The plant-based diet, whether vegetarian or vegan, is always a point of contention. On one hand, you’ve got countless studies indicating it’s got a powerful ability to make you healthier: lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol profile, virtually no-risk for diabetes, and countless other benefits to showcase its worth. On the other hand, extreme or exclusionary diets are typically not recommended.
In the case of plant-based diets, the knocks usually come from its lack of B-vitamins (specifically B12) and complete proteins. B-12 can be made up through supplementation, but regularly not getting enough protein can have some major consequences. A low-protein diet can promote weakness, frailty, and an inability to regenerate and grow healthy hair, skin, muscle, and virtually every other type of tissue. Getting enough protein helps keep you healthy and strong.
Animal foods like meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs are the best sources of protein because they feature all nine essential amino acids required to make a “complete” protein. Plant-based sources varying amino acids, but not all the ones you need (with one exception). This problem can be averted, however, by including a variety of plant-based foods in your vegetarian diet. You may just need to bump up your intake of nuts, whole grains, and legumes.
To acquire all of the amino-acids you need to build whole proteins, here are the foods that should feature prominently in your vegetarian or vegan diet:
- Quinoa (it’s actually the only plant-based complete protein, featuring all nine essential amino acids)
- Ezekiel bread
- Hummus with whole wheat pita (this snack combines to create a complete protein)
- Whole wheat bread and peanut butter
- Pinto beans (makes a complete protein when eaten with a whole wheat product)
A successful and healthy plant-based diet is kind of like trying to complete a protein puzzle. Ensuring you’re getting all the amino acids required to build healthy proteins that influence everything from cell growth to immune function, can help you enjoy all the benefits of a plant-based diet without any sacrifice.