The most common concern people have when considering a plant-based diet is whether they'll be able to get enough protein. We're told that complete proteins which contain all eight essential amino acids are superior to incomplete proteins, which only contain some amino acids. But the truth is, once we ingest a protein, our bodies have to break it down into individual amino acids in order to use them anyway. Think of proteins like a pearl necklace, with the amino acids being the pearls – our bodies separate these chains and rearrange them for various bodily functions such as cell repair, DNA replication, and making new lean tissue.
Therefore, as long as we're consuming an abundance of amino-acid rich foods (which is basically all vegetables, nuts and seeds), we are getting enough protein to meet our basic requirements.
However, if you exercise intensely, are pregnant or growing or have an intense work life, you may need a little more than the average. With that, here are some plant-based sources of complete protein as recommended by author of Plant Based Paleo and health food entrepreneur Jenna Zoe.
This deactivated yeast with a cheese-like flavour contains 8 grams of protein in two tablespoons. I adore the taste because it satisfies my cravings for parmesan. What I also love about Nutritional Yeast is that it's a primarily protein food – often when people cite plant sources of protein such as almond butter or avocado, you have to eat a lot of fat to get a decent amount of protein. I like to think of these foods as healthy fats rather than rely on them for my protein intake.
Hemp seeds are fantastic way to boost your protein intake as they contain a whopping 11 grams protein per two tablespoons. I use them daily on smoothies or salads, and you can also make fresh hemp milk by simply mixing one part hemp seeds to 3-parts water until smooth. Unlike other nuts and seeds, you don't need to pre-soak them or strain the milk afterwards. Hemp seeds are also awesome because they're a rich source of magnesium which reduces stress.
Although the world seems anti-soy at the moment, I only think it's potentially harmful when highly processed. When you eat food in its purest form, you don't have to worry as much. A sweet flavoured soy ice cream might not be great for you, but edamame are fantastic.
Like hemp seeds, these are a great addition to smoothies soups and salads for a protein boost.