Protein in a Plant Based Nutritional Program

by Clinical Integrative Pharmacist Scott Berliner, RPh

Proteins are known as “macronutrients” along with carbohydrates and fats. These three groups of nutrients are necessary for our survival.

Fats and carbohydrates are needed for various processes in the body. They are both energy sources, although good fats are more efficient at providing energy except when instant energy is needed. The human brain requires glucose to function properly, and all sugar and most starches get broken down into glucose for use or storage in the body. Fiber is a carbohydrate and is necessary for proper intestinal health, as well as for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and getting rid of toxins from the body.

Getting a balanced source of amino acids is crucial for good health. Many tissues of the human body (including skin, muscle, tendons and cartilage) are composed of protein. Hair and nails also require protein, and we must eat protein to form necessary enzymes, hormones and antibodies. We use protein to replace old cells, build new tissues and as a transport aid for nutrients into and out of the cells.

As more people cut back on their intake of meat and high-fat dairy products, it is important to incorporate alternative protein sources into a nutritional program. Tofu, nuts, beans, seitan, tempeh and some grains like quinoa are great sources of protein.

It is important to remember that vegetables may not contain all of the amino acids we may need. Sometimes we will need to combine different vegetables in order to make “complete proteins.” Foods with complete proteins provide all the essential amino acids in precise proportions readily usable by the body. Foods that have incomplete proteins can be eaten with other foods whose amino acid structure complements or completes the protein. For example, corn and rice are low in the amino acids tryptophan and lysine, but rich in methionine. So, if corn is eaten with beans, the combination of their amino acids creates a complete protein. This may be why so many cultures eat corn tortillas with rice and beans, and thrive even though they consume much less animal protein than we do in America.

In today’s stressful lifestyle it is often difficult to spend this kind of time putting meals together, so many people are reaching for “protein shakes” to get adequate protein.

Our new plant-based protein product at Greenwich Integrative Medicine is Life‘s Basics Plant Protein. Available in both vanilla and chocolate, it is an easy-to-digest, energy boosting protein source for vegetarians, athletes, or anyone seeking a superior quality protein to use on a daily basis. This combination of pea protein isolate, rice protein concentrate, organic hemp protein and chia powder provides a rich source of omega 3-6-9 essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Each component of this combination imparts different properties to the final blend. Pea protein isolate is loaded with vital biological value and balanced nutrition. It is well utilized by the body and is not deposited as fat as many animal sources can be. It is great for weight management and peak athletic performance.

Rice protein delivers a rich source of thiamine, iron, phosphorus and potassium from a rich complex-carbohydrate source.

The hemp protein is a balanced, complete source of vegan protein containing all the essential amino acids. Hemp has many health benefits including a rich source of soluble fiber and an excellent cross section of essential fatty acids.

Chia is an exciting superfood growing in popularity. It was a staple for Incan, Mayan and Aztec cultures for its endurance-boosting and medicinal properties. Chia can absorb 12 times its weight in water and thus can promote a feeling of fullness, enhance endurance and promote hydration.

Life’s Basic Plant Protein is free of yeast, corn, soy, gluten, wheat, milk, egg, whey and contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives. It is the perfect snack and can be used after exercise for recovery or as a meal replacement for dieting. It can also be added to a vegetarian diet to increase protein intake. Each scoop of 37 grams provides 22 grams of protein, making this a nutrient-dense protein supplement that is perfect for nearly everyone. It also tastes great.

Simple Chart of Complementary Proteins Sources

Foods Low Levels of Essential Amino Acids Complementary Foods
Legumes (lentils, peas, beans)

Tryptophan
Methionine
Grains, Nuts, Seeds

Grains (wheat, corn, barley, rice, oats, rye)

Lysine
Isoleucine
Threonine
Legumes

Nuts and Seeds

Lysine
Isoleucine
Legumes

Note: For a complete source of protein combine the Food (in the left column) and the Complementary Food (in the right column.) (from savvyvegetarian.com)