31 Oct Collagen, Proteins and Veganism — A “Nothing to Hide” Interview with NAKED NUTRITION
Sitting down for an insider interview with one of the lead nutritionists from the team of Naked Nutrition. While this post is sponsored, all of the information provided is from an educational standpoint, and opinions provided are my own.
“Are you vegan?” is a question I get asked often. When you say you do yoga, one of the first assumptions I get back is that, that I’m vegan and eat zero animal products.
The truth? I’m about 95% plant-based, meaning I eat mainly “vegan-based” foods with a mix of clean animal products mixed on. I’m a “flexitarian,” the preferred word choice, if you must categorize me.
Collagen and proteins are two of the hot nutrition topics that are questioned and discussed when it comes to being vegan (or, in my case, flexitarian). So, when Naked Nutrition invited me to test out their collagen and interview one of their in-house nutritionists, I jumped at the chance to unocover more TRUTHS about these topics.
Let’s jump in!
Images provided by Naked Nutrition.
INTERVIEW WITH Grace Goodwin Dwyer, MS, MA, RD, LDN.
LFW: WHAT ARE SOME VEGAN FOODS THAT ARE HIGH IN PROTEIN?
GGD: Many people who are new to being vegan or vegetarian worry that they won’t get enough protein – but in fact, so many plant foods offer the protein that we need to thrive.
Here are some examples of vegan foods that naturally contain protein: lentils, beans, soy (like tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and edamame), seitan, nuts, seeds, textured vegetable protein, and certain grains (like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat).
Vegans can also enjoy foods that are plant-based alternatives to typically animal-based products – like plant-based burgers, non-dairy yogurts, and more. Many of these foods contain added protein to help match their non-vegan counterpart.
LFW: WHAT SHOULD SOMEONE LOOK FOR IN PLANT-BASED PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS?
GGD: There’s never been an easier time to be vegan with so many high-quality (and tasty) plant-based products on the market these days. With that said, there are so many options that it can feel overwhelming knowing which vegan protein supplements to choose.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you shop around for plant-based protein:
- Look for a supplement that comes from a reputable company with third-party testing or certification. Because supplements are not regulated in the United States, third-party testers help verify that the product contains what it actually says it does on the label.
- Consider whether you’re looking for a protein powder that contains micronutrients (i.e., vitamins and minerals) or one that is purely protein. If you’re already taking a multivitamin, you might be better off with a pure protein powder, since it is possible to overdo it on micronutrients.
LFW: WHAT TYPE OF VEGAN PROTEIN POWDER HAS THE HIGHEST AMOUNT PER SERVING?
GGD: Pea protein is one of the heavy hitters when we look at protein per serving. The pea protein powder from Naked Nutrition has 27g per serving, which rivals most animal-based protein products. Similarly, brown rice protein can offer as high as 25 grams of protein per serving.
I wouldn’t recommend seeking any higher protein than this, since our bodies can only absorb so much in one sitting. It’s widely accepted that 30 grams of protein is about the maximum that our bodies can benefit from in one meal.
LFW: WHAT CAN YOU DO TO INCREASE PROTEIN ABSORPTION?
Some people have questions about the bioavailability of vegan proteins.
GGD: It’s true that plant proteins are typically slightly less bioavailable than animal ones. In other words, your body absorbs and uses a slightly lower percentage of the protein found in plants compared to the protein found in animals.
This difference is only slight, but might nonetheless feel concerning if you’re vegan.
One of the most effective and simplest ways to approach this is to ensure that you’re eating plenty of protein overall.
Most people who are low to moderately active need about 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight. That means if you’re 150 lb (or 68 kg), you need about 54-68 grams of protein per day. If you’re concerned about protein bioavailability, sticking towards the higher end of the range will help ensure that you have plenty.
If you’re a higher-intensity athlete, you may need 1.2 grams of protein or higher per kilogram of your weight.
There are a few other strategies you can use to potentially enhance plant proteins’ bioavailability. One involves reducing the amount of phytic acid found in foods, since this naturally occurring compound may get in the way of protein’s digestibility. Soaking legumes before cooking them helps get rid of some phytic acid.
Another strategy is to add some vegan protein powder to your diet. Protein powders made from legumes (like pea protein) are easier to digest than legumes in their natural form thanks to how they are processed.
As is often the case with nutrition, a balanced, varied approach is the key to making sure you’re getting everything that you need. That means eating as wide an array as possible of vegan protein sources.
LFW: WHAT’S THE BEST WAY FOR VEGANS TO GET ZINC AND B-12?
GGD: Let’s start with Vitamin B-12, which is hugely important for vegans. Vitamin B-12 only occurs naturally in animal products.
That means vegans need to find it through either supplements or fortified foods.
- B-12 supplements can include vitamin capsules (as part of a multivitamin or on its own), liquid drops, or lozenges. B-12 may be added to some protein powders or vegan shakes, too. Check the nutrition label to see!
- Fortified foods are foods that have vitamin B-12 (and potentially other nutrients) added to them. Nutritional yeast is a really popular vitamin-fortified option for vegans, thanks to its cheesy, savory flavor and high concentration of added B-12. Other helpful fortified foods for B-12 include some non-dairy milks, protein bars, and vegan spreads (like mayo). Again, double check the nutrition facts panel to make sure B-12 has been added because not all versions of these foods are fortified.
Zinc is naturally found in plant foods!
Examples include: pumpkin seeds; legumes, like beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas; cashews; almonds; tofu; and tempeh.
Legumes and soy foods contain phytic acid, which naturally blocks zinc absorption. However (as mentioned in an earlier question), soaking or fermenting legumes prior to eating them can help inhibit this effect from phytates and boost zinc’s bioavailability.
Zinc can also be found in fortified foods like breakfast cereal or oatmeal.
LFW: WHY IS COLLAGEN IMPORTANT FOR THE BODY?
GGD: Collagen is the most abundant protein type in the entire animal kingdom, as well as the primary structural protein in the human body.
Bones, muscles, organs, skin, hair, and nails all contain it. Collagen’s main job is to provide structure: it is made of twisted strands that give it strength yet also flexibility to support our body’s movement.
LFW: WHAT’S THE COLLAGEN ALTERNATIVE FOR VEGANS OR VEGETARIANS?
GGD: Because collagen is a protein found in animal tissue, it’s not vegan-friendly by definition. The great news is that you don’t have to eat collagen to have normal collagen levels in your body.
Let’s quickly review how collagen is made: like any other protein in your body, collagen is created from a unique combination of amino acids.
Your body is constantly creating and maintaining collagen on its own by combining the amino acids from protein you ate (regardless of exactly what type of protein this was). By eating enough protein from a wide variety of vegan foods, you’re setting yourself up to make plenty of collagen.
LFW: HOW CAN YOU INCREASE YOUR OWN COLLAGEN PRODUCTION NATURALLY?
GGD: As mentioned, eating enough protein in general is the first step to supporting your body’s collagen production.
Aside from focusing on protein, you can help your body make collagen by making sure you’re also getting a few other nutrients that play a role in collagen synthesis – namely, zinc and vitamin C.
We already reviewed zinc. As for vitamin C, this nutrient is pretty easy to find in a vegan diet if you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Some of the densest sources of this vitamin include berries, bell peppers, citrus, tomatoes, and broccoli.
So much information to digest from Grace at Naked Nutrition in this interview. Personally, I’ve been using their Naked Collagen daily in my coffee in the morning to benefit my joint, skin, nails and hair health. Learning more now from this interview, I plan to incorporate some of these additional insights in my #lifestylenotadiet as well. Thanks, Grace and Naked Nutrition!