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All About Plant Protein
Brittyn Coleman
By Brittyn Coleman
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What is protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient in our diets. Many vital processes in our body rely on protein such as hair and nail growth, building and repairing muscle tissue, and hormone production. At the very core, protein is the building block of our skin, bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood. Protein is considered a “macronutrient” since it is a nutrient that is consumed in large amounts, along with carbohydrates and fats. “Micronutrient” is a term used for nutrients that are consumed in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.

What foods contain protein?

Protein is present in a wide variety of plant-based foods including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, as well as animal-based foods like dairy, eggs, meat, and fish. Alternatively, we can consume isolated protein, which means that we take one or a few specific proteins from a food and use it in a concentrated form (think: protein powder). While you should always pay attention to the quality of the ingredients you are putting in your body, it’s especially important to pay attention to the type and quality of the protein you are consuming, as all protein sources are not created equal.

How much protein do I need?

As a general rule of thumb, healthy adults need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight daily (hint: divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms). After calculating, you may realize you need less protein than you originally thought! That being said, different subsets of people may require higher amounts of protein, such as individuals who are physically active. In this case, protein requirements may increase up to 1.5 or 2 grams of protein for athletes and marathoners. If you are moderately active, you may consider protein intake of 1.0-1.2 grams per kilogram. To make sense of the amount of protein you need each day, I like to portion out ¼-⅓ of the protein I need at each meal. For example, if you calculate that you need 60 grams of protein each day, consider aiming to consume 15-20 grams of protein every meal.

Can you consume too much protein?

The answer might surprise you: YES! Consuming too much protein consistently can create a large “acidic load”. Your body wants to retain a neutral pH (as close to a pH of 7 as possible), so whenever you consume foods that are more acidic, your body tries to counteract that process by releasing “alkaline buffers” that can bring the pH back to a more neutral state [1]. Most often, it is hypothesized that alkaline buffers come from bone, meaning that calcium is drawn from your bones to help neutralize your body’s pH [1].

 

It’s important to note that some proteins cause a heavier acidic load than others, and some proteins even cause a negative protein load, meaning they make the body more alkaline [1]. Research reveals that alkaline diets may give us numerous health benefits such as increasing bone health, reducing muscle wasting, preventing chronic disease like hypertension and strokes, increasing cardiovascular health as well as memory and cognition [2].  One study shows us that top foods creating the highest urinary acidic load are animal-based sources of cheeses, meats, and fish. Fats and oils created zero acidic load, and plant-based options like fruits, fruit juices, and vegetables created a negative acidic load, or alkaline load [1].

 

Additionally, when you consume a high-protein diet consistently (namely animal-based proteins), it can significantly increase the workload on your kidneys, whereas consumption of plant-based proteins did not [3].

Choosing a plant-based protein powder

When it comes to protein powder, you want to take all factors into consideration. The most important factors include protein amount and completeness, nutrient content, digestibility, and other added ingredients.

 

While plant-proteins in themselves are not complete (meaning that they don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids) when you pair them together, they can be! For example, whole grains contain all essential amino acids except lysine and legumes contain all essential amino acids except for methionine. However, when we consume these foods together, all essential amino acids are present, which explains why populations can live on a diet of rice and beans. Brandless protein powder is a combination of 5 different types of protein, bringing together a wonderful and complete combination of amino acids.

 

Plant-based proteins can be easier to digest than dairy-based proteins, as a large percentage of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, per the National Institute of Health (NIH) [4]. Plant-based proteins from sources like pumpkin, brown rice, chia, hemp, and pea can be rather gentle on the digestive system.

 

It’s not uncommon for us to focus on one sole nutrient in a food, like protein. For example, let’s say we glance at a nutrient label and see that the protein powder has 20+ grams of protein, we will typically give it the thumbs up! However, if we looked back at the actual ingredients and other nutrients in the protein powder, it might actually get a thumbs down. The issue lies in that we can become so concentrated on how many grams of protein are listed on a nutrient label that we forget to consider other nutrients or ingredients. It’s important to consider added ingredients in protein powders such as sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavors and sweeteners, preservatives, and artificial colors that may make the protein powder less healthy than you originally thought. A good rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce or you don’t recognize an ingredient as a whole food, it’s best to avoid it.

 

Lastly, when it comes to protein from plant-based foods (not protein powder), you also get a variety of different nutrients that are naturally occurring, such as a spectrum of different vitamins, minerals, and fiber. While you also get other nutrients from animal-based sources of meat, you do not get any fiber, which is one of the most important nutrients from a gastrointestinal standpoint. Hemp and chia both provide plant-based sources of omega-3s, a nutrient necessary for brain function & development. It’s always best to consider and research the type and source of your protein before consuming it.

All about Brandless Unflavored Plant Protein

Brandless Plant-Based Protein Powder is a mix of organic sources of plant-based (vegan) protein including 20 grams of protein from brown rice, pea, pumpkin, hemp, and chia protein. By combining different sources of plant-based protein, all 9 essential amino acids are present, making it a source of complete protein.

 

Not only are all the ingredients organic, but they are also non-GMO and contain no artificial ingredients, flavors, or preservatives. The ingredients are free of the major allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, egg, wheat, soy, and shellfish. Since each scoop contains 20 grams of plant-based protein and merely 100 calories, it makes for a great boost in your morning smoothie!

 

REFERENCES

  1. Barzel US, Massey LK. Excess dietary protein can adversely affect bone. J Nutr. 1998;128(6):1051-3. LINK
  2. Schwalfenberg GK. The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:727630. LINK
  3. Kontessis P, Jones S, Dodds R, et al. Renal, metabolic and hormonal responses to ingestion of animal and vegetable proteins. Kidney Int. 1990;38(1):136-44. LINK

Lactose Intolerance. Genetics Home Reference, U.S. National Library of Medicine; National Institute of Health website. Published March 5, 2019. Accessed March 7, 2019. LINK.

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