Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular. Some people switch from meat to plants to be more environmentally conscious. Others do so for health reasons. If you’ve decided to cut down on animal products and add more plants to your diet, one of the biggest concerns is: how will you get enough protein?
Simply put, animal products tend to have more protein than plants. This makes sense if you think about the structure of animal meat in particular. Animal meat and fish are very high in protein because you’re eating the muscle of another animal. Muscles might not be exactly the same across species of animals, but they are all made largely of protein.
Plants simply don’t contain as much protein as animal muscle. However, some foods contain considerable amounts. Nuts, particularly peanuts, have a lot of protein per pound. Beans are relatively high in protein. Soybeans and lentils also have a lot of protein compared to other plant sources.
Vegetarians and vegans can also find an increasingly large amount of protein products that can supplement other, more traditional plant sources. There are meat substitutes, such as the Beyond Burger, which contain an amount of protein similar to real meat. You can also opt for tofu or other food sources of plant protein, which can satisfy cravings for meat as well.
There are also vegan protein powders, which primarily use soy or pea protein. These are useful for people who struggle to get enough plant protein through food sources.
Meat substitutes and protein supplements help address a problem that some people eating a plant-based diet sometimes face: getting enough protein without eating too much food. Animal meat has a much higher ratio or protein to fat and carbohydrates than plant sources like beans and legumes.
That means you’d have to eat significantly more calories worth of traditional plant-based protein sources to get the same amount of protein as you would from eating, say, chicken. However, supplements and products like tofu and Beyond Meat help solve that problem.
Another concern is the quality of protein you’re consuming. Some studies show that animal protein contains more of the amino acids that the human body can use. However, if you’re eating a balanced variety of plant-based protein sources, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Pea protein supplements have also been shown to be just as potent as whey protein supplements, which are derived from cow’s milk, so protein quality shouldn’t be of much concern to people eating plant-based diets.