Plant-based proteins have grown in popularity over the past few years and rightly so. They are more sustainable, environmentally friendly, low in fat and have no cholesterol. However, the downside is that plant proteins are not as well absorbed into our bodies as animal proteins. This means that you will need to consume more protein than usual to reach your daily quota.
Plant proteins have many advantages to adding as part of your plant-based diet. With that said it’s worth noting some of the disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the main disadvantages:
1. Low in essential amino acids.
Plant proteins are low in essential aminos acids and need to be combined in order to provide the right balance. For example, soy protein contains all nine essential amino acids but for it to be absorbed, it needs to be combined with rice or pea protein.
While not a deal breaker , it’s important to keep this in mind when adding plant proteins to your diet.
2. Benefits of plant protein can be so low when compared with animal proteins.
Plant proteins are not as easily absorbed into the body as animal proteins and so you need to consume more of it. For example, rice protein is not considered a complete protein (containing all nine essential amino acids) because it lacks the amino acid methionine.
It’s true that some plant proteins have all nine essential amino acids, but the amount you would need to consume for one serve of protein can be very high in carbohydrates and calories .
3. The body is not capable to digest large amounts of raw plants.
This means they’re hard work on your digestive system and this causes stomach discomfort. While it doesn’t lead to any negative health outcomes, it does make you feel fatigued and sluggish. If you want to try plant proteins, then mix them in with a small amount of cooked grains or beans.
This is also why store bought yoghurts often contain too much sugar. The plants are not well digested as they are too large and fibrous . So the sugars in the plants need to be broken down by enzymes from the small intestine which can take large amounts of energy from your body.
4. Compared to animal protein they are less available in general
Animal products are a mainstream form of consumption which means that they are more readily available. In comparison, plant proteins need to be combined with other products in order for them to be consumed. The combination of products required for plant proteins not only adds cost but also time to the process.
5. For a similar amount of protein, you will have to eat more plants
While it’s important that you consume as many plant based proteins as possible, it’s also important that this is done in moderation so you don’t become over consuming calories from protein .
This is especially true if you are eating out at a restaurant as the options are slim at best , unless of course you visit a vegan restaurant.
6. Plant proteins take a long time to digest, compared with meat protein.
The digestion of animal proteins happens more quickly than plant proteins. We break down animal proteins into amino acids which are then either used to build muscle or burned for energy. On the other hand, plant protein takes longer to digest and is broken down into glucose molecules instead, which send signals to your body that it needs energy (AKA calories).
7. They are often lower in quality compared to animal proteins.
In recent years, the rise in popularity of plant proteins has led to the increase of companies producing lower quality products which have less nutrients and more sugar . This means that you will have to eat more plants for your protein to compensate for this.
8. It can get expensive
Replacing animal proteins with plant based proteins can be more expensive, especially if you are trying to replace animal proteins with high quality plant based proteins. This is because high quality plant protein powders such as hemp and pea protein powders tend to cost more.
9. Plant protein is not a “miracle” food that will solve all of your health issues
Not all plant protein sources are created equal, just like any other food product. This means that you will have some options to choose from when it comes to consuming plant protein. However, this does not mean that you should consume a large amount of it or for too long.
A rule of thumb is to consume between 30% to 50% of your daily calories from proteins. If you are currently consuming more than 50%, then it’s not a stretch to say that you could probably benefit from cutting back.
Plant-based diest is a fantastic way to reduce your environmental footprint, improve your health and increase your sustainability. However, there are some drawbacks to consuming large amounts of plant based proteins without enough nutrients.
With that being said a well planned diet can be sustainable and provide you with the right amount of nutrition.