In today's health-conscious world, there is a growing trend towards adopting plant-based diets. The benefits of incorporating more plant-based protein into our daily meals are undeniable, and the results can be truly transformative.
From weight loss and lean muscle growth to improved digestion and energy levels, plant-based protein has the power to revolutionise your health and well-being. Now, don’t panic, we’re not telling you to go full vegan, but you could give the flexitarian diet a crack.
What is Flexitarianism
Flexitarianism is a relatively new and exciting way of thinking about food and diet. Flexitarians choose to eat primarily vegetarian meals but occasionally incorporate meat into their diets. This approach offers many health benefits by promoting a plant-based diet while still allowing for the enjoyment and sustenance that meat can provide.
Unlike traditional vegetarianism or veganism, flexitarianism is flexible and allows individuals to make choices that work for them. When following a flexitarian diet, it is essential to focus on nutrient-dense plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. By doing so, flexitarians can ensure that they are consuming all of the vital nutrients necessary for optimal health. With the rise in awareness of the environmental and ethical implications of meat consumption, flexitarianism has become an increasingly popular option that provides a healthy, sustainable, and delicious way to eat (Kubala, J. 2022).
When it comes to the flexitarian diet, one of the simplest ways to incorporate more plant-based nutrients into your diet is by ditching the whey protein and substituting it with plant-based protein powder.
Understanding plant-based protein
So, how does plant-based protein powder compare to whey protein powder? Let’s take a look at what plant-based protein powders do differently.
Plant-based protein refers to protein derived from sources like legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. These sources are not only rich in protein but also packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Unlike animal-based protein, plant-based protein is often lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a healthier choice for those looking to improve their overall well-being (UCLA Health. 2022).
One of the key factors to consider when embracing a plant-based diet is ensuring you consume a variety of plant-based protein sources. This can help you meet your daily protein requirements and ensure you receive a wide range of essential amino acids. Additionally, plant-based protein sources are often high in fibre, which aids in digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer (UCLA Health. 2022).
If you're interested in following a flexitarian diet, incorporating more plant-based protein sources into your meals is a great way to do so. Whether you're vegetarian or simply looking to reduce your meat intake, there are plenty of tasty and nutritious options to choose from.
Adding a few flexitarian recipes to your weekly meal plan will not only provide a healthy dose of protein, but a rich source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. By adopting a flexitarian diet, you'll be able to enjoy a wide range of delicious and satisfying meals while still following the principles of flexitarianism.
The health benefits of plant-based protein
Incorporating plant-based protein into your diet can have numerous health benefits. Firstly, it can aid in weight loss and weight management. Plant-based protein sources are typically lower in calories than animal-based protein sources, making them a great choice for those looking to shed some pounds. If you're frequently hitting the gym, or trying to reach specific body goals, adopting the principles of the flexitarian diet into your meals, and substituting a few meat-based protein meals with some flexitarian recipes is an excellent way to diversify your diet and optimise your performance.
Additionally, the high fibre content in plant-based protein can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote feelings of satiety, reducing the risk of overeating (Garone, S. 2022).
Furthermore, plant-based protein has been linked to improved heart health and other health benefits. Studies have shown that diets rich in plant-based protein can help lower body mass index, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. The absence of cholesterol in plant-based protein sources also plays a significant role in promoting cardiovascular health (Tuso, P. 2013).
Common sources of plant-based protein
We touched on it above, but let’s take a look at some of the most common plant-based protein sources.
There are plenty of delicious and nutritious plant-based protein sources available. Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and black beans, are excellent sources of protein and can be incorporated into soups, stews, and salads. If you're looking to delve into flexitarianism, there are plenty of high-quality plant-protein sources that can make the flexitarian diet easy to approach.
Nuts and seeds, including almonds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, are also packed with protein and can be enjoyed as snacks or added to smoothies and baked goods (Petre, A. 2023).
Grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats are not only rich in protein but also provide a good amount of fibre and other essential nutrients. Additionally, soy-based products like tofu and tempeh are popular plant-based protein options that can be used in various dishes, from stir-fries to sandwiches (Petre, A. 2023).
When it comes to plant-based protein powders, the most common source of plant-based protein includes pea protein, pumpkin protein, watermelon seed protein, sunflower seed protein, peanut protein, almond protein, brown rice protein, chia seed protein and more (Groth, L. 2023).
If you’re looking for a great example of a plant-based protein powder, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein contains a plant-based blueprint of pea, fava bean and brown rice proteins. We know you love your whey protein, but if you're consuming a lot of animal protein sources in your diet, it might be beneficial to switch out your whey protein for a plant-based protein powder. Plus, Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant Protein is delicious - you won't even realise it's plant-based!
Plant-based protein for athletes and fitness enthusiasts
Contrary to popular belief, plant-based protein can adequately fuel athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Studies have shown that whey and plant-based protein powders can be equally effective at promoting muscle growth, as long as they contain a similar amount of protein and BCAAs in each serving (Davidson, K. 2021).
Many plant-based protein sources are complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body and are equally suitable for muscle hypertrophy. If you're worried that adopting plant protein or pursuing flexitarianism may hinder your muscle growth results, don't worry - you're in safe hands with plant protein. By combining different plant-based protein sources throughout the day, athletes can easily meet their protein requirements and support muscle growth and recovery.
Plant-based protein powders, such as pea protein, rice protein, and hemp protein, are also readily available and can be used as supplements to boost protein intake, especially for those engaging in intense physical activities. These plant-based protein powders can be added to smoothies, shakes, or even baked goods to increase protein content.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein contains a complete EAA/BCAA profile with all nine essential amino acids, and contains 24g of plant protein per serving. As a result, this plant protein is considered a complete source and should be as effective as a whey-based protein.
Plant-based protein and disease prevention
If ever you needed more convincing about flexitarianism and plant-based protein, here it is. Plant protein can work wonders for your health (and we mean beyond just muscle growth).
In addition to promoting overall health and well-being, plant-based protein has been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Research has shown that diets rich in plant-based protein sources, combined with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help prevent conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer (Overmyer, J. 2023).
The antioxidants and phytochemicals found in plant-based protein sources play a crucial role in protecting cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Additionally, the fibre content in plant-based protein helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which is essential for overall immune function (Overmyer, J. 2023).
Plant-based protein supplements and their effectiveness
The Bottom Line: Embracing the power of plant-based protein
Incorporating more plant-based protein into your diet and adding a few different flexitarian recipes into your weekly meal plans can have a profound impact on your health and well-being.
From weight loss and improved heart health to disease prevention and better digestion, the benefits are undeniable. By adopting flexitarianism and understanding the different plant-based protein sources (and then incorporating them into your meals), you can achieve a balanced and nutritious diet that supports your fitness goals and overall health.
Remember to diversify your protein sources and include a variety of legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains in your meals. Experiment with different flexitarian recipes and cooking methods to keep your meals exciting and enjoyable. Plant-based protein is not only good for your health but also good for the planet. By reducing our reliance on animal-based protein, we can contribute to a more sustainable future.
Kubala, J. 2022. ‘The Flexitarian Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide’, Healthline, accessed 9 August 2023, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/flexitarian-diet-guide
UCLA Health. 2022, ‘Is plant-based protein for you? Here’s what you need to know’, UCLA Health, accessed 9 August 2023, https://www.uclahealth.org/news/is-plant-based-protein-for-you-heres-what-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Plants%20provide%20the%20essential%20amino%20acids%20you%20need&text=Hunnes%20says%20that%20eating%20a,body%20needs%2C%E2%80%9D%20she%20says.
Garone, S. 2022, ‘How to Lose Weight on a Plant-Based Diet’, Everyday Health, accessed 9 August 2023, https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-on-a-plant-based-diet/
Tuso, P. 2013, ‘Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets’, The Permanente Journal, accessed 9 August 2023, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3662288/
Petre, A. 2023, ‘The 18 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians’, Healthline, accessed 10 August 2023, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/protein-for-vegans-vegetarians
Groth, L. 2023. ‘Best Vegan Protein Powders Of 2023, According To Experts’, Forbes Health, accessed 10 August 2023, https://www.forbes.com/health/body/vegan-protein-powder/
Davidson, K. 2021, ‘Plant-Based Protein vs Whey Protein: Which Is Better? Healthline, accessed 10 August 2023, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/whey-vs-plant-protein
Overmyer, J. 2023, ‘7 Diseases Plant Protein Help Fight’, Growing Naturals, accessed 10 August 2023, https://growingnaturals.com/blogs/articles/7-diseases-plant-proteins-help-fight#:~:text=Plant%20proteins%20are%20also%20excellent,help%20decrease%20LDL%20cholesterol%20levels.