The State of Protein
We’re a culture obsessed with protein. Many of us check how much protein is in every product we consume, supplement meals with protein bars, and even chug protein shakes after working out. As myriad companies jump on the “protein train,” it becomes increasingly difficult to decipher just how much protein our bodies actually need. It’s true, protein is essential — it has the ability to make enzymes, hormones, and other important chemicals in the body. And as we already know, it is an important building block of muscles, bones, tissues, and skin. Yet, huge amounts of it can be detrimental rather than beneficial to the body.
To do a quick calculation, simply multiply .36 times your body weight; this will give you the number of grams of protein you should be consuming a day. That comes to about 46 grams for the average woman and around 70 grams for men. At Thistle, we incorporate 60gs of plant protein into a days worth of meals on our vegan plan.
Why Plant Protein?
With protein, we should think about quality over quantity. While we don’t need to be obsessed with ingesting 100 or more grams of protein a day, we can be smart about the protein we do consume.
The best thing about consuming plant-based protein is that it only comes with additional benefits — any worry of too much cholesterol or animal fat flies out the window. While plant and animal proteins can have similar amino acid profiles at their most basic level, what does differentiate these proteins is what accompanies them. Meat is known to walk hand-in-hand with a high amount of calories, saturated fats, and cholesterol. Plants on the other hand, provide myriad vitamins and minerals in addition to protein.
The biggest concern with plant proteins over the years has been that plant proteins are not complete proteins unto themselves — that means that they do not contain all nine amino acids as animal proteins do. It was believed that the body could not utilize these plant proteins if they were not consumed with complementary plant proteins to make up a complete amino acid profile. We now know that as long as you consume a diverse diet of a variety of fruit and vegetables, the body will have adequate resources from which to manufacture necessary protein-based chemicals. The liver will store some amino acids for up to 36 hours, so no need to eat all 9 at the same time!
Plus, it comes as no surprise that plant protein is better for the environment (and benefits animal rights!). Compared to growing plant proteins, beef, for instance, requires 160x more land and 11x more greenhouse gases. Another British study showed that the average British meat-lover’s diet causes twice the amount of greenhouse gas emissions compared to that of a vegetarian.
At Thistle, we encourage consuming a wide array of plant-based proteins for ultimate nutrient absorption. For plant proteins, organic sources are always preferred, and proper preparation is highlighted as a means of deriving as much nutrition from them as possible. This includes soaking beans before cooking them; soaking and dehydrating or lightly toasting nuts and seeds; and soaking, sprouting, or fermenting whole grains.
Our Top 10 Sources of Plant Protein:
- Quinoa: Quinoa contains 9 grams of high quality protein per cup. Plus, quinoa is high in the flavanoids (plant antioxidants) quercetin and kaempferol, which have been shown to be highly anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.
- Hemp seeds: Hemp seeds are an easy protein source to sprinkle over meals and contains high amounts of gamma-linolenic acid. GLA helps build prostaglandins — hormone-like chemicals that balance hormones and smooth muscles.
- Spirulina: Spirulina is a blue-green algae as well as a perfect protein, containing all 9 amino acids. Spirulina is also high in iron, and a highly absorbable form of iron that is gentle on the digestive system.
- Nutritional Yeast: While most meat-eaters point to plants as not able to provide essential vitamins like B12, nutritional yeast not only shows up as a complete protein, but also a great source of B vitamins to balance your mood and decrease anxiety.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is a naturally fermented form of tofu that is not only packed with protein, but probiotics as well. These probiotics help boost gut health and even immunity.
- Black Rice: Black rice is a great gluten-free grain that is packed with fiber. Since black rice contains the entire bran (outer shell), this fiber helps the glucose from the carbohydrates be absorbed into the body at a much slower rate.
- Black Beans: Just a half cup of black beans contains almost 8 grams of protein — plus, black beans contain high amounts of iron and zinc which maintain and strengthen bone and joint elasticity.
- Almonds: Since almonds are so high in protein and healthy fats, they have the ability to greatly reduce appetite levels, therefore greatly encouraging weight loss.
- Pea Protein Powder: Pea protein is extremely versatile, allowing it to stand in as a meat, egg, and even milk substitute. Pea protein is also a simple way to boost the protein of a given dish by incorporating in a small amount.
- Lentils: Lentils are an awesome plant protein because of their ability to soak up flavor. Lentils can be cooked in flavorful broth or incorporated into flavorful herb mixes for a bright, delicious ingredient component.
Wanna start incorporating more protein into your diet? At Thistle, a day’s worth of meals contains 60gs of protein!
Enter the code PLANTPROTEIN for 20% off your first delivery of plant-based meals.