Let’s face it, we as a society are protein obsessed. From protein bars to powders and everything in between, there are more options than ever before. But with all of these options comes plenty of clutter, questions, and confusion. While nutritionists agree that protein is an essential macronutrient required for our beautiful bodies to function properly, experts also agree that not all protein is created equal. So, how do we know which type of protein to choose? And how much do we actually need?
Do we actually need it?
The short answer is yes, you do. The long answer: protein does so much for your body beyond building muscle mass and holding you over in between meals. Protein helps our bodies generate new skin, hair and nail cells, it facilitates digestion, and it helps neurotransmitters communicate between your brain and the rest of your body.
How much do we need?
It’s important to consume at least some protein with every meal, and nutritionists recommend upping your intake on days when you’re hitting the gym. Everyone’s needs are different based on age, gender, and physical activity, but the general rule of thumb is to aim for 0.36 grams of protein for every pound you weigh - so, for a 140 lb woman that correlates to ~50g of protein each day.
Plant-Based VS Animal-Based Proteins - Does it Even Matter?
When it comes to protein sources, we like to break it down into two categories: protein derived from animals, and protein derived from plants. We favor plant protein over animal protein, as diets high in animal protein have been linked to diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. Plant proteins are easily digestible and bioavailable, and have a much smaller environmental impact compared to animal-derived proteins.
Yes, there’s a reason why your mom told you to eat those peas as a kid. We love pea protein because it’s hypoallergenic, very bioavailable, and easy on the digestive system. Pea protein also contains beneficial phenolic compounds that offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Plus, it truly has a pea-sized environmental footprint, as peas are grown and harvested without the use of nitrogen fertilizers that can cause runoff and environmental pollution. There’s so many reasons to love the mighty pea, which is why we use it as the #1 source of protein in Siren Snacks.
Can I get a hemp hemp hooray? Hemp protein is derived from seeds of hemp plants, which are actually closely related to the cannabis plant (but don’t worry, there are no psychoactive properties in hemp protein). Hemp is high in protein and contain all 9 essential amino acids, making hemp a complete protein. Hemp protein tends to have an earthy, nutty flavor to it, which works well in many recipes.
Another common plant protein is rice protein, which is produced by removing the starch and carbohydrates from the rice grain. Rice protein tends to have a very neutral taste, but if you’re purchasing a rice protein powder or consuming foods made with rice protein, just be sure to check where it’s produced - some rice proteins grown in Asia have been found to contain Arsenic and other trace metals.
Soy protein is the OG of plant protein powders, as it’s been around for decades and is found in hundreds of products. Soy protein is considered the most neutral tasting plant protein, which means it adds hardly any flavor or off-taste if you’re adding it to your smoothies or shakes. But buyer beware - most of the soy sold today is genetically modified, so read your labels and make sure you’re buying a soy protein that is Non-GMO Verified! Soy also contains phytoestrogens, which some people believe can cause hormonal imbalance.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, you can still experience the wonders of plant-based proteins by gradually incorporating them into your diet. Try committing to meatless Mondays and whey free Wednesdays. Or, swap that pack of dry jerky for a delicious, plant-based snack with Siren Snacks!