Animal food proteins are usually regarded as better than vegan protein sources because the latter products are thought to have incomplete proteins. This makes many people wonder whether they are having enough proteins from plant-based food. Anyhow, there exist several reasons why these are misconceptions rather than facts. Here, we will differentiate ‘incomplete’ and ‘complete’ proteins. We will also discuss why vegans have no cause to be concerned about having an excessive quantity of incomplete proteins and not enough of the complete ones.
What Do Incomplete Proteins Mean?
Amino acids are substances that form the protein. Hundreds of these acids are in nature, but it takes just 20 of these to create every protein in the human body. Amino acids can be classified into the following forms.
- Essential acids: These comprise the 9 substances that the body cannot produce. You can have these only from your plant-based and/or non-vegan food items.
- Non-essential acids: These are the rest of the 11 acids that the body will usually produce from the 9 substances mentioned above.
- Conditionally essential acids: While usually regarded as the non-essential acids, these become essential in adolescence, under some circumstances like trauma, or during pregnancy.
Food items with good quantities of every essential amino acid are regarded as complete protein sources. On the contrary, foods that lack the 9 acids are deemed incomplete protein sources.
What Food Items Have ‘Incomplete’ Protein?
Unlike what most people believe, almost all plant-based food and non-vegan food items have each essential amino acid. The difference is in the quantities of the acids present in these food items. For example, meat, egg, dairy items, and fish are high in all of the essential acids. Conversely, plants are often low in at least some of the amino acids, according to the classification to which these products belong.
For instance, legumes and vegetables are often low in cysteine and methionine, whereas nuts, seeds, and grains tend to have low quantities of lysine. This means being on a diet with not enough quantities of both food groups may result in a shortage of essential acids. Therefore, vegan food products are usually deemed incomplete protein sources, whereas animal-based food items are regarded as the complete ones.
Soy, amaranth, nutritional yeast, hemp, chia seeds, and quinoa are all exceptions. In other words, these products provide good quantities of the 9 acids, so they are viewed as complete vegan protein sources.
Will I Have Sufficient Complete Proteins From A Vegan Or Vegetarian Diet?
Both vegetarian and vegan food items are believed to be low in the kinds of protein usually found in animal-based products. This is the reason why several individuals feel that the complete protein they ingest is not enough. However, aside from some exceptions, it is seldom the fact.
There exists no evidence that vegetarians and vegans have a protein deficiency, except maybe the minority who does any of the following.
- Consumes too few plant-based calories;
- Follows a restricted or monotonous food eating pattern, like a fully fruit- or a potato-based diet.
Nevertheless, absorbing plant-based protein is potentially tougher for the human body than taking in protein from animal-based food items. Therefore, vegans are occasionally told to consume a bit more protein as compared to non-vegetarians.
That said, there exists evidence indicating that the aforesaid difference in protein absorption is not enough to make vegans short of the essential acids. In short, you would have no reason to bother about not having enough complete protein from a vegan diet, if you meet the following conditions.
- The vegan diet of yours is sufficiently rich in calories; plus,
- It offers a reasonable variety of complete protein sources.
Vegan Milk Versus Cow Milk: Which Is A Better Protein Source
Cow milk usually has 8,000 milligrams of protein. Many people consider it a better protein source than vegan milk. However, this is not true as compared to all forms of plant-based milk products. Almond milk is lower in the nutrient as compared to cow’s milk. However, pea milk is greater in protein than cow milk. Whichever form of milk that you should choose for your diet, just confirm that it has about 9 grams of the nutrient per serving.
Anyhow, protein is not the only thing to think about when choosing milk. One aspect where cow milk is superior to the plant-based product is taste. It tastes better and many people feel that plant based milk does not taste particularly good. That said, it is worth noting that most people do not choose it for taste. Rather, the reason why they go for the product has more to do with health and/or their diet.
An aspect where vegan milk is better is in the environmental impact. It is more environment-friendly as compared to cow milk.