The popularity of plant-based diets is growing every day. According to a 2020 food and health survey, by International Food Information Council (IFIC), 28% of Americans reported eating more protein from plant sources than in 2019. With increased knowledge of healthy eating, more people are realizing the health benefits of plant-based proteins. If you plan to shift from animal-based protein to plant-based proteins, here’s what you need to know.
Why people are eating plant-based proteins
Proteins play a critical role in the overall running of the body. The amount you need depends on your age, weight, activity level, and medical condition. Proteins help build muscles, repair tissues, balance fluids, boost the immune system and create enzymes and hormones. Here are a few reasons people are choosing plant-based proteins:
Preffered fuel among athletes
Many athletes are choosing plant-based proteins and carbohydrates to produce energy fast enough to meet the demands of intense exercise. Instead of eating meat that contains higher fat levels, athletes are choosing plant proteins to improve performance. While it’s true that animal proteins have more proteins per serving than plant proteins, they can be complex to process and full of unhealthy fats. With the availability of other performance-boosting protein products such as plant-based protein powder and plant-based energy drinks, it’s easier to consume your proteins without eating a whole meal with meat to get the proteins you need during a workout.
Ketogenic diets for weight loss
Ketogenic diets are becoming a popular method of losing weight among many people. A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat, and moderate protein diet. The diet involves drastically reducing carbohydrates and replacing them with fat, which means your body produces energy by burning fats. People on keto diets generally focus on eating healthy fats from plants and animal protein, which promotes smoother digestion and better heart health.
The growing global population is expected to increase pressure on the world’s resources, including plant foods. The climate change and diminishing natural resources makes it quite essential for people to choose foods that improve sustainability. Our food system is the driver of pollution, climate change, and depletion of resources. Over 75% of the total agricultural emissions come from producing animal products. Without proper technological measures and collaborative efforts to reduce the impact, our food system’s situation will only get worse, making our environment unlivable. Part of the solution is more people shifting toward plant-based diets. Peas, beans, and lentils require very few resources to grow. They also act as fertilizer by transporting nitrogen from the air to the soil.
Plant-based proteins are a healthier option
Plant-based proteins are high in antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other valuable compounds that your body needs to stay healthy. Some options contain healthy fats such as nuts, whole grains, and beans. Studies have also found that vegetarians and people who consume more plant foods are likely to have more fiber, Riboflavin, thiamine, foliate, iron, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin A, C, and E than non-vegetarians. They also have low body mass compared to non-vegetarians.
What you need to know about protein intake
If you are looking to skip animal protein for plant-based protein, you’re probably heading in the right direction. More plants in your diet mean a healthier you. Plant-based diets have high fiber, natural sugars, and natural fat, which helps prevent cancer, diabetes, and other health conditions. To help you get the most out of your protein diet, here’s what you need to know:
Your daily protein intake remains the same
Proteins help repair cells, produce hormones, build muscle and improve the immune system. For your body to operate as required, you need to have adequate proteins from your food. Athletes, breastfeeding women, and pregnant women need the highest amount of proteins. Whether you choose to eat meat or beans, your daily protein intake remains the same. However, when it comes to proteins, quality is critical. Your proteins should provide your body with the nine amino acids that make a complete protein. Not all plant proteins have all the amino acids, but you can get every essential amino acid when you eat a wide complement of plant-based proteins. Some of the great sources of plant-based protein include:
- Grains such as barley, oats, farro, or quinoa
- Beans and legumes
- Nuts and seeds such as peanuts and sunflower
You can still benefit even if you take meat
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to nutritionally benefit from plant proteins. You still get the nutrients from both sources, but you can benefit more if you consume more plant protein than animal protein, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The extra plant protein goes a long way towards preventing cardiovascular diseases, promoting healthier muscles, and creating a healthier body. If you want to transition from animal protein to plant protein, experts recommend starting with firm foods such as legumes and tofu. They also recommend trying many other plant-protein sources.