Want to build and keep muscle, help your bones and teeth stay strong, and support your body’s key functions? Go on this little amino acid journey with us to understand why getting the nine essential amino acids (your body can't make) from the foods you eat plays a big role in bone and muscle health.
Amino acids are essential because they’re the building blocks of proteins, which play a crucial role in the structure and function of cells, tissues, and organs in our body, including muscles, bones, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies.
Not feeling more of the Amino Acid 101? Skip down to the how-to-get them and tips part.
There are 20 different amino acids that are needed for protein synthesis in our body. Of these 20, we cannot produce nine and need to get them from the foods we eat. These nine essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Animal products like beef, fish, dairy, and eggs contain enough of every one of these essential amino acids (they’re considered complete proteins). You know we’re big on plants, and if you’re the same (or simply want to fill your plate with more of them), there are many plant-source complete proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids. They also come with a ton of other essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Below, we’re sharing some of our go-to complete plant proteins plus 5-minute-prep recipes and tips that make it easy to get your nine essentials in daily. Bonus: our smoothies & bowls are packed with a bunch of these plant-source complete proteins.
Complete Plant-Based Proteins
One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein.
In addition to being a complete protein, quinoa provides more magnesium, iron, fiber, and zinc than many common grains.You can use quinoa in place of rice in most recipes, add to salads, or mix into oatmeal.
Blended Recipe Hack:
Heat 1 package of our Sweet Potato Coconut Soup with ½ cup water (so it is a pureed sauce texture). Cook 2 cups quinoa. Sautee 4 cups your fave veggies with 1 tbsp olive oil and a dash or two of sea salt.
Serves 2 (making for one - this is a delicious leftovers dish).
Plate 1 cup cooked, warm quinoa, top with 2 cups sauteed veggies, ½ of the sweet potato coconut puree. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.
Pro-tip: cook up a larger batch of quinoa at the start of your week and simply warm up portions as you go (or enjoy cold in salads or bowls).
Ezekiel bread is made from sprouted whole grains and legumes, including barley, soybeans, wheat, lentils, millet, and spelt.
Two slices (68 grams) of the bread contain 8 grams of protein. Unlike most breads, the combination of whole grains and legumes in Ezekiel bread provides all nine essential amino acids. Try it for your next avocado toast creation! Recipe ideas here.
For an extra protein boost, use Ezekiel bread to make a vegan BLT sandwich with tempeh instead of bacon, or toast the bread and top it with peanut butter and chia seeds.
Bonus: suggest that sprouting grains and legumes increases their amino acid content, especially their content of the amino acid lysine.
Tofu, Tempeh, and Edamame
Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all derived from whole soybeans and are excellent sources of complete protein. A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of edamame or tofu provides 8 grams of protein, while the same serving of tempeh has 11 grams.
Tofu Prep: tofu will take on the flavours you cook with – add into stir-fry dishes, soups (great in all three of our soups), salads
Pro-tip: tofu on its own is on the bland-taste side, try using firm or extra firm and marinade with a little dressing ahead when adding to cold dishes.
Tempeh Prep: has a meatier texture and great meat-substitute. Check out a bunch of recipes from the Minimalist Baker: 12 Tempeh Recipes
Edamame Prep: boil or steam enjoy on their own with a dash of sea salt, or add shelled to salads, bowls, sautés.
Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, is one of our favourite boosters because of its high iron, B Vitamin, and antioxidant content. One tablespoon provides 4 grams of complete protein. Best way to use? In your smoothies!
Find it in our Deep Green blends, which are also packed with ingredients that support the absorption of iron, B Vitamins and are high in fibre.
In addition to being a source of complete protein, hemp hearts are particularly rich in the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). Three tablespoons (30 grams) of raw, hulled hemp seeds have 10 grams of protein and 15% of the DV for iron. They’re also a good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.
Prep: add to oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, smoothies, or sprinkle over salads.
Blended smoothies that pack hemp seeds: Inside & Out Acai, Acai Radiance, Nutty Chocolate Lover, Choco Banana Hero, Maca Energy, Shroom Energy.
Chia seeds are tiny round seeds that are often black or white.
They’re unique in that they can absorb liquid and form a gel-like substance. As a result, they can be used to make puddings and pectin-free jams. They’re also commonly used as an egg substitute in vegan baking.
can also be used raw as a topping for oatmeal or salads, mixed into baked goods, or added to smoothies.
Two tablespoons (28 grams) of chia seeds provide 4 grams of protein. They’re also a good source of omega-3s, iron, calcium, magnesium, and selenium
Blended smoothies that pack chia seeds: Chia Energy Bowl, Acai Organic Bowl, Daily Chai, Cherry Bomb, Organic Green Mo, Blue Coconut Keto, Vita-C Immunity, Tropical Cherry.