your questions, answered.
For many the move from predominantly animal proteins to plant-based proteins can feel like entering uncharted territory. We took to Instagram to ask what you would like to know more about & set out to answer your questions when it comes to all thing’s protein.
What is the difference between animal & plant proteins?
Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids; some amino acids can be made in the body - non-essential amino acids, whereas others have to be obtained from the food we eat - essential amino acids.
Animal protein such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy & some plant protein such as soy, quinoa contain all 9 essential amino acids and are referred to as ‘complete’ proteins. In comparison plant proteins such as grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, are typically missing 1 of the essential amino acids -‘incomplete’ proteins. It is often assumed that animal protein is superior to plant protein due to the variation of amino acid composition. There is now evidence to show eating a wide variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds & grains can provide you with all the essential amino acids & protein without the need for protein supplements.
Apart from building & repairing muscles what else is protein important for?
Protein is the second most abundant component in the body (water is no. 1) & is found in muscle, skin, blood & cells. It provides energy (4kcal/g), however carbohydrate & fat are the main energy providers. Protein has many functions in the body, it is continuously broken down & resynthesised for the growth and repair of muscle & bones and for metabolic reactions. It is also the structural component for all cells in the body & is used to make enzyme & hormones.
Can I still meet protein requirements following a plant-based diet?
There is a common misconception that limiting or excluding animal foods results in not eating enough protein. A study carried out in the UK called the Epic Study showed that while vegetarians don’t eat as much protein as those who consume animal protein, they still meet the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI).
The RNI for adults is 0.8g/kg bodyweight per day which includes up to 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. For a 70kg person who enjoys low-moderate intensity exercise, 56g of protein a day is more than enough to meet requirements. The amount, duration & intensity of exercise you do will alter your needs. For strength training higher protein requirements are often recommended at 1.2-2g/kg/day & endurance training at 1.2-1.4g/kg/day.
Do I need to take protein supplements when eating predominantly plant-based?
A very common question that concerns people when moving towards plant-based eating. For the majority a healthy & balanced diet is sufficient, and very few people require protein supplements to meet their protein requirements.
Protein supplements are however convenient and relatively cheap per portion. They can be useful for people who have certain dietary restrictions meaning they may struggle to eat enough protein at mealtimes, or those who have high requirements such as elite athletes.
What are some tips to introduce plant-based protein to meals?
- Sprinkle nuts & seeds onto your porridge, yogurt, salads, stir-fry’s.
- Half & Half – substitute half the meat typically used for Bolognese, stews, chili etc. for lentils.
- Swaps – choose whole grain options such as pitta, bagels, rice, pasta, quinoa & grains
- Create a shopping list of nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, wholegrains, tinned, frozen veg that you don’t currently have in your kitchen. Variety of plant-protein sources is key!
- Visit the plant-based section in your local supermarkets, you’re bound to find plenty of convenient meals to choose from.
- Follow plant-based social media accounts, sign up for recipe newsletters.
- Challenge yourself to make one new plant-based recipe a week.
We are now considering both the health & environmental impact of foods we choose to put on our plates. The EAT-Lancet commission, an international organisation who have defined targets for sustainable food production, have described food as ‘the single strongest lever to optimise human health & environmental sustainability on Earth’.
There is no arguing eating more plants is good for our health. Plant-based diets tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre & rich in vitamins & minerals. Research has shown associations of plant-based eating with reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, as well as lowered LDL cholesterol & blood pressure.
It is also true that certain foods can impact the environment. The production of animal-based foods tends to have higher greenhouse gas emissions than producing plant-based foods.
The Planetary Health Diet outlined by the EAT-Lancet Commission shows a new plate model; half a plate of fruits & vegetables. The other half consists of primarily whole grains, plant proteins (nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, pulses), unsaturated plant oils, modest amounts of meat, fish, dairy & starchy carbohydrate and some added sugars.
The best thing about the planetary health diet is that it doesn’t cut out food groups. While the focus is on eating a primarily plant based, animal-based foods in moderate amounts still play an important role. For red meat, it’s a burger a week or a large steak a month, chicken, fish & eggs are recommended twice a week & dairy 250g a day, which is about a glass of milk or similar portion of yogurt & cheese.
At KIND we believe small acts can change the world - that if we collectively make small changes, we can have a big impact on our surrounding environment. We have a lot more work to do in this space & hope to bring you on the journey of making the world a better place.
For more information on the planetary health diet, visit:
Protein from plants sources have increased in popularity in conjunction with plant-based eating.
A plant-based diet involves consuming foods which primarily come from plants, as opposed to only from plants. You don’t need to go full vegetarian or vegan. Animal based foods still play an important role in our diet but are encouraged less frequently & in smaller amounts than typical of a Western diet.
There is no arguing eating more plants is good for our health. Plant-based diets tend to be low in saturated fat (the bad kind), high in fibre and rich in vitamins & minerals. Plant protein sources such as soy, nuts, seeds, beans, & pulses are not widely consumed in the UK. Public Health England has recognised this & outlined guidance encouraging consumption of plant proteins as part of the Eat Well Guide for a healthy & balance diet. There is sufficient evidence to show eating a wide variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds & whole grains will provide us with all the essential amino acids & protein you need without the need for protein powder supplements.
At KIND we feel very passionate about the power of protein from plants. Nuts are the first ingredient in many of our bars & are good source of protein. Nuts previously had a bad reputation for being high in fat. We now know this is predominantly unsaturated fat (the good kind), which can lower cholesterol & reduce risk of heart disease. Nuts are powerhouse of nutrients, high in fibre & rich in key vitamins & minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin E & B vitamins. Consumption of nuts in the UK remains low compared to other European countries. We are on a mission to change that, to show that nuts are not only delicious but also have positive implications for our health when consumed as part of a balanced diet.
So why not try adding nuts to your meals?
Nuts are not only good to snack on, but are also a great addition to salads, breakfast cereals, stir fries, curries & many other dishes.
At KIND®, we’re keen to keep you up to date with the latest nutrition trends.
Gut health has taken the spotlight & it seems it’s here to stay. The evidence emerging is overwhelming that improving our gut health is not only linked with overall health & wellness, but can also reduce the risk of chronic illness such as type 2 diabetes & cardiovascular disease.
Improving our gut health requires increasing the number of healthy bacteria in our gut, collectively known as our ‘gut microbiome’, of which fibre plays an important role.
We have long known that fibre is an essential nutrient for digestion & normal gut function. We now know that an increase in the amount & diversity of fibre in our diet, can increase the number of healthy bacteria in our gut.
Current Department of Health guidelines recommend that we consume 30g of fibre each day from a range of sources including fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, beans, seeds and nuts.
In the UK, we do not eat enough fibre. The average adult consumes only 18g a day. To meet your daily dose of gut-boosting fibres, aim for 5 portions of fruit & veg, 3 wholegrains, and 1-2 portions of nuts, seeds or legumes.
We thought we’d share some top tips to help you increase your daily fibre intake with a food first approach & remember, diversity of fibre from a variety of sources is key.
- Eat the rainbow; eat a range of different colours of fruit and vegetables.
- Food swaps; swap your diet staples around. If you regularly eat rice, swap for quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat pasta or other wholegrain options. If you’re keen on chickpeas – change it up and go for kidney beans, butter beans and black beans.
- Sprinkle it on; add nuts and seeds to meals such as porridge, yogurt, salads or stir-fry’s.
- Snack smart; snack on whole fruit, nuts and seeds.
- Reading labels can often be confusing, if there is 6g of fibre or more per 100g, the food is considered to be high in fibre.
- With increasing your fibre intake it is also important to drink plenty of water. Aim for 8-10 cups spread throughout each day.
- It’s recommended to increase your fibre intake gradually to allow your gut to adapt & to avoid gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating & gas.
Set yourself a challenge: aim to eat a variety of 30 different plant-based foods in a week. Let us know how you get on at @kindsnacksuk