A common misconception about plant-based diets is that they lack protein. That’s simply not true. I've achieved top-level athletic performance and sustained huge health gains by switching to a plant-based diet. That’s why I created Thrive Forward, a website dedicated to plant-based education for health and sports performance. It provides short educational videos, clean eating recipes and tips to support day to day life.
Whether your goal is to lean out, build muscle mass and strength, or just improve your health, plant-based proteins play an important role. Here are the top three myths I hear about plant-based proteins:
Protein Myth Number 1: You Can’t Get Enough Protein From Plant-Based Diets
The idea that plant-based diets lack sufficient protein isn’t true. Here are five benefits of eating plant-based proteins:
1. Low in saturated fat
High levels of saturated fat in the blood raise cholesterol and contribute to clogged arteries. If your diet is rich in saturated fats (found mostly in meat, dairy and eggs), you are more likely to suffer from heart disease in the years to come. Unsaturated fats (found in nuts and seeds) are the alternative and help to keep your heart healthy.
2. Free of the growth hormones and antibiotics found in animal proteins.
Modern meat production uses growth hormones and antibiotics. This will always be a major topic of discussion and while you can find antibiotic and hormone-free meat, plant-based proteins are the best option to avoid this altogether.
A good indicator of whether a food is alkaline-forming is the presence of chlorophyll—the greener the food, the better. The typical North American diet is acid-forming (meat, bread etc…) which is not helpful in maintain your body’s naturally alkaline pH. Adding more alkaline-forming foods with a clean, plant-based diet can help you combat inflammation, reduce stress, and protect bone health.
4. Easy to digest.
Whole plant-based foods, especially those that are raw, are easy for your body to digest. They contain fiber, which is crucial to proper digestion. Less time spent on digestion means more energy to use throughout your day.
5. Better for the environment.
We all hopefully want to reduce our personal carbon footprint. Diet affects the environment even more than your commute. Because it takes more water, energy and fuel to produce animal products, switching to plant-based foods offers the planet less harmful consumption and has a huge environmental impact.
Protein Myth Number 2: Plant-Based Proteins Aren't Complete
Once I explain some of the benefits of plant-based proteins, I’m likely to hear, “Well, they still aren’t complete proteins.”
A complete protein has all essential amino acids — the ones your body can’t produce itself. While essential amino acids are just that, essential, your body can combine different foods to get all the amino acids it needs.
When choosing a variety of beans, grains, and vegetables, for example, you don’t have to worry about which ones are complete or not.
But just to prove the point, here are three examples of complete proteins:
1. Hemp Seed
Not only is hemp seed a complete protein, it's also rich in omega-3s. Adding hemp seeds to salads and smoothies is a great way to increase your protein intake.
While it tastes like a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. This gluten-free alternative is not only higher in amino acids than many grains, but it also contains essential fatty acids. Swapping out brown rice for a side of quinoa is a good option to get a complete protein boost.
3. Sea Vegetables
Seaweed, kelp, and other algae have been protein staples to many coastal civilizations for thousands of years. Try swapping kelp noodles for regular pasta, and adding wakame to soups and salads. You can also add chlorella or spirulina to smoothies.
Protein Myth Number 3: Animal Protein Is The Only Protein That Builds Muscle
I’m always telling people that adding plant-based proteins won’t make you lose muscle. Athletes of all types, from body builders to Crossfiters, yogis to runners, can build incredible muscle strength and bulk with plant-based proteins.
I've worked with professional athletes and celebrities to educate and provide direction on nutrition, helping to build while keeping their eating clean and the result always helping them thrive in their sport. Formulating Vega One, along with the Vega Sport line of performance products only cements that plant-based protein can provide anyone with the grams needed to build muscle in a clean, digestible way.
It’s all about choosing the right kind of protein that can help you build and sustain muscle. The best protein comes from whole food, alkaline-forming sources, such as lean, plant-based protein — found in sprouted nuts, seeds, or pseudo-grains. Not only will you be getting complete proteins, but plant-based proteins are rich in antioxidants which help to reduce the inflammation caused by exercise, helping you to recover faster from your training.
There are a lot of myths out there about protein, but I've found tremendous benefits from adopting a plant-based diet. Adding more of these nutrient-dense protein sources, you’ll begin to adapt and form a sustainable, clean-functioning body.