Every single cell in your body contains protein, so ensuring your diet contains a good amount of it is essential for your body to function.
Some roles of proteins in our body include:
- Building and repairing muscles and other body tissues such as our hair, skin and nails
- Hormone production
- Enzymes (i.e. break down our food into smaller pieces)
- Immune function
Protein is made up from smaller components called amino acids. We need a balance of all 22 amino acids for so many functions within our body, however, our body doesn’t make 9 of these amino acids therefore we must get these 9 from food – we call these 9 “essential amino acids”.
A “complete protein” refers to a food that contains all 9 of the essential amino acids; animal foods are often complete proteins. Plant proteins each contain some essential amino acids but not often do they have all 9 of them in one food, therefore, when eating a plant based diet its important to eat a wide range of high protein foods to ensure we get all the amino acids that we need.
These are some examples of plant-based foods high in protein:
- Grains (oats, quinoa, buckwheat & rice)
- Nuts & seeds (chia and hemp seeds, walnuts, cashews, almonds, brazil & peanuts)
- Legumes (lentils, peas, beans, edamame, chickpeas & kidney beans)
- Certain fruits (avocados & jackfruit)
- Soy (tofu & tempeh)
- Vegetables (watercress, spinach & broccoli
- protein shakes (pea, rice etc..)
Plants based foods are generally higher in vitamin C and fibre than meat and are lower in saturated fat.