Protein is a vital part of the human diet. Without it, the human body cannot complete many functions or build what makes you, you like hair, skin, bones, and muscles. Even though protein is abundant in animal products, there are several alternatives when it comes to protein intake. Let’s take a look at why moringa shines as a complete plant protein!
What’s up with Protein?
Proteins are composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of the human body. Amino acids are biological compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen along with other elements found in their side-chains, which give them different functions. Although many amino acids are known, there are 20 that are found in the genetic code of humans and are essential to human life. These 20 amino acids are used to make proteins that are the structure of the human body and assist in many other reactions. Of the 20 amino acids, 9 are categorized as essential.
Protein is essential to the human diet. A deficiency in protein can cause a host of problems in the human body including: a weak immune system, less antibody activity, fatigue, weight loss, changes in hair and skin, and a decrease in muscle mass.
Essential Amino Acids
You may have heard this term before, but what actually makes an amino acid essential? Since the human body cannot synthesize 9 of the 20 amino acids from other compounds in the body, these 9 are considered essential amino acids. They must be obtained from food to support a healthy body. Luckily, there are many foods that contain protein and thus essential amino acids. However, not all foods are equal in which essential amino acids they contain or the amounts they are present in.
While all essential amino acids aid in the making of proteins in the body, they each have a variety of functions:
- Valine prevents the breakdown of muscles.
- Leucine helps to regulate blood sugar, and the recovery of muscle and bone tissue.
- Isoleucine helps to heal muscle tissue.
- Phenylalanine is precursor for tyrosine (another amino acid), and the neurotransmitters dopamine (feeling of reward), epinephrine (adrenaline), and melanin (skin pigmentation).
- Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin (mood and appetite) and melatonin (sleep and blood pressure regulation).
- Lysine builds muscle, aids in the absorption of calcium, and the creation of antibodies.
- Histidine is a precursor to histamine, which causes inflammation in immune responses.
- Methionine aids with the growth of new blood vessels.
- Threonine aids in the synthesis of antibodies and helps support strong bones and tooth enamel.
Most plant foods are deficient in one or more essential amino acids. For this reason, you can combine together many plant sources of protein as complementary proteins. Together, they can make up for the shortcomings of each other and supply adequate amounts of all 9 essential amino acids. The great thing is, these complementary proteins do not have to be eaten at the same time, just preferably over the course of the same day.
Complementary protein examples include combining a grain like rice, corn, or wheat with a legume like peas, beans, or lentils. Seeds and legumes can work together as well, or grains and milk products.
A complete protein is a source of protein that contains an adequate amount of all 9 of the essential amino acids necessary for the function of the human body.
Most foods from animals sources* such as meat, fish, poultry, and eggs contain essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. Therefore, a diet that includes animal products should supply an adequate about of amino acids. However, for those who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, amino acids and complete proteins may be difficult to come by. Those who are vegetarian and still consume some animal products like milk and eggs, have it a little easier, but it becomes extremely important for those who have cut out all animal products from their diet.
For others, they may just want to cut back on animal sources of protein due to the cost, environmental impact, or may want to decrease their intake of saturated fats.
The good news is, there are some plant foods that are complete proteins. The bad news is, there aren’t many of them: quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and of course, moringa!
Moringa is a Complete Plant Protein
This is just another reason why moringa is a miracle tree. Although it can thrive with little soil and water, a serving of moringa contains all 9 essential amino acids. Not to mention one serving (1 tablespoon) of moringa is a full serving of vegetables. Adding a scoop of Pure Moringa Vegetable Powder to a smoothie or our many recipes, or grabbing a Moringa Superfood Bar can provide a helpful serving of protein and vegetables all rolled in to one.
Check out more of the benefits of adding moringa to your diet!
*If consuming animal products, be sure to check the label! We recommend using cage-free eggs, free-range and organic chicken, and grass-fed beef. Be sure to check for no added hormones or antibiotics.
Wu, G. Amino Acids (2009) 37: 1. doi:10.1007/s00726-009-0269-0
Fürst P, Stehle P (1 June 2004). “What are the essential elements needed for the determination of amino acid requirements in humans?”. Journal of Nutrition. 134 (6 Suppl): 1558S–1565S.
“USDA National Nutrient Database”. USDA.gov