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Why We Should Have More Vegetarian Protein and Where We Can Get It

Why We Should Have More Vegetarian Protein and Where We Can Get It

Tell someone that you are a vegetarian and it is quite likely that the first thing you will be asked is, “But where do you get your protein?” A vegan friend of mine used to say that she felt as though she spent a significant part of her life explaining vegetarian protein[1] to people.

Consuming the right amount of protein is important but how does plant-based protein compare to proteins derived from meat?

Animal Protein vs. Vegetarian Protein

When digested, protein is broken down into amino acids which are required for most metabolic processes. The main difference between animal protein and vegetarian protein is the types of amino acids that they contain.

Animal proteins are regarded as “complete” since they contain all of the essential amino acids. Vegetarian protein are sometimes viewed as being “incomplete” as some may lack one or more amino acid.[2]

However, there are various plants that are “complete” such as hemp seeds, quinoa, chlorella, and bee pollen. Furthermore, it is easy to combine different plant foods to have complete protein in your meals.

What are the Health Benefits of Vegetarian Protein

The good news is that you do not necessarily have to be a vegetarian to benefit from a plant-based diet! You can simply incorporate more vegetarian meals into your lifestyle. In fact, according to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately-planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” [3]

These are 5 health benefits of vegetarian protein:

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  • You will lower your intake of cholesterol and unhealthy saturated fat which will lower the chances of heart disease.[4]
  • More plant-rich meals decrease the risk of some cancers.[5]
  • Animal proteins have little to no fiber. A vegetarian meal provides a good source of fiber which will lower blood cholesterol and minimize the risks of diabetes.
  • Plant-based foods are more alkalizing since they have a higher pH, thereby helping your kidneys to be healthier as well as preventing kidney stones.[6]
  • Vegetarian foods decrease your chance of developing a stroke or becoming obese.[7]

10 Great Sources of Vegetarian Protein[8]

Tofu

    These days there are many options of foods made from soy, which is a well-known source of protein. Tofu has about 20 grams in half a cup!

    Beans

    Beans come in a range of options that are rich in nutrients that nourish your brain, heart, and muscles. There are roughly 26 grams of protein in two cups of kidney beans.

    Lentils

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      Just one cup has 18 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the protein in three eggs but with less than one gram of fat!

      Quinoa

      Quinoa has more than 8 grams per cup. This includes all the 9 essential amino acids your body requires for growth and repair. Let’s not forget it is also an excellent source of unsaturated fats and fiber!

      Edamame

        Everyone loves having a nibble on these whilst waiting for their sushi, but they are also packed with 8.4 grams of protein in half a cup.

        Peas

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        One cup of peas contains 7.9 grams of protein. On top of that, one cup has almost 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C.

        Chickpeas

          There are so many ways chickpeas could be eaten – from hummus to salads. Not only do they have around 7.3 grams of protein in half a cup, but they are also high in fiber while being low in calories.

          Vegan Protein Powder

          This should be one that the bodybuilders will love. At 15-20 grams of vegan protein per scoop, it is one of the best fat burners.

          Greek yogurt

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            Probiotics are essential to the health of your digestive system.[9] Eating 7 oz of Greek yogurt will not only give you 20 grams of protein but also help your gut!

            Nuts

            Most nuts can be eaten as a snack. Almonds contain 12 grams of vegan protein in a quarter cup, while cashews contain 10 grams!

            Even Though Protein Is Good for You, You Should Not Consume Too Much of It

            In years gone by, people were taught to believe that there was no such thing as “too much protein”. In fact, Americans used to be told in the early 1900s that they needed to eat over 100 grams daily! Today’s recommended daily intake is almost half of this amount[10].

            Athletes and those who do strength training are also encouraged to eat high quantities of protein. Yet, the reality is that they require just slightly more protein.

            Consumption of too much protein has been linked to health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease (including kidney stones), osteoporosis, and some cancers.

            You can increase your health and decrease the risk of health problems by incorporating more vegetarian or vegan meals into your life. After all, the biggest animals in the world (elephants, giraffes, horses, cows, and dinosaurs) are/were vegan. There is a lot of protein in plants!

            Reference

            [1] One Green planet: 25 Delicious Vegan Sources of Protein (The Ultimate Guide!)
            [2] Eat This, Not That!: 26 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein
            [3] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets
            [4] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Could a vegetarian diet reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress? A review of the literature
            [5] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population
            [6] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Optimum nutrition for kidney stone disease
            [7] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Clinical practice: vegetarian infant and child nutrition
            [8] Health: 14 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources
            [9] Lifehack: 6 Ways Probiotics Heal More Than Your Gut
            [10] WebMD: How Much Protein Do You Need?

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            J.S. von Dacre

            Writer at Lifehack

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            Last Updated on February 21, 2019

            Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

            Top 9 Foods for Incredible Brian Health And Brain Power

            Your brain is the most intricate and powerful organ in your entire body. It’s essentially a super-computer with brain power like a Ferrari.

            If you have a Ferrari, would you put cheap gasoline in it? Of course not. You want to put in high-octane performance fuel to get the most out of your investment.

            When it comes to the brain, many people are looking for the top foods that will supercharge the brainpower to help focus better, think more clearly and have better brain health.

            In this article, we’ll look at the top 9 brain foods that will help create supercharge your brain with energy and health:

            1. Salmon

            Salmon has long been held as a healthy brain food, but what makes this fish so valuable for your brain health?

            It’s important to understand that your brain is primarily made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat. One of the most important fats that the brain uses as a building block for healthy brain cells is omega-3’s.

            Omega-3’s are essential for building a healthy brain but one of the most important omega-3’s for your brain is DHA. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) forms nearly two-thirds of the omega-3’s found in your brain.[1]

            Omega-3’s and DHA in particular help form the protective coating around our neurons. The better quality this coating is, the more efficient and effective our brain cells can work, allowing our brain power to work at full capacity.

            Studies have shown that being deficient in DHA can affect normal brain development in children, which is why so many infant formulas and children’s supplements are beginning to include DHA.

            Being deficient in DHA as an adult can cause focus and attention problems, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and poor sleep.

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            2. Blueberries

            Blueberries top the list as one of the most beneficial fruits to maximize your brain health and performance.

            Blueberries have some of the highest content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, than any other fruit, which helps protect the brain from stress and promote healthy brain aging.

            Blueberries antioxidant content also help reduce inflammation, which allows the brain to maintain healthy energy levels.

            Blueberries have begun to receive attention for their connection to brain performance.[2] Studies have demonstrated that eating blueberries on a regular basis can not only improve brain health but also brain performance as well including working memory.[3]

            Blueberries not only taste great but are low in calories, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Manganese.

            3. Turmeric

            Turmeric is a very impressive spice that has well-researched and proven to have tremendous benefits for your brain. Turmeric’s main compound that benefits the brain is called curcumin, which is responsible for turmerics bright yellow appearance.

            Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-cancer properties.[4]

            Curcumin increases the production and availability of two important neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters involved with happiness, motivation, pleasure, and reward.

            Curcumin has been well documented to have powerful anti-depressive effects. In one study, it was found to be as effective for depression as popular medications such as SSRI’s like Prozac.[5]

            Curcumin has also been shown to:

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            • Increase blood flow to the brain.[6]
            • Increase BDNF production, a powerful stimulator of neuroplasticity.[7]
            • Increase DHA availability and synthesis in the brain.[8]
            • Increase antioxidant levels in the brain to prevent brain aging and inflammation.[9]

            4. Coffee

            Coffee is the wonderful elixir of energy that many people cherish every single morning. The biggest reason people drink coffee is to get a dose of caffeine.

            Caffeine is a natural neurological stimulant that not only gives you energy but also prevents adenosine, a neurotransmitter involved with feeling tired, from binding in the brain.

            Many people are surprised to find that coffee actually contains a large quantity of antioxidants called polyphenols, which are important for reducing inflammation in the brain and keep your brain energized. The antioxidants in coffee also provide a neuroprotective effect, protecting the brain from stress and damage. [R]

            Coffee can also:

            • Improve alertness and concentration.[10]
            • Help with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.[11]
            • Reduce your risk of depression.[12]
            • Improve your memory.
            • Provide short-term boost in athletic performance.[13]

            5. Broccoli

            What was your least favorite food as a kid growing up?

            Most likely, broccoli was your answer.

            Broccoli may not have been your top choice, but it might be the top choice for your brain.

            Broccoli contains a compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been shown to promote the proliferation and survival of brain cells by reducing inflammation and boosting production of BDNF. It has also been shown to boost neurogenesis, the production of new brain cells.[14]

            Broccoli is also loaded with important nutrients Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin K plays a vital role in protecting brain cells.[15] Folate plays a crucial role in detoxification and reducing inflammation in the brain.

            6. Bone broth

            Bone broth wasn’t just created to combine with soups, you can actually drink bone broth by itself.

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            Drinking bone broth has become one of the biggest trends in the health and wellness industry and for good reason. Bone broth isn’t actually a new thing. Bone broth has been used for centuries as a healing tonic to promote health and longevity.

            Much of the nutritional benefits and value of bone broth comes from its substantial vitamin and mineral content. Primarily calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium.

            Your gut is called your second brain for a reason. Research continually shows that there is a direct and indirect connection between your gut and your brain. Your gut also houses and stores many important brain compounds involved with optimal brain performance. Therefore the health of your gut is vitally important for your brain health and performance.

            Bone broth has become a go-to tool for helping heal the gut and provide the gut with the vital nutrient and resources it needs to heal and perform optimally.

            With the vast amounts of nutrients that bone broth contains, it makes the list as a go-to food for your brain health.

            Look for high quality, organic bone broth for the best results.

            7. Walnuts

            Walnuts are one of the top choices of nuts for brain health. Walnuts also look similar to a brain.

            Amongst the wide variety of nuts available, walnuts contain the highest amounts of the important omega-3 DHA. DHA, as seen above, is a critical building block for a healthy brain.

            Walnuts also contain high amounts of antioxidants, folate, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which help to lower inflammation.

            Melatonin in walnuts is an important nutrient for regulating your sleep. Having low amounts of melatonin can make it challenging to get good quality sleep and getting poor quality sleep can dramatically impair brain health and performance.

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            8. Eggs

            For years, eggs were put on the nutritional naughty list; but now, eggs are finally getting the credit they deserve. Eggs can provide a tremendous boost to your brain health and longevity.

            Eggs, particularly the yolks, contain a compound called choline. Choline is essential for building the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine plays an important role in mood, memory, and intelligence.

            Egg yolks contain some of the highest quantities of choline. This is very important because low levels of choline can lead to low levels of acetylcholine, which in turn can cause increased inflammation, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

            9. Dark chocolate

            You’re about to love chocolate even more because chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is great for your brain.

            Chocolate boosts levels of endorphins, your brains “feel good” chemicals. This is why you feel so good eating chocolate.[16]

            Chocolate also increases blood flow to the brain which can help improve memory, attention, focus, and reaction time.[17]

            Dark chocolate contains high levels of magnesium, which has been coined “natures valium” for its ability to calm and relax the brain.

            Lastly, dark chocolate has one of the highest antioxidant profiles out of any other food, including popular superfoods like acai berries, blueberries, or pomegranates.[18]

            Conclusion

            Your brain is a high performing organ and it uses quite a lot of energy, roughly 20% of the bodies energy demands.

            In order to maintain a healthy brain, you need the right fuel to ensure that your brain has all the nutrients it needs to perform as well as adapt to the stress of life.

            If you want to keep your brain performing well for a lifetime, then you want to make sure you are including as many of these brain health foods as possible.

            More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

            [1] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function
            [2] Canadian Science Publishing: Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation
            [3] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.
            [4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.
            [5] Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition.: Turmeric, the Golden Spice
            [6] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of combined treatment with curcumin and candesartan on ischemic brain damage in mice.
            [7] Science Direct: Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB
            [8] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: Implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders.
            [9] PLOS: A Chemical Analog of Curcumin as an Improved Inhibitor of Amyloid Abeta Oligomerization
            [10] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans
            [11] American Academy of Neurology: A Cup of Joe May Help Some Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
            [12] American Academy of Neurology: AAN 65th Annual Meeting Abstract
            [13] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C.
            [14] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Hyperammonemia induces glial activation, neuroinflammation and alters neurotransmitter receptors in hippocampus, impairing spatial learning: reversal by sulforaphane
            [15] Oxford Academic: Vitamin K and the Nervous System: An Overview of its Actions
            [16] Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D: Chocolate and Mood Disorders
            [17] Health Magazine: Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain
            [18] Chemistry Central Journal: Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products

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