PROTEIN PERFECTION: THE REAL SCOOP ON PLANT-BASED PROTEINSJane Reside, ND
September 11, 2020
When I say the word ‘protein’, what’s the first thing to pop into your head? If you’re like most people, the immediate thought is meat. It has played center-stage for the last couple of decades in all the high-protein, low-carb diets that have swept the western world. For some reason, we have it in our heads that if we’re not eating those on a regular basis, we do not thrive. Don’t get me wrong – some people do thrive on animal protein. But not all. And certainly not primarily. We have a plethora of science and research from all over the world that tells us a mainly plant-based diet provides the best outcomes for chronic health issues, including cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions, digestive disorders, dementia, cancer, and even diabetes 1.
This is not to say we don’t need protein. We definitely do. Our daily diet should contain 15 – 30% protein, depending on your age, gender, activity, health status, and other factors. The World Health Organization gives us the minimum for daily intake: 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight. So, if you’re a 140 lb woman (multiply by 0.36 to get your kg – in this case, 50.4 kg), you need just over 40 g of protein daily. But that’s just the RDA to keep you from being deficient. New research, and new thinking, tells us that we could do better – a little more intake for optimal function, and a better ‘protein package’ to make healthier choices.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS PROTEIN?
Protein is a substance that is made up of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that our human bodies need on a daily basis for optimal health – they’re needed to make our hair, nails, muscles, hormones, enzymes, antibodies, neurotransmitters, and so on. 9 of these amino acids are ‘essential’ meaning our own bodies can’t make them – we need to get them from our diet. This is the centre of the discussion around animal vs. plant when it comes to protein intake. All of the animal foods in our diet contain the 9 essential amino acids that we need, but very few, if any, plant-based foods, on their own, contain all 9.
Enter the recommendation to get the right ‘protein packages’ in your diet. What do I mean by that? Every plant-based whole food, when it hasn’t been refined down to basic starch (think breakfast cereal, that may, once upon a time, have been a whole grain) has a particular handful of some of those essential amino acids. If you combine a variety of these foods every day in your diet, like brown rice and beans, or whole grain toast and peanut butter, you’ll be getting what we call a ‘perfect protein package’. This is what is known as protein-combining.
It used to be believed that plant-based proteins didn’t work as well in our bodies to make all the structures that we need. Example: muscle. Athletes were told, when it came to the advent of protein powders, it had to be whey protein in order to maximize the building of new muscle, and the recovery process from injuries. That has been turned on its head, by people like BC’s own 2-time Ultra Marathon champion Brendan Brazier (who is, incidentally, a vegan) 2, as well as several studies comparing whey to plant proteins, and finding that athletic performance and rate of injury is not reduced with plant sources 3. Even Harvard Medical School is advocating for plant-based proteins over animal-based 4.
And there are other compelling reasons to consume more of your proteins from plants:
- Using agricultural land for growing food is better for the environment than large-scale commercial animal farming, and far more renewable.
- Plant-based diets have shown better health outcomes globally, giving us better control over atherosclerosis, blood sugar regulation, and inflammation.
- A plant-based diet is not only more affordable, it contains the vast majority of vitamins and minerals that we need to be healthy.
- The fiber from plant-based proteins allows for better digestive function and better microbiome health.
Protein combining, aka creating a ‘perfect protein’, from plant-based foods has been around for hundreds of years, all over the world, long before medical science provided an explanation for it. And always, it used real, whole food, all of which are guaranteed to have proteins of some kind. For example, quinoa, originating in South America, is roughly 26% protein; brown rice averages about 23% protein (compared to white rice which is 5% or less in protein content). Botanica’s Perfect Protein contains both of these grains – the brown rice is sprouted (which provides all 9 essential amino acids, by the way) and the quinoa is first soaked, both prepared in order to liberate their proteins, in an amazingly digestible form. No more bloating from whey proteins – or even the pea proteins that have become popular; most of my patients have digestive issues with those. And…. Botanica’s grains are gluten-free, sugar-free, non-GMO, and certified organic.
Interesting factoids about Perfect Protein:
- One serving contains 3458 mg of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), comparable to whey protein.
- It contains ALL of the 9 essential amino acids in effective amounts.
- One serving also contains 20% of your daily fibre needs, and 29% of your daily iron needs.
- It’s free of soy, whey, pea, and stevia.
- And it tastes great – organic vanilla, smooth texture – at last!
Let’s face it – even in this crazy year, cooking more at home than we usually do, we still like to reach for something quick, easy, tasty, and digestible. Having a protein break can help with a lot of things:
- Our brains work better when we consume enough protein.
- Our blood sugar is regulated WAY better when we have protein every time we eat, and that means reduced cravings for sugary treats and better appetite control.
- Our bodies handle stress (and stress’s little companion: inflammation) much better with protein to help in the repair process.
Using a scoop of Perfect Protein gives you 20 g of protein – that takes care of a good portion of the RDA for daily protein intake. Add your fruit of choice, some coconut oil, and your favourite milk (I love it with oat milk), and you have a perfect snack.
BAKING WITH PLANT-BASED PROTEIN
I’m always asking my patients to cut down on all the supplements they take – you can’t get your health from the 26 bottles of capsules and tablets in your cupboard. When there’s a way to get a high quality, well-rounded, pack-a-punch supplement that’s made from whole plants (food or herbs), it’s so much better.
To that end, and using Perfect Protein as a base, Botanica has created 3 combination formulas – these are known as the Perfect Protein Elevated series, and they include (at therapeutic levels, I might add):
- Perfect Protein Elevated Anti-Inflammatory– (turmeric and ginger)
- Perfect Protein Elevated Brain-Booster – (Lion’s Mane and Rhodiola)
- Perfect Protein Elevated Adrenal Support – (Ashwagandha and Reishi)
Reach for an amazing plant-base protein next time you’re looking for that perfect protein snack.
- Robertson, Ruairi. Why People in “Blue Zones” Live Longer Than the Rest of the World. Healthline. August 29, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/blue-zones
- Hoffman, J.R, and Falvo, M.J. 2004. Protein – Which is Best? Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, Sep.3(3), 118 130. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294/
- Protein”; The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/