How Vegans Can Get Their Required Amount of Complete Protein.

March 21, 2012

Protein the Basic Building Block

Protein is an extremely important part of the diet since it is the building block of skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, cartilage, and blood. Your body needs protein in order for different processes as building, repairing, and remodeling tissues. Protein also helps make hormones, enzymes and other body chemicals. Protein is what is called a macronutrient, which means the body will always need a relatively large amount of it all times.

Health Benefits of Protein

Proteins have great health benefits and they are responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing every cell in the body. They have the ability to control the important metabolic processes that go on in the body. Proteins can promote weight loss and can balance out the blood sugar levels. They will help support heart health and can improve immune function. They are also responsible for maintaining strong muscle and minimizing both bone and muscle loss in the elderly.

There has been a diet trend that emphasizes high protein diets. The advantage of high

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protein diets are that they known to decrease total caloric intake by increasing satiety and decreasing the feeling of hunger when compared with high fat or high carbohydrate diets. The individuals that participate in high protein diets also have a tendency to consume much less which could be the reason for the weight loss success. More energy is required to turn protein into useful glucose, which means that more calories are expended to digest protein. A diet high in protein, along with exercise and weight training, can help you to reshape your body away from fat and into much leaner muscle.

High protein diets have been proven to improve regulation of blood sugar, levels of good cholesterol (high density lipoprotein), decrease of bad cholesterol (low density lipoprotein), and reduction of both body composition and blood glucose. Research studies have shown that a high diet protein can also decrease risk factors such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Many older adults don’t consume enough dietary protein. This can problematic since dietary protein can help reduce age related muscle loss. When older adults consume a higher protein, they won’t lose as much bone strength and skeletal muscle than those who consume a low protein amount. Increasing the amount of dietary protein can reduce the risk for bone loss and sarcopenia, which is a degenerative loss of both skeletal muscle strength and mass.

What is a Complete Protein?

Before go on any further, it must be discussed what exactly an amino acid is. They are the building block of proteins. Each amino acid will join together in long strings to form proteins. The body protein is made up of 20 amino acids, some are essential, which means they are not synthesized by the body and you must get it from your diet. They are necessary in the diet to fulfill the body’s needs. A complete protein is one that has all eight amino acids and are present in the correct portion. These amino acids include:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lycine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalaine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Foods that are derived from animal sources have complete proteins, though there are some foods from the plant kingdom that have complete protein, some examples being quinoa and soy. Plant proteins are different since each edible plant has a different amino acid profile. For example the amount of lysine in cereals and grains is completely negligible. So if your diet consists mainly of cereal and grains, which could be detrimental to your health since you are not getting enough lysine. Legumes contain lysine but are low on cystine, methionine, and tryptophan.

Vegetarians have to keep this in consideration to get enough quality protein in their diet. Not getting enough protein, as highlighted above, can be a detriment to their health. How is this quality protein determined? This is determined by the biologic value of protein. The quality of protein is defined by the ability to support growth in protein. A protein with high biological value, or a high quality protein, would produce growth at a faster rate. A protein with a high biological value has all the essential amino acids that are required by humans. When one or more of the essential amino acids are not there, the protein will have a low biological value and will not be as effective in the maintenance or growth of the tissues. A limiting amino acid is one that is scarce in relation to its need.

How do you make a Complete Protein?

Most vegetarians are limited to getting their protein by legumes, beans, and grains. The only problem is legumes and beans are limited in the amino acids, tryptophan and methionine. Grains are limited in the amino acid lysine and isoleucine. If a vegetarian combines the grain food and beans/legume together in a meal, they will then get a complete protein, so that all of all of the required amino acids will be consumed in a sufficient amount.

Other grains and legumes combination include:

  • Whole wheat and peanut better
  • Pastas and peas
  • Black beans and rice
  • Bean soups and crackers

Nuts and seeds plus legumes

  • Almonds and peanuts
  • Hummus (tahini and chickpeas)
  • Peanuts and sunflower seeds

One Comment

  • deanne sotero July 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Well, protein is important for our daily diet. Vegan foods have lots of protein and the fruits and veggies you’ve related are some of my fave food. Thanks for the info friend. :)

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