There is a dangerous myth that it is almost impossible to get enough complete protein from plant sources alone. But, if you haven’t already heard, this myth is far from the truth. By varying plant sources of protein throughout the day, you can easily create complete proteins that provide all the essential amino acids your body needs to survive.
For instance, rice and beans, when paired together, form a complete plant-based protein. Even if you eat beans in the morning and rice in the evening, the body stores these amino acids. As long as you’re eating a diverse plant-based diet, you’ll collect all the essential amino acids you need.
But if it makes you more comfortable to ensure you’re eating at least one complete protein each day, there are actually quite a few plant-based foods that are complete proteins unto themselves. These foods contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids, much like animal proteins. And while you probably already know that soy is a complete protein, here are a few less mainstream vegan sources that you may not be familiar with…
Hemp Seed Tempeh
Tempeh is a traditional fermented food that comes with numerous health benefits, but for those of us who are sensitive to soy products, it’s a no go. That’s where hempeh comes in—yep, hemp seed tempeh.
Hemp seeds have a similar amino acid profile to soy—they’re both complete proteins—but hemp seeds come with the added benefit of being rich in magnesium. Since tempeh is simply a block of fermented soybeans, it is pretty logical to just switch out the soy for another bean, supplemented with hemp seeds.
With around 22 grams of protein per 4 ounces, this is an excellent choice for those looking to up their plant-based protein game. The company Smiling Hara produces various versions of hemp tempeh, or you can take on the task of making your own with a little hemp seed added!
This less mainstream fermented soy product is a mainstay of the traditional Japanese breakfast. It is rich in vitamin K, probiotics and the complete spectrum of amino acids.
Natto makes a nourishing addition to any meal, with 31 grams of protein per cup. But it has a very distinct smell and taste and an unusual stringy texture, meaning most people either love or hate natto. You won’t know until you try!
Sacha Inchi Seeds
Unfamiliar with these seeds? Hailing from the Amazon rainforest, sacha inchi tastes slightly peanut-like with an earthy undertone. And unlike many plant protein sources which can be challenging to digest and absorb, over 96 percent of the protein in these seeds is easily digestible.
They not only have an excellent amino acid profile, but they are a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. When these seeds are powdered, this makes an excellent choice for a wholesome vegan protein powder to blend in to smoothies and drinks.
Algae isn’t the first think we tend to think of when we are looking for plant-based protein, but it is an invaluable source. This blue-green algae contains four grams of complete protein per tablespoon. Rich in iodine, iron, and energizing B vitamins, spirulina is the perfect addition to smoothies and soups, if you’re looking to boost your protein intake.
As a plant-based eater, these unique sources of protein can help energize and fuel your fitness—no animal products necessary. The moral of the story is: you don’t have to eat animal products to get quality protein.
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