Meat-free meals are typically lower in calories, cheaper, and are more sustainable for the environment. It’s absolutely possible to get your daily intake of protein without consuming animals, but many people have one question lingering at the back of their minds; are these complete protein sources?
A complete protein refers to the amino acids; essentially the building blocks of protein. Protein can form from 20 different amino acids, and the body can’t produce nine of these on its own. These nine are called essential amino acids and we need to include them in our diet as our bodies are incapable of making them alone. To be a complete protein, the food needs to contain all nine of the essential amino acids.
Meat products and eggs are well-known complete proteins whereas nuts and beans are not. But as humans, we don’t need to consume every essential amino acid in every piece of food we eat. It’s just important that we get a sufficient amount of each amino acid each day. A wide variety of the acids can be found in a plant-based diet meaning even vegans are perfectly capable of getting all their essential amino acids with little effort.
Whilst meat is one of the most effective ways of getting complete proteins, there are many other meatless protein sources you can introduce into your diet to make sure you are getting all your essential amino acids required to keep your body functioning at its best.
Not only are they the highest plant source of omega-3, they contain approximately four grams of protein per two tablespoon serving. They are also rich in antioxidants and various minerals and vitamins. When combined with water or milk they form a gloopy gel which makes them great for thickening smoothies or replacing eggs in deserts and baking.
Lentils have been a favourite meatless protein source for many years; they’re rich in vitamins and minerals and have the power to lower your blood pressure and improve your overall heart health. Just a one cup portion will provide you with around 18 grams of protein.
Greek yogurt is a protein source that is often overlooked as it is normally considered a dessert food. But it makes a great swap for fatty condiments such as mayonnaise and sour scream. Not only is it packed full of good bacteria for your gut, but a whopping 29 grams of protein can be found in a one cup serving!
Peanut Butter (Sandwich)
Whenever grains such as rice, wheat, and corn are combined with legumes like lentils, peanuts, and beans; you get a complete protein! A two tablespoon serving of peanut butter on whole wheat bread (2 slices) will provide you with around 15 grams of protein. While the calorie content is high, you will benefit from a decent dose of all the essential amino acids!
The discussion on whether eggs are healthy or not is still in full swing, however, when eaten in moderation, eggs do wonders for your health. They’re a powerhouse of nutrients, and are low in calories! The average egg will contain around 7 grams of protein and they are great way to add more bulk to a meal.
Similar to couscous, but quinoa is far more nutritious. It’s rich in fibre, magnesium, and iron – and it’s an excellent substitute for rice. In a one cup serving you will benefit from eight grams of protein! Quinoa is also very versatile and can be used to make cookies and muffins.
Ten grams of protein can be found in a half cup serving of firm tofu. Soy is actually a complete protein meaning you will benefit from all nine essential amino acids. It deserves an award for being a go-to substitute for meat, but be careful with over processed varieties. If you want to maximise your protein intake, know that the firmer the tofu, the higher the protein content.
Rice and Beans
It’s one of the most easy and cheapest vegan meals available, but it’s also one of the greatest sources of protein. Beans are high in lysine and low in methionine, but rice is low is lysine and high in methionine; together, they make the perfect balanced meal. The protein content isn’t far off that in actual meat. A one cup serving will provide you with around seven grams of protein.
If you want to maintain or increase your protein intake without introducing (more) meat into your diet, Protrition offers a selection of meat-free meals which are prepped and ready to stick in the microwave!