Protein! We see this everywhere from enriched vegan ice creams to our favourite post-gym snack bars. But what exactly is protein, why do we need it and are we getting enough?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (including carbohydrates and fat) that our bodies need to function properly. It’s important for us to consume protein on a regular basis because it forms the structure for every single cell in our body, making up our muscles, skin, hair, bones and nails. It is also needed to form enzymes and antibodies in our body, which are essential for maintaining good health.
Protein is made from twenty-plus basic building blocks called amino acids. We don’t store these amino acids, so our body makes them in two different ways: from scratch or by modifying others. Nine of these amino acids are known as the essential amino acids because we must consume them in our food.
We do have a daily requirement for protein and it’s suggested that in order to maximise workout gains, protein intake should be evenly distributed throughout the day. If you want to put it into numbers, aim for 15-25g of protein per meal.
But here’s where things get interesting!
According to UK-based Registered Nutritionist Anita Bean, you can absolutely get enough protein from your food, so you don’t need to rely on expensive supplements to keep you covered. And even better, many plant-based foods are packed with protein so it’s easy to get what you need while eating in a way that’s better for the planet.
The trick is to include at least 2 of the following items in every meal:
Beans:black, pinto, white, chickpeas
Whole grains:rice, oats, amaranth, spelt
Tofu, tempeh & edamame
Nuts & nut butters: almonds, walnuts, cashews
Seeds: chia, flax, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp
Here are some of our favourite meals & snacks combining plant-based protein sources: