You are a walking mass of protein! Next to water, protein makes up the greatest portion of our body weight. The most abundant protein within us is collagen. This key protein contributes to shiny hair, smooth skin, strong nails, and healthy bones, and keeps ligments and tendons supple. Thanks to collagen, we're able to move, bend, and stretch without pain. Another critical beauty protein, keratin, stops hair from becoming dry and brittle, nails from breaking easily, and skin from looking dull and wrinkled.
Protein helps us grow muscles and tendons, build strong tissues and ligaments, and repair cellular damage. Without protein, no organ, bone, or muscle could function properly. We wouldn't be able to make the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine to fuel the brain, keeping us feeling balanced and happy. We wouldn't be able to make the insulin in our pancreas, or the thyroxine secreted by our thyroid. Every single function in the body relies on protein because the cells rely on protein.
When we look deeper into the structure of protein, we see it is composed of twenty-two amino acids as well as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sometimes phosphorus and sulfur. It's the amino acids that are used by the microscopic machinery within cells as powerful building blocks for all the vital tasks they perform in the body. Of the twenty-two amino acids that form protein, only thirteen are created by the body. The remaining nine we must take in through our food. When a food contains all nine essential amino acids, we call it a "complete protein." Several of my favorite plant-based foods meet this standard: AFA algae, almonds, amaranth, bee pollen, black beans, buckwheat, chia seeds, chickpeas, chlorella, hemp, kidney beans, marine phytoplankton, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, seaweed, and spirulina.
There is a common myth out there that you can't eat enough protein on a plant-based diet. Science has proven this to be untrue. In reality, cooked animal muscles (meats) are poor-quality protein sources. Cooking coagulates the proteins and destroys the natural enzymes. This makes the proteins harder to digest, and, even worse, turns them into inflammatory compounds within the body.
Conversely, the elastic, lightweight amino acids in uncooked plant foods are highly digestible and fully able to be utilized by the body. The most available sources of plant-based protein are almonds, bee pollen, blue-green algae, chlorella, durian, goji berries, grass (powders and mature blade before they have flowered), green leafy vegetables (including arugula, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, green cabbage, kale, parsley, and spinach), hemp seeds and protein powder, incan berries, maca, marine phytoplankton, olives, propolis, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, sprouted grains, sprouted wild rice, and watercress.
Some people say they can't possibly get enough protein without eating animal flesh; however, it's important to remember that all the strongest, largest animals on earth feed their enormous bodies with plants - especially algae, green leaves, and plankton.