Vegan High-Quality Protein Sources
Proteins composed of amino acids are essential for optimal health. In every unprocessed plant-based food, you can find essential amino acids. However, for many foods, the amounts of amino acids they contain individually are not sufficient to adequately meet the amino acid requirements. Therefore, there is an increasing emphasis on high-quality proteins or high-quality protein sources.
What Are High-Quality Proteins?
High-quality protein is defined by the ratio of essential amino acids to the total amount of protein 1. When a high ratio is achieved, it is referred to as a high-quality protein in food. Furthermore, protein quality is also described as a protein's ability to produce metabolic effects in the organism 2. Moreover, they are of great importance for muscle building, muscle maintenance, and regeneration.
When all nine essential amino acids are present in sufficient quantities in a food, it can be referred to as a high-quality protein for humans.
Requirements For Essential Amino Acids
The following recommended daily amounts of amino acids are considered as guidelines (IOM = Institute of Medicine, 2005) 3:
|Amino Acid||mg per kg body weight|
|Methionine and Cysteine||19|
|Phenylalanine and Tyrosine||33|
If these values can be met or exceeded by a food, the corresponding food is considered high-quality for humans.
Plant-Based Foods With High-Quality Proteins
The following selection of plant-based foods exceed or almost reach the amino acid values mentioned above, based on 100g of each food:
|Food||Protein per 100 g|
|Chia Seeds||16.5 g|
|Hemp Seeds||31.6 g|
|Pumpkin Seeds||30.2 g|
|Dried Spirulina (Caution, high in iodine)||57.5 g|
Studies On High-Quality Proteins
Research shows that consuming high-quality proteins within 24 hours and meeting the daily requirement of amino acids is positively associated with lean mass, bone mineral density, and bone mineral content 4. According to the scientists, these proteins also have an inverse relationship with body fat percentage. This ultimately means that body fat can be reduced and bones can be strengthened with high-quality proteins.
Newer studies show that high-quality proteins have a fat-reducing effect 5. Consuming these proteins within 24 hours is associated with a lower percentage of abdominal fat.
What About Foods Without High-Quality Protein?
Many foods do not contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. But don't panic! With a healthy and balanced diet, all amino acids are usually consumed. For example, if the body is missing some amino acids, the body can temporarily store the available free amino acids (amino acid pool). When the next meal contains the "missing" amino acids, the free amino acids are combined into proteins and peptides as usual. It is not necessary to combine certain foods to obtain a perfect amino acid profile. For an overview of protein-rich foods, click here (List: Foods high in protein).