The Importance of Complete Proteins for Vegans and Vegetarians

The Importance of Complete Proteins for Vegans and Vegetarians

If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet it is important to make sure you are getting adequate protein in your diet.

Proteins are the 'building blocks' of the entire body. They are a necessary part of every cell in the body and therefore play a vital role in the proper functioning of the body.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. The body uses amino acids to form and maintain the structural elements of the body such as the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, glands, hair and nails, and they are also used to make essential enzymes, hormones, haemoglobin of the blood, and antibodies of the immune system. Amino acids make it possible for vitamins and minerals to perform their roles in the body.

The liver can produce some particular amino acids from other amino acids obtained from the diet, but there are some amino acids that cannot be produced by the body, and therefore they must be obtained from the diet - these are known as essential amino acids.

If a food contains all of the essential amino acids, it is known as a complete protein. Meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese usually contain all of the essential amino acids, but many vegetable protein sources can be higher in particular essential amino acids but lower in others, or not contain all of the essential amino acids.

This is why it is important for vegans and vegetarians (particularly vegans) to combine various plant-food protein sources together to ensure they are ingesting a complete protein providing all of the essential amino acids.

The major plant-food protein sources are legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. So, look at combining these at different mealtimes throughout the day.

Here are some combination plant-food protein examples:

Amaranth / quinoa / millet / buckwheat porridge with rice, coconut or almond milk, sprinkled with crushed seeds and nuts (LSA, LSA+P or LSC) and coconut or soya yoghurt (fruit can be added if desired but it is actually better to eat fruit on its own between meals)

Wholegrain bread with hummus, tahini or a nut butter and sprouted seeds (plus your choice of salad vegetables)

Brown rice with legumes and vegetables

Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet can be good for your health provided you are mindful of including a wide variety of protein sources, along with plenty of vegetables, fruits and good oils / fats. If your protein needs are not being met through your diet it may be beneficial to use a nutritious natural vegan protein powder.

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