When going vegan or vegetarian, most people relish in the antioxidant, rich mineral, and vitamin benefits that their newfound veggie-filled lifestyle is about to bestow them. They have good reason – scientists have long since found that vegetarians and vegans are generally healthier:
- Plant-based diets lower body mass index (BMI).
- Plant-based diets lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Plant-based diets lower the amount of pharmaceuticals needed to treat diseases.
- Plant-based diets lower ischemic cardiac disease death rates.
- Vegetarians have lower rates of diabetes and obesity. (Nonvegetarians are 74 percent more likely to develop diabetes within 17 years than vegetarians.)
- On average, vegetarians take in more magnesium, iron, folate, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamins.
But what’s often ignored or unnoticed are the holistic benefits that amino acids offer, since the concentration is on the wealth of newfound veggies and less on protein.
If you’re about to go on a plant-based diet for the long term, you might think you’re not like less educated people who dive in and end up malnourished. You know proteins are important for your body and you’re planning on sourcing them from legumes, mushrooms, nuts, soy, and other clean, protein-rich plant sources. But no matter how you look at it, meat, eggs, and poultry have more protein than plant-based proteins.
Researchers say that quinoa, brown rice with beans, and hummus with whole wheat pita are top plant-based sources for essential amino acids that your body needs but can’t make (unlike nonessential amino acids). But you shouldn’t strive for just your daily protein requirement. The many amino acids in proteins give you many amazing benefits when you take enough of them.
Here are some creative and exotic ways you can get more plant-based amino acids, and the wonderful holistic benefits they’ll give your body:
1. Drink Cashew or Almond Milk to Detox Your Body
Doctors often recommend boosting intake of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) in liver failure or liver injury patients because they boost the liver’s ability to detoxify ammonia, and because the liver’s BCAA stores are noticeably depleted if cirrhosis is present. Taking in more BCAAs with a healthy liver means you’ll be supercharging your liver’s detox properties.
Amino acids can also help detox your body if you’re going through drug withdrawal. According to Dr. Tarugu, M.D., who specializes in addiction recovery treatment, chronic drug and alcohol abuse lead to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. This imbalance plays a role in substance cravings. When amino acids are administered to rehab patients, they report a lessening in cravings after three days of the therapy.
A great source of BCAAs and other amino acids are cashew and almond milks. A glass of either nut milk gives you over 5 grams of BCAAs and even more in other amino acids.
2. Enjoy Kimchi, Chongkukjang, Doenjang and other Exotic Korean Fermented Dishes and Boost Your Immunity
Researchers found that your intestines and the lymphoid tissue surrounding them (collectively known as GALT) are one of your immune system’s largest defense front lines. They say GALT is your largest immune organ and serves many vital major functions, including the major defender and barrier against oral pathogens coming from your mouth, keeping balance with your good bacteria (teaching the immune system to ignore them), sorting out normal food particles from potentially toxic particles you’ve ingested, and acting as a “school” for baby T and B immune cells where they mature by exposing them to various antigens and then leave to defend other parts of your body.
But, if you don’t have enough protein, researchers found that your immune system becomes suppressed. They also say that protein malnutrition is the top cause for immune deficiency worldwide. They play a huge role in your GALT’s immune capacities. The amino acid glutamine maintains the integrity of your gut barrier. In fact, supplementation with glutamine has been found to help with E. coli infections. It also boosts the proliferation and gene expression of various immune cells in your gut.
The amino acid glutamate is used primarily by your intestinal epithelial cells for energy and it’s also vital for the function of immune cells in your GALT. Researchers found that your B cells and mononuclear cells make more antibodies when you supplement with glutamate. They also found that glutamate regulates your T cells in your gut.
Supplementing with the amino acid arginine has been found to lower bad bacteria counts in your gut, increase the height of your intestine’s villi (which are responsible for nutrient absorption), and lower intestinal damage by bad bacteria infection (like E.coli).
The amino acids threonine, methionine, and cysteine have also been found to boost your immune cell count, increase your villi height, and strengthen your gut’s integrity.
According to S. Korea, most Korean fermented foods are soy-based. Soybeans are high in protein, with 1.24 grams of threonine, 0.39 grams of methionine, and 2.22 grams of arginine in one cup. But during the fermentation process, the amino acids convert into free form, which make them more bioavailable since free form amino acids bypass the liver and enter your bloodstream ready for use (non-free amino acids must be digested by your gut and broken down into free amino acids by your liver’s and pancreas’s enzymes before capable of being used).
S. Korea says that chongkukjang and doenjang are two well-fermented soy dishes. They’re made by boiling soybeans followed by fermentation ceremonies that last from days to months! The result are different aged soybean pastes with more bioavailable amino acids delivered in an exotic delicacy that you can use with salad dressing, in soup broths, or as a dip for chips.
Besides making amino acids more available, S. Korea says their extensive fermentation processes enrich them with healthy scores of probiotics that boost your immunity, relieve allergies, and heal your gut. Doenjang even has anti-obesity properties – researchers found that people who eat it daily lose fat in prone areas without additional exercise or dieting. Doenjang has also been found to suppress your appetite and delay aging by protecting your DNA from harmful free radicals.
You can also try ganjang and gochujang, which are two other Korean soybean fermented dishes that researchers found have holistic benefits.
If you prefer the popular kimchi, which is another Korean fermented dish made with various vegetables, it gives you a fair amount of amino acids too. Its main ingredient is Chinese cabbage, which has significant amounts of the two GALT-essential amino acids threonine and arginine, along with other healthy amino acids and nutrients.
3. Snack on Bulgarian Yogurt to Help Prevent and Alleviate Sleep Apnea
Huntington College of Health Sciences says that taking BCAAs helps prevent and lessen sleep apnea. The increase in supply of amino acids regulates your brain’s neurotransmitter levels, which researchers found gives your brain better control of your respiratory function while you sleep.
Yogurt is surprisingly rich in amino acids! One serving has 1.41 grams of leucine, 0.77 grams of isoleucine, and 1.16 grams of valine, which are all BCAAs. It also has significant amounts of threonine, arginine, cysteine, and methionine too.
Researchers found that the amino acids in yogurt are more bioavailable because its probiotic bacteria convert 70 percent into free form amino acids.
Try Bulgarian yogurt, which has been traditionally enjoyed by the Balkan people for centuries. Famous scientists who tried to convince the world that your gut bacteria played a major role in almost all diseases, including Ilya Mechnikov, touted Bulgarian yogurt as having life-extending properties due to its probiotic content.
Experts also found that unlike other yogurts, eating Bulgarian yogurt has been found to boost your NK cell activity, which are immune cells specializing in killing cancer cells and helping prevent the spread of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. It also boosts production of virus-fighting molecules. They ultimately found that eating Bulgarian yogurt can help protect you from getting a cold or flu because of its immunostimulatory properties.
Yes, going on a plant-based diet is exciting and will definitely boost your health tenfold. But don’t forget about your protein! Supplementing or upping your amino acid intake also works miracles for your body, and not just your muscles. Try these tasty, exotic foods to liven up your daily meals and supply you with more amino acids.