If you’re like many people in Houston, TX, who have switched to a plant-based diet, you’re having a problem identifying a good plant-based protein or how to introduce vitamin B12 into your diet. For vegans, adding nutritional yeast or fortified products are good ways to include B-12. The answer isn’t as simple for plant-based protein. There are far more options and some require combinations to create the best amino acid balance.
Before getting into the best plant-based protein choice, you need to understand protein.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients. It’s created from 20 amino acids. The body can produce all but nine of those. Those are the essential amino acids. They include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, lysine, methionine, and valine. When a food with protein contains all essential amino acids, like animal products do, it’s considered a complete protein. Few plant-based proteins are complete proteins and must be combined to ensure the diet contains all essential amino acids. You don’t have to eat them at once for a complete protein. You can consume several types of amino acids throughout the day.
A few plant-based options are complete proteins, like soy and quinoa.
There’s a wide variety of soy products on the market. Soy is one of the better quality complete plant-based proteins available. A cup of chopped tempeh has 34 grams of protein. A half-cup of raw firm tofu has 21.8 grams of protein and the same amount of edamame has 7 grams of protein. Quinoa is another complete protein source that can be used in place of rice. If it’s not a staple for those choosing plant-based options, it should be. It has a long shelf life and has 8 grams of protein per cooked cup.
Hemp seeds and chia seeds are complete proteins and make good supplements.
Hemp seeds contain complete protein. Three tablespoons of shelled hemp seeds contain 10 grams of complete protein. That’s about 1/6 the amount required daily amount. You can use it to increase protein intake by sprinkling it on salads, adding it to oatmeal, or incorporating it in other ways into your diet. Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide five grams of protein—1/12th the DV. Like hemp seed, you can use it to supplement your protein intake.
Pistachios are a great snack and an excellent way to increase protein in your diet. A one ounce serving provides 6 grams of protein. They’re a delicious snack that will increase your protein intake.
Combine two plant-based incomplete proteins to get a complete protein. Beans and rice and peanut butter on whole wheat are a few combinations.
Plant-based protein sources are often inexpensive. Many have a long shelf life, making it good to store for emergencies. Lentils, beans, rice, quinoa, nuts and nut butter, and nutritional yeast are a few examples.
High-protein breads, like Ezekiel bread, provide a source of protein. Coat it with peanut butter and it’s a high-protein meal or snack.