7 Benefits of Plant Protein and Why It's Good For You
Nutrition is one of the most important parts of the human experience since we would die without proper nutrition. It is not enough to simply eat whatever food we can get our hands on; we need certain nutrients to keep our bodies healthy and active. Most nutrients are designed to fill a specific role in our health and body, and none of them can be neglected.
Some are slightly more important than others, and some are easier to become deficient in if we are not careful. Ultimately, the only way to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle is to subscribe to a balanced diet for all the major food groups. One of the key aspects of proper nutrition is ensuring the proper protein intake.
Protein is an essential nutrient that the human body cannot function without since it is our energy source. Without protein intake, we would be too weak to perform the simplest actions, and our muscle and fat development would stagnate. The most common source of protein is meat, typically poultry, beef, or pork.
Meat remains one of the best protein sources available, but not everyone can consume it. Fortunately, other protein sources can yield similar nutritional benefits, but many overlook these sources. Specifically, several plants provide protein that our bodies can use as a substitute for what we normally get from animal matter. The question is: What benefits does plant protein offer, and why is it good for us?
#1: It is Compatible With Vegetarianism/Veganism
The most obvious benefit of plant protein is something that does not affect our health but allows us to pursue certain lifestyles. Vegetarianism and veganism have been on the rise for decades, with countless people joining the lifestyles daily. It is a remarkable trend that allows people to avoid consuming animal matter and subsist entirely on plant matter and dairy products (though vegans avoid the latter because it is an animal byproduct).
Some people are forced to subscribe to these lifestyles due to health complications and concerns exacerbated by meat. Others choose these lifestyles willingly because they believe consuming animals and their byproducts is inhumane. Personal philosophies notwithstanding, vegetarianism and veganism do offer significant enhancements to one's health.
Plant protein ensures that vegetarians and vegans can get their daily protein intake without consuming animal matter. That said, they must consume more plant protein than animal protein since the latter is more effective. Nevertheless, plant protein can be used as a substitute if this handicap is addressed in their dietary habits. Considering we need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, you might need a little extra plant protein to meet the requirements.
#2: It Reduces Our Carbon Footprint
Another tally in the non-health benefits column is that switching to plant matter directly affects our impact on the Earth's environment. It is no secret that biomes worldwide are dying due to farming and industrialism wiping out natural habitats. With over 7,000,000,000 people worldwide, we were bound to make a dent in our natural resources.
One of humanity's biggest impacts on the planet is caused by animal husbandry for breeding livestock. Housing so many animals on a single ranch requires the ranchers to feed the animals (using up more resources) and causes an increase in waste matter that releases greenhouse gases. This is not to say that consuming meat is inherently wrong, but that the frequency at which our species consumes it has accelerated our planet's deterioration. These gases affect our atmosphere and have caused the global temperature to increase steadily, causing damage to biomes that require temperate or cooler environments to thrive.
Switching to plant matter as your main source of protein reduces the number of animals required to supply the population. Unfortunately, we would need the majority of humanity to make the switch to effect real change, but every bit helps. In a roundabout way, preserving our environment is good for our health since we cannot survive if our planet becomes a wasteland. The main point is that plant protein protects our planet so we can continue to live on it.
#3: It is High in Fiber
One of the main nutrients we need to maintain our health is fiber, a type of carbohydrate our bodies cannot digest. Despite being indigestible, fiber is essential to maintaining our digestive system by regulating our bowel movements. Dietary fiber pulls water into the colon and increases our stool's weight and size while softening it to make it easier to excrete. While this is important (especially during bouts of constipation), fiber's benefits go beyond regulating bowel movements.
Fiber lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels to help regulate our cholesterol, which keeps our hearts functioning properly. We need fiber to keep our cardiovascular and digestive systems operating properly, and the fact we cannot digest it is part of why it can do these things. When fiber levels get too low, we tend to suffer digestive complications that prevent us from excreting waste, and we can only acquire fiber by consuming certain foods.
One of the main sources of fiber is plant matter since most plants have fibrous compositions. One cup of lentils contains 16 grams of fiber, accounting for half the recommended intake. Conversely, meat has no dietary fiber, making animal protein a poor choice if you are trying to increase your fiber intake. Therefore, switching to plant protein (or at least supplementing with it) can increase our fiber intake and help our bodies stay healthy.
That said, there are groups that believe that increasing our fiber intake is an effective weight loss tactic. This is not true since overconsuming fiber to lose weight is unhealthy and does not yield lasting effects. That said, consuming plant protein for the fiber content will benefit your heart, cholesterol, and bowel movements.
#4: It Promotes Muscle Growth
While muscular development is more important to some than others, we still need to develop certain muscles so we can move our bodies properly. While you do not necessarily need to cultivate muscles like those seen in bodybuilders or athletes, maintaining certain muscles makes it easier for you to move your extremities and handle strenuous activity.
Furthermore, muscles are prone to damage since muscle development requires us to actively damage them, so our bodies repair them to be stronger. This process is time-consuming, but the results are worth the effort since we can perform strenuous tasks with minimal effort once they have developed. Fortunately, there are certain compounds our bodies are designed to absorb to make muscle development and repair easier.
Specifically, the proteins actin and myosin are crucial to muscle growth and are created using certain amino acids. We naturally produce non-essential amino acids, but essential amino acids can only be obtained by eating certain foods. One of the main amino acids that accomplish this is leucine.
Leucine is one of the 9 essential amino acids and directly affects muscle growth and repair, making it essential to those who want to maintain their musculature. Leucine is not necessarily hard to find, but getting enough of it can be challenging, considering our propensity for eating unhealthy food. Fortunately, plant protein contains a significant amount of leucine, making it a viable option for people lacking the necessary concentrations to maintain their bodies. While the best source of leucine is salmon, plant protein is a recognized alternative that can replace it.
#5: It Contains Micronutrients
The term "nutrient" is thrown around as a catch-all term for the things we need to consume to stay healthy. While it is not necessarily wrong, some subtypes of nutrients perform different functions. One subtype is micronutrients, which account for vitamins and minerals we accumulate via a balanced diet. Whenever you hear terms like "zinc" or "vitamin D," you are hearing the names of micronutrients.
Micronutrients are so named because we only need to consume very small amounts of them to remain healthy. Despite the low portions, we need micronutrients to survive, and our bodies would fall apart without them. Almost anything you eat or drink will have micronutrients of some kind, but plant protein happens to be a rich source of certain micronutrients.
Whenever we consume plant protein, we are getting a dose of:
- Iron: A mineral that reduces fatigue, supports energy levels, and contributes to red blood cell growth.
- Thiamine: Better known as vitamin B-1, thiamine is an essential micronutrient that strengthens our immune systems.
- Pyroxidine: Better known as vitamin B-6, pyroxidine is essential to helping our bodies regulate sugars, fats, and proteins. Furthermore, pyroxidine is necessary for brain, nerve, and skin development.
Plant protein contains significant doses of each of these micronutrients but not enough to overload the body. As mentioned, micronutrients get their name from being the type of compound we only need a little of. Therefore, overconsuming will cause more harm than good.
#6: It Keeps Us Energized
While this trait is not unique to plant proteins, it is still worth mentioning since there are details about plant proteins that change how we absorb energy. Animal protein is easily digested and converted to energy because the meat is easier to break down. Plant matter is more difficult to break down, so we spend more time digesting it, but we still absorb the nutrients while this happens.
As a result, plant protein is highly effective for maintaining energy levels throughout the day. While animal protein does keep us energized longer, plant protein has another benefit associated with its slow digestion. The longer our food remains in our stomachs during digestion, the less hungry we are since we still feel full while digesting. This means plant protein can help dissuade us from snacking between meals.
#7: There is More Variety
There is one slight advantage that plant protein has over animal protein. Plants have more variety compared to the animals we are permitted to eat (since some species cannot be consumed within United States laws). The main sources of animal protein are chickens, cows, lambs, pigs, and the various fish we can eat safely. Conversely, thousands of species of vegetables and plants are edible and offer the protein we need.
Some of the best vegetables for plant protein include:
- Hemp Seeds
- Soy Milk
- Green Beans
Consuming any of these vegetables will provide a dose of protein that our bodies can use to stay healthy. The best part is that they are readily available in most markets and account for only a small portion of the plants that offer protein. However, if you want the best results, you should focus on legumes like peas. Legumes are the best source of protein in the plant kingdom and rival certain meats, making them an effective substitute for animal protein.
Finding the Right Blend
Getting your daily dose of protein can be extremely difficult if you follow a lifestyle that prohibits animal matter. Vegetarians have it a little easier since they can access dairy products, but vegans usually struggle to meet all their dietary requirements. Humans are naturally omnivorous, but it is possible to thrive on a diet that exclusively involves plants.
Plant protein is typically obtained from legumes like beans, peas, and nuts, but sometimes you need something more concentrated. Fortunately, there are protein supplements that only use plant matter so you can remain true to your lifestyle and stay healthy. The challenge is finding the supplement and a vendor who can sell it to you reliably.
We at Teami have always maintained that natural products are best for the human body and that plants are essential to a healthy life. We have curated a catalog of natural products designed to enhance health and beauty without unnecessary chemicals. We also believe that vegans should be able to reap the full benefits of our products, which is why we have options like our Organic Plant-Based Wellness Protein. We highly encourage you to visit our website, try out our product directly, and let us know what you think. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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