Contributor: Rochelle Campbell
Are plant-based proteins nutritious enough?
That is an open-ended question with no clear-cut target audience. It seems to be focused on the vegan/vegetarian communities. Why? Because ‘everyone knows that eating meat is the superior way to obtain protein.’ (Absolutely no snark in there…at all.)
This writer has lived on both sides of this particular gnarly fence as I spent 12 years as a vegan (which included the birth of my two sons, now young adults). Then, many years later, I went back to a meat-based diet. During this time, I gave birth to my daughter while on this more traditional (read: accepted) way of eating.
At this point, I have no ill will toward either choice of diet. One of my sons still eats vegan, and I cook for him.
Yet, while vegan, I knew that in order to ensure optimal health for my boys, in vitro, I would need to bathe them in all the nutrients their developing bodies needed. I probably went a bit more gung-ho than necessary, but I supplemented my diet with tons of vitamins and minerals. In fact, I went a bit overboard and took more than the recommended daily intake of certain nutrients. In my mind, I was, after all, the most extreme eater – a vegan, eating no animal, dairy, or fish, products at all. (Not even honey.)
My OB-GYN doctor was in a dither when I told him I would not add milk, nor meat to my diet during the pregnancy. However, when I showed him my daily supplementation plan, he calmed down. In conjunction with him drawing my blood every month to check my nutrient levels during this first pregnancy. You can only imagine his surprise (read: shock) where everything came back normal!
You say – A-Ha! That means that plant-based protein sources are not nutritious enough!
I say – No, this is an open-ended question with no qualifiers. For pregnant &/or lactating women plant-based proteins need to be supplemented for optimal growth of the fetus. Additionally, for those who are in their growing years, especially young boys, supplementation is a very handy thing. Not 100% necessary if they follow a careful eating plan. But I ask you, what young person truly sticks to a rigid eating schedule, or diet? A rare handful!
The only way to ensure one’s optimal health is by continuous review of health reports and current information, a good healthy sense of humor (as said reports will provide conflicting results), as well as monitoring one’s own body are the main keys to actually answering this question. There is no one answer for any person on this planet.
You can create balanced meals and complete proteins by combining foods to ensure you include the nine (9) essential amino acids that the human body cannot manufacture.
What are the 9 essential amino acids?
Plants, and plant based proteins, are, ‘incomplete’ proteins in that they do not contain the 9 essential amino acids – the building blocks the human body needs to build muscle and tissue. The only plant that contains all 9 essential amino acids is ‘the soy’. (Hurray tofu!)
Therefore, to get your essential amino acids from your food, you must combine foods in your plant-based diet.
On the Verywell Fit website, they have a great article on Complete Protein Combinations for Vegans which is a very informative and easy read. Combining food items like beans and rice will give you a complete protein. Humus is a complete protein because it is made with chickpeas and lentils. So, achieving complete proteins on a plant-based diet is not hard once you understand which foods contain which amino acids.
In addition to ingesting complete proteins, those who eat plant-based diets tend to have lower levels of Vitamin D, B-12 and Omega 3, 6 and 9 than omnivores. However, everyone, omnivores included, have a tendency to have lower levels of these important nutrients. Their supplementation is beneficial for us all.
There are four (4) other nutrients that people on a plant-based diet should also consume to ensure peak health. They are: Iodine, Iron, Calcium and Zinc. Read more about all 7 key nutrients in HealthLine’s 7 Supplements You Need on a Vegan Diet.
However, if you know you’re going to have a busy day, you can help yourself by making your own complete protein/nutrient drink – a VitaVits Shot.
Add all of the nutrients below to a glass; pour in 5 – 6 oz of water and the Emergen-C pak last. Stir, then drink. You will have given yourself all the good stuff your body needs.
To make your VitaVits Shot:
- VeganSafe B-12
- Vit D: Smarter Vitamins D3
- NOW Omega 3
- NOW Omega 3-6-9
- Essential Amino Acids (have all of them in supplement form and add different ones to your shot each day; or take two different shots in a day)
Before we close, here’s one last super easy way to add all of the essential amino acids to your diet in one simple step. Use Braggs Liquid Amino Acids, or Coco Aminos. Both of these products contain all 9 essential amino acids plus 7 other amino acids. The trade off? The sodium content of liquid aminos is high. However, each individual has to review their lifestyle, and know their body well enough to know what will work best. Shape magazine has a great article that gives you more information on liquid aminos.
So, back to our question, “is a plant-based diet nutritious enough?” The short answer is – yes! It is. You just need some know-how and a commitment to eating healthfully.
Bio: Rochelle Campbell – Writer. Dreamer. Budding Zero-Waster. Recycling more, dreading it less. Join me in my journey towards helping our planet thrive one day at a time. Website: chellyspeaks.com Blog: thenotebookblogairy.wordpress.com