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The Power Behind Plant-Based Protein

Lisa Bentley, RD Vail Valley Medical Center Dietitian

As plant proteins are becoming more and more popular, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about! Plants can actually be a great source of protein, as well as provide fewer calories, more nutrients and have less of an environmental impact than meat! Lisa Bentley, RD Vail Valley Medical Center Dietitian asnswers key questions.
1.Can we get enough protein from plants? 
Protein is made up of amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must get from our diet. While animal proteins provide all 9 essential amino acids, most plant-based proteins do not.  However, our liver stores amino acids, making it possible to get sufficient protein from a plant sources throughout the course of the day!  Don’t forget to vary your protein sources and distribute protein equally across meals. 
2. Protein is important for our muscles. Will plant protein suffice for the athlete? 
The short answer is: YES! According to G. Hughes, MS, consultant and former research scientist, “there has been a great deal of research on soy protein and muscle synthesis showing that it's comparable to whey protein.”
3. How much protein do you need every day?
Check out this cool protein calculator based on your body weight and activity level.
4. What are some good sources of protein from plants?
Chickpeas* -  1/2 cup cooked | 8 grams of protein
Homemade hummus or roasted chickpeas as a crunchy snack 
Lentils* -  1/2 cup cooked |  9 grams of protein
Lentil soup or as a meat substitute in a pasta sauce
Edamame*  - 1/2 cup,  shelled | 10 grams of protein
Eaten whole or pureed with lemon and spices into a dip
Tempeh  - 3 oz. 16 grams of protein
Vegetarian BLTs
Pumpkin seeds - 1/4 cup, hulled | 7 grams of protein
Homemade granola or added to your oatmeal
Amaranth - 1/4/ cup, uncooked | 8 grams of protein
Oatmeal substitute or a great addition to soup, salad, stir-fry
Freekah - 1/2 cup, cooked | 8 grams of protein
Great ingredient in homemade veggie burgers
*Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts) are a key component for a vegan diet because they are high in lysine-the amino acid that is most limited in a vegan diet. At least 3 servings of legumes/day are recommended for vegans.