Why do we need protein so badly?
Let’s start precisely with that – why do we need protein? It is an ingredient that is essential for the body to function properly. There are twenty amino acids that make up protein, nine of which we cannot produce ourselves – we have to get them from food.
Among other things, protein is needed for the construction and reconstruction of tissues; it is also a component of blood and lymph and of biologically active compounds, for example hormones and enzymes. Of course, that’s not all. Protein is important for our immunity, is a carrier for vitamins and nutrients, and helps regulate blood pressure.
For physically active people, protein is particularly important, as it promotes recovery after training. One recent study reports:
“The higher protein requirement in athletes, compared to non-athletes, is related to the need to repair muscle damage caused during exercise, increased muscle protein synthesis (especially in strength disciplines) and the maintenance of optimal muscle mass. In endurance disciplines, additionally, prolonged exercise leads to increased oxidation of certain amino acids (mainly leucine), which requires a higher protein intake” .
In the same study, the researchers point out that athletes do not need to rely on so-called protein supplements at all. Protein obtained from a well-balanced diet is completely sufficient, and overdosing has its consequences – leading, among others, to acidification of the body. Acidification can in turn become the cause of various chronic diseases, including diabetes, gout and even cancer.
Good sources of plant-based protein – why should your diet be diverse?
Legumes, soya, nuts and seeds and spirulina (1 teaspoon = 6 g of protein) are rich in protein. It is worth knowing that there are different types of plant-based proteins – for example, wheat protein, corn protein, rice protein, soya protein, potato protein, pea protein. Each provides a different type of amino acids. This is why it is important to have a varied diet. As a result, we are able to meet the daily requirement for these ingredients.
Here are products that are a great source of protein, not just for vegans .
- Soy products:
- tofu (1 glass = 24 g of protein),
- tempeh (1 glass = 34 g of protein).
It is worth mentioning that this category will also include the various meat substitutes that can currently be found in the shops. Many products “pretending” to be meat are based precisely on soya protein. You can read more about this in the article: Meat Substitutes From the Perspective of a Dietitian – 6 Things to Look Out for When Buying a “Veggie Patty”.
- chickpeas (1 glass of cooked chickpeas = 14 g of protein),
- lentils (1 glass of cooked lentils = 18 g of protein).
- Nuts and seeds:
- hemp seeds (3 tablespoons = 10 g of protein),
- pumpkin seeds (3 tablespoons = 9 g of protein),
- peanut butter (2 tablespoons = 6 g of protein),
- flax (3 tablespoons = 6 g of protein),
- chia seeds (3 tablespoons = 9 g of protein),
- almonds (1/4 glass = 6 g of protein).
- quinoa (1/2 glass = 12 g of protein),
- brown rice (1/2 glass = 6 g of protein),
- spelt (1/2 glass = 12 g of protein),
- amaranth (1/2 glass = 13 g of protein),
- buckwheat groats (1 glass of raw groats = 23 g of protein).
Complete sources of protein in plant-based products
We mentioned earlier that there are amino acids that the human body does not produce and must be supplemented through the diet. The so-called essential amino acids include valine, isoleucine, leucine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and tryptophan.
Some plant-based products contain all of these, which is why we call them complete protein sources. These include:
- soy products (tofu, tempeh, yoghurts and soy drinks),
- hemp seeds,
- seitan (meat substitute made from wheat gluten),
- buckwheat groats.
According to researchers, plant-based protein can meet all our needs, but the prerequisite is the correct composition of meals in such a way as to provide the body with a variety of amino acids. . It will be invaluable to combine cereals and legumes, for example by eating groats together with chickpeas, lentils with pasta, etc.
Why include plant-based protein in your diet?
Research shows that plant-based protein has health benefits. It positively influences heart health, supports maintenance of healthy body weight, and reduces the risk of diabetes and cancer. Interestingly, people who consume more plant-based protein than animal protein are likely to live longer! 
 Mirosław Jarosz, Jadwiga Charzewska, Bożena Wajszczyk, Zofia Chwojnowska, Czy wiesz, ile potrzebujesz białka?, Instytut Żywienia i Żywności, 2019.
 Plant-based protein – A simple guide to getting enough, https://www.chhs.colostate.edu/krnc/monthly-blog/plant-based-protein-a-simple-guide-to-getting-enough/, dostęp online: 15.08.2023.
  Hertzler SR, Lieblein-Boff JC, Weiler M, Allgeier C. Plant Proteins: Assessing Their Nutritional Quality and Effects on Health and Physical Function. Nutrients. 2020 Nov 30;12(12):3704. doi: 10.3390/nu12123704. PMID: 33266120; PMCID: PMC7760812.