Many people think that plant-based food has poor protein content than animal-based food, and this is true to a certain extent. Plant proteins are not complete proteins because they do not contain all the essential nine amino acids required by our bodies. Nonetheless, this need not be a reason that stops you from switching to plant-based diets like vegan diet and different types of vegetarian diets. You can overcome the issue by including different types of plant-based foods. In this article, we will explore plant-based foods that are complete protein sources, and shared below are details about them.
What Are Proteins?
Proteins are macronutrients required for many vital functions of our body, and they are made up of amino acids. Most of the biological structures like muscles, hair, chemical messengers like neurotransmitters, hormones, and so on are protein molecules. Of the 22 amino acids, our body cannot produce 9 of them, and they must be obtained through diets. They are called essential amino acids, and they are the following:
These essential amino acids are abundantly found in animal food products like dairy, eggs, beef, and fish, and hence animal proteins are called complete proteins. However, most of the proteins that are sourced from plants lack a few essential amino acids, ultimately making them incomplete proteins. This can be solved by including plant-based foods in your diet that contain complementary proteins, and thereby ensuring that you get all the essential amino acids. For instance, the lack of lysine in rice can be leveled with lentils and beans, which have higher concentrations of lysine. So, combining them as part of your plant-based meal ensures that you obtain all the essential amino acids in a day.
Plant-Based Foods That Are Nearly Complete Protein Sources
Quinoa is a grain that has been used as a staple in many South American countries, and it grows in the Andes mountain ranges. Unlike other grains and cereals, it does not grow from grasses, and hence it is considered a naturally gluten-free pseudocereal. It is getting acceptance from vegetarians, vegans, and all other health-conscious people due to its high nutritional content. 8 grams of protein can be obtained by consuming a cup of cooked quinoa. You can use quinoa to make breakfast porridge, or it can be used instead of rice.
Amaranth is another pseudo-cereal like quinoa that was used as a staple food in the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec cultures. This grain is popular among people following a healthy lifestyle because it is gluten-free. Flour made from it can be used for baking gluten-free foods. It can be consumed in the form of porridge, used as a side dish, or added into granola bars for texture and nutrition. A cup of amaranth, i.e. 246 grams consists of 9 grams of protein. Also, it is an outstanding source of iron, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium. Also, this provides 100% of the daily value of manganese, which is an essential micronutrient required for brain health.
Tempeh, Tofu, And Edamame
Tempeh, tofu, and edamame are excellent sources of plant-based protein because they are made from soybeans. Tempeh is obtained by fermenting soybeans. Due to this, it is firm, dense, chewier, and has a nutty flavor. It is sold in the form of cakes that can be sliced and used as a meat substitute in plant-based meal preparation. 85 grams of tempeh accommodates 11 grams of protein along with minerals like calcium, potassium, and iron.
Tofu is made by pressing coagulated soy milk, and it is available in different textures, i.e. silken, firm, and extra firm. It has a bland taste and easily takes up the flavor of other ingredients with which it is cooked. Half a cup of tofu contains 8 grams of protein, together with a 15% daily value of calcium.
Edamame is a preparation of whole, immature soybeans in their pods; it has a sweet and grassy flavor. You are free to serve this as a snack or add it to salads, grain bowls, and even to soups. 85 grams of edamame has 8 grams of protein besides fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.
This is another name that comes to the minds of the health-conscious population when asked to name a plant-based source of complete protein. Buckwheat has a nutty flavor, and the hulled kernels are cooked like oatmeal. In Japan, it is consumed in the form of noodles called soba. Apart from this, the flour made from it can be used for baking gluten-free food products. A cup of buckwheat, i.e. 168 grams contains approximately 6 grams of protein, and it is a good source of micronutrients like copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus.
There are other plant-based sources of complete proteins like Ezekiel bread, spirulina, hemp seeds, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, rice, beans, and mycoprotein. Furthermore, the inclusion of these in plant-based meals guarantees that you are eating a well-balanced diet.