In 2022, chicken-and-rice bulking combo has long become a relic of the bygone ages. What comes in its place is countless alternatives that fuel our bodies sustainably: in terms of the environment, yes, but also in terms of longevity.
So... what are the best all-natural protein sources out there?
To identify our champions, we should make the criteria transparent. How much do we actually need? How do plant- and animal-based sources compare in terms of health benefits? What is the best holistic approach to the right sources and amounts?
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
The more the merrier? Hardly!
Firstly, the "protein hype" and the over-fixation is largely a marketing trend that has little to do with the needs of an ordinary healthy person. In the long run, such a fixation on protein can easily become perilous. An overabundance of animal protein in particular contributes to premature ageing of cells and is scientifically proven to disrupt their functioning, the more the older we get.
For example, leucine is an amino acid that helps produce growth hormone and can be found mostly in meat, dairy, fish, eggs or soy. However, once our bodies stop growing and we become mature enough, the amount needed for, say, muscle growth is not that high anymore. Leucine surplus then raises the risk of malicious tumours.
Hence, around the age of 25, it is strongly recommended to start gradually replacing animal proteins with plant-based ones. While it is still technically possible to consume too much, it could be quite a TikTok challenge of its own to eat a healthy plant-based diet, embark on mental health walks after dinner, workout a few times a week - and go overboard with protein without powders and supplements. The vitamins and antioxidants, on the other hand, will keep you fit, and the extra fibre - full and nourished.
A, B, C, E...
A few more things to keep in mind about a protein-rich diet can give you a hint about why favouring plant-based sources is the way to go.
Protein derived from plant sources is often digested easier than most animal alternatives. Plants in their wild variety win in terms of fibre content, adaptogens, antioxidants and vitamins. These are integral to gut health, longevity and even mental well-being.
There are plenty of sources apart from nuts or soy-derived products. For instance, seeds are not only a great source of protein, but also rich in vitamins A and E (hair and nails health!) and a powerful antioxidant boost (hence - their anti-ageing properties).
Seeds, vegetables, algae, much unlike meat, are unique sources of fibre, lack of which is one of the primary issues of modern diets. Fibre is essential for gut health, which in turn bears responsibility for the proper functioning of the immune system.
Seeds also contain healthy Omega-3 fats and can be varied on a daily basis, adding extra flavour and crunch to common salads or nourish bowls. There are so many to choose from you'll never get bored: hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax and more, all rich in iron, zinc, selenium and vitamins.
Here you'll find a concise and inclusive list of the best sources of plant protein you can incorporate into your diet!
pumpkin seeds (25 g*)
hemp seeds (25 g)
flaxseeds (20 g)
sunflower seeds (20 g)
spinach (3 g)
chickpeas (9 g)
lentils (9 g)
oats (17 g)
nutritional yeast (50 g)
spirulina (57 g)
*per 100 g