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Plant-Based Proteins for Weight Loss and Muscle Growth

PlantsMuscleDietJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

Those who wish to support their health and wellness goals by including more plant-based meals are often concerned with getting sufficient protein. It’s understandable that people might worry, as an adequate amount of protein is fundamental to body structure, immune support, hormone production, enzymatic processes and metabolism. Animal proteins, like meat, dairy, fish and eggs, are complete proteins, as they deliver all the essential amino acids. While there are many plant foods that contain significant amounts of protein, to ensure a full complement of amino acids, a plant-based menu may take a bit of planning. Whether animal-sourced or plant-sourced, all proteins are broken down into amino acids during digestion.

There are lots of options when it comes to high quality vegetarian and vegan protein sources, including beans, pulses, whole grains, soy, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. As plant proteins may lack one or more essential amino acids, it’s important to eat a variety of foods. Those who eat a wide mix of protein containing foods each day should have no difficulty getting their fill of necessary nutrients. Those who wish to up their protein intake would be well served by adding plant proteins, rather than significantly increasing their intake of health damaging red and processed meat. The World Health Organization, as well as 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines, suggest shifting to more plant-based proteins to improve nutritional quality, while supporting overall health and the environment as well.

Currently, high protein diets are popular for those who wish to build muscle or lose weight. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is a modest 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This reflects about 10% of daily calories, or the minimum requirement, rather than a healthier optimum amount. Current dietary guidelines advocate getting between 10% and 35% of our daily calories from protein sources. Although there’s a general position that American diets are protein heavy, the average person consumes around 16% of their daily calories in the form of plant and animal sourced protein, suggesting that Americans need more protein, not less.

A report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) argued that 16% is anything but excessive, and suggests twice that amount is “safe and effective” for good health.  The report noted the potential benefits of a higher protein intake, including preserved muscle strength during the aging process, and maintenance of a “leaner, fat-burning” physique. Additionally, the report suggested that spacing protein intake throughout out the day is more health promoting than eating a protein heavy evening meal. Maximizing protein consumption appears to support weight loss and lean muscle growth, when accompanied by exercise and a cutback on sugars and starches. So as not to exceed caloric intake, those striving for weight loss, or improved general health, should reduce or eliminate low quality refined carbohydrates when high quality protein intake is increased.

Protein consumption should be based on age, current state of health, activity levels, muscle mass and fitness goals. While there are differing opinions as to the optimal amount of protein to consume for good overall health, The Institute of Medicine recommends a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight, or approximately 46 grams per day for an adult woman and 56 grams per day for an adult man. Those who are physically active or looking to build muscle may require higher amounts.

Good sources of plant-based proteins include:

Pulses – Pulses are dried edible seeds that grow in pods such as peas, lentils, beans and chickpeas. One cup of peas provides 8 grams of protein plus vitamin C. In addition to fiber, one half cup of chickpeas provides over 7 grams of protein. High fiber, highly nutritious beans provide 13 grams of protein per cup. Non-fat and versatile, cooked lentils provide 8 grams of protein per half cup.

Whole Grains – Quinoa provides heart-healthy fats, amino acids and 4 grams of protein per half cup. Amaranth provides almost 5 grams of protein per half cup, is gluten free and provides calcium iron and fiber.

Nuts and nut butters – Although high in calories, nuts provide up to 6 grams of protein per ounce. Nuts are high in fiber and healthy fats and provide iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, B vitamins, vitamin E, antioxidants and other nutrients.

Soy – Tofu and tempeh made from soy beans are highly nutritious and provide 15 – 20 grams of protein per half cup. Soy beans, or edamame, are great straight from the pod and provide over 8 grams of protein per half cup.

Protein-rich vegetables – Although not as high in protein as beans, nuts or legumes, veggies including spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and artichokes provide antioxidants, fiber and about 5 grams of protein per cooked cup.

Seeds – Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids and 2.5 grams of protein per tablespoon, and can easily be added to salads, shakes or cereal. Sunflower seeds add healthy fats and 7 grams of protein per quarter cup.

Seitan – High in protein and popular with vegans and vegetarians, seitan is sourced from wheat gluten and provides an impressive 36 grams of protein per cup. Seitan, which can be prepared in a variety of ways, provides iron, calcium and phosphorus.

Non-dairy milks – Soy milk is high in protein, providing up to 1 gram per ounce. Almond, hemp and rice milk provide about 1 gram per cup.

Professional Supplement Center carries a variety of high quality plant-based powdered proteins to help meet your nutrition and health goals:

Organic Hemp Protein...Organic Hemp Protein Dark Chocolate Flavor by Manitoba Harvest – This clean, plant-based, easily digestible, organic hemp protein provides 8 grams of complete protein and 10 grams of fiber per serving with only three ingredients, raw, cold milled organic hemp powder, organic low glycemic palm sugar and fair trade cocoa powder. Also available in organic vanilla flavor.

Organic PurePea...Organic PurePea™ Natural Vanilla by Designs for Health – This highly bioavailable, easily digestible, vegan pea protein powder contains raw, certified organic, American grown yellow peas produced with natural fermentation, organic natural flavor and organic stevia extract. This product provides 20 grams of protein and a full complement of amino acids per serving. Also available: Organic Chocolate and Organic Unflavored.

Vegan Protein...Vegan Protein Vanilla by Innate Response Formulas – This vegan powdered protein formula provides 23 grams of nourishing pea protein per serving. Low allergen potential formulation is grain, soy, dairy and gluten free. Stevia sweetened.


Vegan Protein...Vegan Protein Chocolate by Dr. MercolaON SALE – This perfect blend of five high quality plant proteins is ideal for post workout, a quick energy charge or an anytime protein boost. The product provides pea, hemp, chia, potato and chlorella, delivering 12 grams of protein per serving, plus fiber, digestive enzymes and BCAA’s for optimal muscle building. Also available in individual packets for easy toting. Additional flavors: Cinnamon and Vanilla.

Pea Protein...Pea Protein Hypoallergenic by Prescribed Choice – This Non-GMO, diabetic-friendly yellow pea protein powder provides beneficial amino acids and 26 grams of pea protein per serving. Highly soluble, easily digestible, naturally flavored with vanilla or chocolate. Vegan formulation.

How much protein do you need every day? http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
14 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20718479,00.html
Protein Intake – How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day? https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-protein-per-day/
Protein. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/
Protein in the Vegan Diet. http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php


Super Seeds

Seeds1By Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

Seeds are living, respiring organisms.  Although seeds vary in their structure, they all contain a plant embryo and the food source necessary for the embryo to maintain its viability and germination vigor.  Seeds are nutritional wonders, packed with vitamins, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and minerals, such as niacin, folic acid, iron and zinc. The three types of common dietary seeds are:

  • Grasses, such as wheat, oats, and barley, whose embryo is called the “germ”.  It’s stored food is mostly complex carbohydrates like starch. 
  • Legumes, such as peas, beans and lentils.  Legumes contain a much higher level of protein than grasses.
  • Oilseeds, such as sunflower, canola and safflower.  Oilseeds contain much higher levels of oils than grasses and legumes. 

Pomegranate seeds – These sweet-tart juicy seeds are filled with antioxidants, vitamins C and K, and minerals such as manganese, potassium, phosphorus, iron, calcium, and zinc.  They also contain unsaturated oils, fiber and a bit of protein.  These vitamins and minerals encourage skin cell regeneration, fight free radicals, and protect against sun damage.  Pomegranates provide energy, have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and aid in protecting cardiovascular health by supporting healthy cholesterol levels.  Pomegranate seeds aid digestion and elimination, help to cleanse the body, and facilitate healthy weight maintenance.   

Wheat germ –  Because it is meant to feed a new plant, wheat germ is packed with nutrients, antioxidants and phytosterols.  Wheat germ contains a good amount of fiber, which is necessary for normal blood sugar balance, cholesterol control, intestinal health and detoxification.  Wheat germ also contains important B vitamins, such as folate, thiamine and B6, which support cardiovascular health and healthy brain chemical production.  It is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower inflammation, support a healthy nervous system and protect against cardiovascular disease. 

Flax seeds –  Flax seeds have been considered a powerful food source since ancient times.  There’s evidence that the benefits of flax seeds include reducing the risks of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke.  Flax seeds are a rich source of micronutrients, vitamin B1, manganese,  omega-3 essential acids, lignans and both soluble and insoluble fiber.  To get the most health benefits, these tiny, nutty-flavored seeds should be ground before consuming. 

Pumpkin seeds –  These delicious seeds contain magnesium, which benefits blood pressure and may help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, and are a rich source of zinc, important for immunity, cell growth, insulin regulation and eye health.  Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids and contain phytoestrogens, which aid good cholesterol and help relieve menopausal symptoms.  Pumpkin seeds aid restful sleep as they contain tryptophan, which is needed for melatonin and serotonin production.  Pumpkin seed oil has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Grape seeds – Grape seeds contain vitamin E, flavonoids, ALA omega-3’s, and the powerful antioxidants called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPC’s).   Grape seed extract has a wide range of therapeutic properties which aid wound healing, improve bone strength, support healthy blood vessels and  blood pressure, and may prevent cognitive decline.   Studies show that grape seed extract can relieve symptoms relating to chronic venous insufficiency, such as pain, swelling, and fatigue and may relieve swelling after surgery or injury. 

Sesame seeds –  As one of the oldest condiments known to man, sesame seeds are highly valued for their oil.  Sesame seeds are a very good source of manganese and copper and a good source of calcium, selenium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, B complex vitamins, and dietary fiber.  Sesame seeds contain lignans, which help maintain blood pressure and have been shown to have cholesterol lowering effects.  These seeds are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids which help to prevent coronary artery disease and stroke by favoring healthy lipids. 

In summation, seeds contain notable health-benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for wellness.  Adding these nutritional powerhouses to your diet and eating healthier can be part of an alternative program against illness. 

Grape Seed Extract -V by Douglas Laboratories This vegetarian capsule supplies 100 mg of standardized grape seed extract. 

Sesame Seed Oil Caps by Biotics Research –  Each sesame seed oil capsule supplies 770 mg of sesame seed oil.

Flax Seed Oil Capsules Organic Cold Pressed by Ortho Molecular –  Each soft gel capsule contains 540 mg of Alpha Linolenic Acid, 150 mg of Linoleic Acid and 210 mg of Oleic Acid.