Not all proteins are created equal. Our bodies and digestive systems absorb and use some proteins better than others, so it’s all down to choosing the best proteins for your body.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids which your body needs to function correctly and when a food contains all nine, it is called a complete protein. Complete protein sources are typically animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Some plant-based complete proteins include quinoa, soy, chia seeds, hemp, and buckwheat.
Most vegetable sources of protein tend to lack one or more of the essential amino acids, but combining a host of different plant-based proteins can help vegans and vegetarians consume all nine amino acids in one meal. It’s also worth noting that choosing vegetables as your primary source of protein will result in a reduction in your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol — which is a good thing! This is also a good reason not to solely focus on animal products as sources of protein. Variety is key.
Understanding biological value and protein consumption
To measure how efficient the body uses consumed protein, the biological value was introduced. Food with a high biological value correlates to a high supply of essential amino acids (i.e., the proteins your body needs).
See our infographic for common healthy protein sources and their biological value.
Eating a combination of different protein sources, throughout the day will increase the biological value and range of amino acids consumed; therefore it’s best to eat a wide range of foods. Keep in mind that plant-based foods are typically lower in protein, so the amount you consume should be higher compared to animal-based proteins.
In addition to consuming more of these plant-based protein sources, we can also increase the biological value of a vegetarian meal by combining legumes with whole grains, nuts, or seeds. See some sample meals below.
Complete protein meals from the 8fit recipe book
Rice and beans
Try 8fit’s Rice with Peas dish to meet your protein needs. It’s a simple dish that perfectly blends sweet and savory flavors.
Tofu with sesame seeds
This zucchini soup contains tofu, sesame seeds, and other tasty ingredients. When you eat this for lunch or dinner, you’ll get all of the protein you need in one hearty bowl. Search for it in the 8fit recipe book: Zucchini and Mint Soup with Tofu.
High-protein food list
All 8fit recipes include a healthy balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, so if thinking about biological value is stressing you out, know that you’re on the right track by following your 8fit meal plan.
If you follow a standard diet, healthy high-protein foods sources include:
- Lean beef
If you are vegetarian, dairy and eggs are still on the table, but you might want to include some high-protein plants in your diet as well. High-protein plant-based foods include:
If you happen to be a pescetarian, add healthy sources of protein like:
Do we need protein powder?
A balanced diet of fresh whole foods should provide you with all the protein your body needs. We recommend getting your protein from foods like lean meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, whole grains, lentils and others rather than from highly processed protein powders.
In some cases, however, protein powder can be used as a helpful supplement in your meal plan. For example, if you’re new to a plant-based diet and are still working on your legume cooking skills, adding protein powder can be an easy way to make sure you’re getting enough protein.
Protein powder might also make sense if your meal or snack doesn’t contain enough protein (e.g., a green juice, smoothies or salad). Adding protein powder can help ensure your blood sugar doesn’t spike or crash, leading to cravings, hunger, and fatigue.
You can buy protein powder in several forms including whey, brown rice, soy, hemp and pea protein. Look for a powder with a minimum of 70% protein and no artificial sweeteners — remember the shorter the ingredient list, the better. Refer to our complete guide to protein powders.
High-protein 8fit recipes
Yogurt with fig and walnut
This meal is perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack. When you add our Yogurt with Fig and Walnut bowl to your meal plan, the ingredient and calorie amount automatically update to suit the meal time you chose.
Don’t have a lot of time? Take breakfast on-the-go. This meal is made up of high-protein vegetarian foods (i.e., cheese and nuts) and is the perfect balance of macronutrients, keeping you full and satisfied all morning long. (It’s called Breakfast On-The-Go in the 8fit recipe book.)
Tofu and pineapple skewer
Head into your 8fit meal plan and swap one of your meals for this Tofu and Pineapple Skewer recipe. We promise you won’t regret it.