What is plant-based protein?

What is plant-based protein?
We’re increasingly being told about the benefits of including more plant foods in our diets – both for health and sustainability purposes. Here at Birds Eye, we just want to help you all eat a little more goodness every day. 
This means eating healthy staples such as vegetables, fruits, starchy carbohydrates, and unless you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, fish and lean meat. Eating healthily also means taking in a wide variety of plant-based proteins – but what are these, and how can you incorporate them while retaining protein quality?

What plants are high in protein?

Plant protein is simply a meaningful food source of protein which is from plants. This group can include pulses, tofu, soya, tempeh, seitan, nuts, seeds, certain grains and even peas. Pulses are a large group of plants, which include chickpeas, lentils, beans (such as black, kidney and adzuki beans) and split peas.

Plant proteins are highly nutritious – not only as good sources of protein, but also because they provide other nutrients such as fibre, vitamins and minerals. Our intake of fibre tends to be too low, however by incorporating certain plant proteins into your diet, such as pulses, peas and nuts, you can easily boost your fibre intake. Did you know that our peas, soya beans and green beans are all a great source of plant fibre? 

Why protein is important?

Protein is a vital nutrient responsible for the growth, maintenance and repair of our bodies. So, we must ensure we eat enough high-quality protein every day to keep our bodies healthy. Essentially, protein is fundamental to the basic structure of our body
There are 9 essential amino acids, and when you eat a protein source containing all of these it is called a ‘complete’ protein. Animal protein sources are complete, and they include fish, poultry such as chicken and red meat. 

Plant sources of protein, with the exception of soya and quinoa, are ‘incomplete’. This is because plant protein sources tend to lack at least 1 of the 9 essential amino acids. So how can you ensure that you consume all of the essential amino acids when eating plant proteins? The answer is protein combining.

What is protein combining? 

Put simply, protein combining means eating a selection of incomplete plant protein sources, to ensure you consume all of the essential amino acids. As a general rule of thumb, pulses and grains lack different essential amino acids. So, eating a pulse and a grain provides an overall complete protein source. 

With this in mind, it’s easy to get all the essential amino acids your body needs. For example, a serving of rice and peas or bread and hummus would give you a complete protein source. And remember, you needn’t eat your combined proteins in just one meal – they can be eaten at different points during the day or even the week!

How to adopt a plan-based diet?

The plant-based diet is rather simple and easy to get your head around as it’s centred around foods derived from plant sources. Plant-based diets cheer on the eating of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, seeds and nuts, meaning these foods comprise the majority of what you eat. To give you a helping hand, our frozen vegetables are a simple yet delicious place to start if you’re looking to slowly add more plants into your lifestyle, without making the full move. 

At first you may think this is a classic vegan or vegetarian diet. It’s not a plant-based diet only, it is far more flexible and doesn’t boycott dairy, meat, seafood and eggs altogether. Its easy-going and inclusive approach make this diet an attractive one – nobody likes rules, after all! And what’s more, flexitarian diets promote consuming a wide variety of plant foods, so there are of course numerous nutritional benefits to adopting this way of eating.  

As a nation, we currently struggle to keep up with this figure, however with a plant-based diet heavily relying on fruit and vegetables, you’re likely to find it easier to consume the recommended amount. Likewise, as beans and pulses are greatly encouraged, you’re expected to have an increased intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals – ideal as most of us are also not consuming enough fibre! To give you a snapshot of how humble vegetables house an array of nutritional benefits, peas provide protein, fibre, folic acid and vitamin C. It’s natural to think that a plant-based diet can lead to a lack of protein, but this is far from the truth – plants provide protein too!

If you’re trying to move towards more of a plant-based diet, now is a great time to get creative and experiment with new flavours and combinations that you’ve never tried before! Our Meat-Free Burgers, Sausages and Swedish Style Balls are packed with protein and provide fibre, and each have their own tasty combo of herbs and spices. What’s not to love?!  
So why not get a taste for the flexitarian lifestyle with Green Cuisine and discover just how delicious and different plant-based foods can be!