By Aria Beheshtaein, founder of B’liev

To chew or eschew? That is the meaty question before us. Many experts consider a shift towards plant-based diets to be necessary if we are to tackle the various environmental challenges currently facing humanity. According to a comprehensive analysis of the damage of farming to the planet, the single biggest way to reduce our environmental impact is avoiding meat and dairy products. The cost of living provides further incentive. In high-income countries such as the UK, adopting a vegan lifestyle could reduce food bills by up to one-third (this is if employing a home-cooked whole foods focus – highly processed meat replacements, takeaways and eating out don’t produce the same level of savings) – so says Oxford University research.

If you’re already on your plant-based journey, or if you’re about to embark, be sure you’ve paid attention to the science that will help keep you healthy. There are certain essential components of a balanced diet that you need to ensure you find the right replacements for when removing animal-based sources. Chief among these is protein.

Protein need not be a problem

Protein has been increasingly recognised as being important for sports men and women to support their performance. In sufficient quantities protein can repair muscle and connective tissue. But even if you’re in the couch potato club, protein is crucial in your diet. It plays a part—in fact a lead role—in the creation and maintenance of every single cell in your body. It also controls hunger, helps keep blood sugar levels stable and is used in the regulation of hormones.

Traditionally, meat has been considered the go-to for fulfilling our protein needs, along with eggs and certain dairy products. This is because protein is made up of amino acids—there are nine amino acids that are considered essential (Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan and Valin)—and meat contains all of the nine essential amino acids, forming what is known as a “complete protein”.

Excluding meat and dairy from our diet can present challenges in providing our bodies with complete proteins – but only if we’re not aware of the science.

Protein isn’t monopolised by meat and dairy

There are actually some plant-based foods that do contain complete proteins. These include soy, quinoa, hemp and chia. Don’t worry if your tastebuds aren’t tingling, they’re not your only options.

Here’s an important bit of the science you need to know: you do not need to consume all nine amino acids in one sitting. Your liver will store amino acids. So, by eating a combination of plant-based proteins throughout the day you can easily consume all the amino acids you need (without troubling a single cow). One study published earlier this year concluded that “the diverse composition of amino acids from plant protein sources offers simple opportunities to build protein blends that target certain amino acids profiles”.

Brown or white rice combined with beans or lentils produces a complete protein, and there are numerous recipes from around the world providing a huge variety of flavour options for this classic combo.

Don’t assume vegan protein sources are always healthier

While a vegan diet can be more sustainable and ethical, is it healthier? If you are consuming large quantities of meat in order to boost your protein levels, you are likely ingesting larger amounts of saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol and, therefore, your risk of cardiovascular disease. Consumption of large quantities of meat is also linked to cancer. But that doesn’t automatically make plant-based proteins healthier.

Take peanut butter on whole-wheat toast. This is widely heralded as a good way to boost protein, particularly as the amino acids found in whole-wheat toast combined with those in peanut butter gives you the magic nine in one sitting. Two average slices of peanut butter on toast boosts protein intake by about 12g (around a quarter of our daily requirement). However, it is also likely to contain over 500 calories and 40g of fat, including saturated fat and the dreaded trans fats that we really should be avoiding as much as possible.

If you want a quick, easy and cheap complete protein, baked beans on toast gives you the magic balance and is much healthier.

So, like all dietary choices, there needs to be balance and you cannot just assume that vegan always equals healthier.

Good sources of vegan protein

If you want to consume vegan protein, look out for simple ingredients that are high in protein and that contain a good mixture of the amino acids. The entire list is surprisingly long but here are some I definitely recommend that you keep an eye out for when making your food choices:

Grains: These contain almost all the amino acids, although they lack in lysine.

Beans: Beans are high in lysine and, therefore, are great combined with grain in the diet (not necessarily in the same sitting, as mentioned earlier). Fava beans (or broad beans) are a favourite of mine, as they are absolutely packed with nutrients and utterly delicious, particularly when young and tender. Try them with a little garlic olive oil drizzled over them.

Broccoli: This is a renowned superfood. It boasts more protein than most other vegetables. It is highly versatile and can be eaten cooked or raw in salad and goes with pretty much everything.

Chickpeas: Largely known as the main ingredient of hummus, chickpeas can also be used in curries and stews, making them filling and hearty while packing in the protein.

Peas: Pea protein is considered a superior plant source because peas contain high levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, which support muscle recovery and lean muscle mass.

Seeds: These are a convenient way to top up your protein. They can be scattered over salads or avocado toast, for example, and can be transported in your bag easily. Flax seeds also contain branched-chain amino acids, not to mention being a great vegan source of essential fatty acids. Pumpkin seeds are a tasty snack in their own right and great to have in a bowl by the side of your laptop while you work. They also contain all nine of the essential amino acids, albeit that they are too low in threonine and lysine to be considered a whole protein.

Shakes & drinks: There are plenty of protein powders available, but these can be faffy and don’t always fit into a busy lifestyle. A great way to conveniently top up your protein is ready-made protein shakes. You’ll find flavours for every taste; B’liev’s plant-based range includes chocolate brownie, blueberry muffin, and cookies & cream. Shakes are also great to have in the fridge for the end of a busy day when you might be worried that you haven’t packed in enough protein. Just grab and gulp.

Getting enough vegan protein

You can use an online calculator to determine just how much protein you should have in your daily diet. On average, women need around 45g per day and men need 55g, although sportspeople and/or gym enthusiasts may want to include a bit more.


Aria Beheshtaein is founder of B’liev, a new plant-based, protein shake available in three unusual, but utterly delicious flavours: Blueberry Muffin, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate Brownie. Packed with protein and fibre, and fortified with vitamins and minerals, B’liev delivers much more than hydration and great taste, and encourages us all to believe that anything is possible, we just have to believe in ourselves.







Research vegan diet and environmental impact:

Oxford Uni research – vegan is cheaper:

Combining Plant Proteins study: