High-protein diets are so popular right now.
While getting enough protein is important for health, the type of protein matters, too.
If your focus is on chronic disease prevention and longevity, science shows that you should be prioritizing more plant-based sources of protein.
Plant protein comes from foods like beans, peas, whole grains, lentils, nuts and seeds. Vegans and vegetarians rely on protein from plants to get enough protein every day.
People who eat meat and other animal products can benefit from incorporating more whole plant foods, including sources of plant protein, as a part of their regular meal plan.
What are the basic nutritional differences between animal protein and plant protein foods?
Overall, most of the calories in lean animal foods like chicken breast, ground turkey, eggs and egg whites, come from protein, while many plant foods contain a combination of protein, carbs and fat.
These lean animal foods are low in fat, but do contain some saturated fat, which has been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels and potentially increase the risk for heart disease.
Of course, fattier meats and many processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and chicken thighs are higher in fat and saturated fat.
Animal proteins naturally do not contain carbohydrates. Unlike animal protein, many plant protein foods contain a significant amount of carbohydrates and fiber.
While plant foods contain varying amounts of fat, the fats found in plant foods are health-promoting monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
How does animal protein and plant protein impact health?
Research recently published in the British Medical Journal looked at the relationship between protein, especially plant protein, and mortality from cardiovascular disease and cancer from 32 different studies.
While high protein intake was associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality compared to low protein intake, a higher consumption of plant protein was associated with a reduced risk for all cause mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality.
Results from this study suggest that we can benefit from swapping in plant protein in place of animal protein.
Researchers continue to look at the reasons that plant protein appears to have health benefits not gained from animal sources.
Plant protein foods have been associated with favorable changes in blood pressure, waist circumference, body weight, and body composition, which may help to reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
How can you incorporate more plant protein into your meal plan?
It’s easy to incorporate whole plant protein foods into your daily routine alongside and in place of animal protein. Here are six simple ways to get started:
- Try adding a plant protein to each meal. For example, scramble your eggs with black beans for breakfast, add chickpea hummus to your sandwich at lunch and enjoy a side of quinoa at dinner.
- Choose plant-based snacks like Wonderful Pistachios, which have 6 grams of plant protein per serving as well as fiber and better-for-you unsaturated fats to keep you full longer.
- Add a plant protein food in place of meat. Instead of beef or chicken tacos, try out making lentil tacos for a completely plant-based meal. You can even give non-dairy cheese or sour cream a try.
- Instead of whey protein powder in your daily smoothie, try using pea protein powder or even soft organic tofu to boost your smoothie’s protein content.
- Add plant protein sources like whole grains, beans and crunchy seeds to your salads. Not only will these ingredients boost the protein, but the added fiber will make your veggie salad even more satisfying.
- Use plant-based ingredients in baking. Nuts, nut flours and seeds can be added to breads and muffins for healthier, nutrient-dense baked goods.
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