“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
-Michael Pollan, clean food campaigner
(image source: Getty)
Whey (dairy) protein powders were the norm for a long time; but as nutritional science advances, it’s become easier to pair plants together to formulate plant-based protein powders that offer complete nutritional profiles.
For protein powders, that nutritional profile is all about the amino acids in the formulation. Amino acids are used to make proteins, which are often called the “building blocks of life” because our body needs them for all of its essential processes.
Your body can make ten of the 19 essential amino acids it needs, which leaves nine essential amino acids that the body can’t make. So, we need to get those from our diet. And for anyone who feels too time-poor to prepare three nutritionally-balanced meals each day or has high protein requirements, a protein supplement is an excellent option.
Going with a plant-based protein eliminates the middle-man (or, more accurately, the middle animal). Whey protein comes from cows and cows can’t make those nine essential amino acids either – they get them through diet, just like us! So, some might say it makes far more sense for us to get our nutrients directly from the plant source; it’s easier for our body to process, far more sustainable and accompanied by the co-nutrients that naturally occur in plants.
1. Complete with Natural Co-Nutrients
When plant-based protein powders are made with wholefoods, the protein in the formulation comes with the plant’s co-factors. These co-factors (e.g. micronutrients, enzymes) help your body digest and use the protein as efficiently as possible. And because research has identified these co-factors and their roles, plant-based protein powders can actually be enriched with extra enzymes to make the absorption process even more efficient. For example, Activated Nutrients Daily Protein was formulated with additional digestive enzymes bromelaine and protease (both from natural sources) to help your body break down the protein and utilise the amino acids in the powder.
2. Gentle on the Digestive System
Whey protein powders contain lactose and many adults are lactose intolerant. Some people have more difficulty with it than others, but it’s a common issue. If you’re at all intolerant, your body won’t process the lactose and it’ll pass through your system, potentially causing gastrointestinal upset along the way. In contrast, plant-based proteins are gentle and easy to digest, minimising the risk of digestive issues that some people experience with whey (dairy) protein. This is partly because the structure of plants is easier for your body to break down, but also because the co-nutrients we mentioned above help your body digest every part of the plant, including the protein, optimally.
3. Environmentally Sustainable
Most plant-based protein powders are developed with pea as their main protein source. Pea is truly sustainable produce; not only is it an excellent source of protein for the human body, pea plants actually enrich the soil in which they’re grown. In contrast, whey protein originates with livestock, which is notoriously detrimental to the environment when raised on a large scale.
4. Complete Amino Acid Profile
These days, we are fortunate enough to have access to a wide range of plant-based raw materials and a much greater understanding of the science behind digestibility and amino acid uptake. This makes it possible to develop a plant-based protein that meets the requirements for a balanced, complete protein supplement. For example, Activated Nutrients Daily Protein offers a complete amino acid profile by combining pea and Amazonian sacha inchi.
5. Nutrient Diversity
Not only are we reaping the benefits of the protein from these plants, we’re also diversifying our diet by consuming them. Peas, for instance, have an excellent nutritional resumé of additional benefits. They are known to have anti-inflammatory properties; they contain vitamin B1 and folate, B2, B3 and B6; they’re high in fibre; and more. A serving of peas may not make it onto your plate every day, so these built-in benefits of the wholefoods in plant-based protein powders are a brilliant bonus.
Traditionally, protein supplements have been linked to people that partake in high intensity exercise. But a wholefood plant-based protein powder can help anyone bridge nutritional gaps in their diet and fuel their body with an efficient source of energy every day.