We all need protein to live; we could not exist without this essential nutrient. While the most common sources of protein are meat, eggs and dairy, many people choose not to eat these types of foods, for a variety of personal reasons. For vegans, getting complete protein from plant foods is essential, as a deficiency can have serious health consequences.
The function of protein in the body is far-ranging. It is crucial in the formation, development and repair of cells, tissues, muscles and organs. It also provides us with energy, and is instrumental in the manufacture of antibodies and hormones. As protein also aids in producing enzymes, it facilitates a number of chemical processes throughout the body.
Protein is composed of amino acids. A complete protein is characterized by the presence of the nine essential amino acids. They are called “essential” because you need to get them from food. The nine amino acids can be derived from a single food source, or a combination of foods which together form a complete protein.
The following are six complete vegan proteins that you can easily incorporate into your diet:
These little seeds are a complete source of protein, and are also abundant in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also rich in minerals, including calcium, manganese, phosphorus, iron and zinc. Chia seeds also contain tryptophan, which can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Hemp seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, and are also rich in fiber. They boast an optimal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and are also rich in minerals and antioxidants. These seeds are linked to reducing system-wide inflammation and hormonal balance, among many other benefits.
Quinoa, a relative of Swiss chard and beets, is another seed that functions as a complete protein. It is also high in fiber, copper, folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, as well as a range of antioxidants. Quinoa seeds also contain saponins, which have been linked to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Brown rice and beans
Combining a variety of whole grains with legumes forms a complete protein. For this reason, a bowl of brown rice and your choice of beans is a great protein option. Brown rice is a great gluten-free grain choice, and beans provide a variety of nutrients, including vitamin B1, a variety of minerals, and molybdenum, a trace mineral that supports the function of several enzymes.
Spirulina with nuts
The superfood blue-green algae spirulina provides nearly all of the essential amino acids in itself. It also contains a wide array of minerals, along with several B-vitamins and a number of antioxidant compounds. It provides the body with chlorophyll, which is greatly beneficial to the circulatory system, along with the digestive system and liver. When coupled with nuts, which are also mineral-rich, you get a complete protein.
Homemade hummus, which is traditionally made from chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), olive oil and garlic, forms a complete protein when coupled with nuts or seeds. In addition to protein, chickpeas are rich in fiber, minerals and molybdenum. Next time you whip up a batch of hummus, add some sunflower or sesame seeds into your recipe and you’ll be enjoying a complete, heart-healthy protein.
-The Alternative Daily