues due to L-Lysine amino acid deficiency. We support people who choose to eat a vegan diet, and we want you to be at your very best in all ways! Therefore we recommend doing your research to determine if a L-Lysine supplement would help you thrive even more.
Love Your Body. Love Everybody!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using this product.