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Plant-Based Protein Powder and Digestive Health: Supporting Gut Wellness

Protein supplements are not exclusively for gym junkies or bodybuilders. Like our muscles, the majority of our organs—including the heart, brain, skin, and immune system—need enough protein to function properly. You may not be aware, though, that dietary protein, particularly vegan plant protein, has also been found to have positive impacts on gut health. Age, health, and dietary habits all influence how much protein a person needs. Most people can't get enough protein in their diets to meet their needs every day, especially if they have a poor appetite, a restricted diet, unbalanced meals, or health issues including digestive difficulties. Therefore, adding protein powder to your diet may be beneficial. While these protein supplements can come from both plant and animal sources, vegan plant protein powder has been emerging as a better alternative because of its benefits for gut health. Let us learn about the beneficial effects of protein on gut health and how supplementation with organic plant protein powder can help.

Why Choose Plant Protein?

Proteins are an essential component of our diet. They are composed of tiny molecules known as amino acids that are joined together. There are about 20 amino acids, of which 11 are produced by the body and the other nine must be supplemented by diet. Proteins are derived from two main sources: plants and animals. Since some essential amino acids are absent from plant proteins, it has been long believed that animal proteins were the finest source for their amino acid composition; however, current research has revealed that a blend of a few plant-based proteins, such as soybeans, peas, chia seeds, spirulina, and quinoa can provide a complete amino acid profile. Furthermore, by consuming a range of plant-based proteins, one can obtain all of the important amino acids that animal proteins provide. Also, plant proteins have been associated with a lower risk of disease as compared to animal proteins. One of the studies done in 2010 that compared animal protein vs. plant-based protein concluded that animal-based protein diets were linked to higher rates of inflammation, while plant-based proteins in diets had the opposite effect.

Benefits of Plant Protein for Gut Health

  1. Provides Fiber (food) for the Gut Microbiota: A colony of bacteria (good and bad) called the gut flora lives in your digestive tract in a certain equilibrium. A balanced population of friendly microorganisms over unfavorable ones is a sign of a healthy gut. Fiber from vegan plant protein sources serve as food (prebiotic) for the gut microbiome. Studies have shown that the gut microbiome feeding on this fiber from plant protein releases metabolites (by-products) such as SCFAs (short-chain fatty acids), which have a beneficial effect on cardiovascular health and glucose metabolism in the host.
  2. Acts as Anti-inflammatory Agents for the Gut: Plant proteins also exhibit anti-inflammatory effects. One of the studies demonstrated that protein components derived from plant protein sources like chia seeds act as anti-inflammatory agents. Numerous gastrointestinal conditions, including Irritable bowel syndrome, Ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and others, are brought on by persistent gastrointestinal tract inflammation. Thus, vegan plant protein intake can boost gut health by reducing the incidence of inflammatory conditions associated with the gut.
  3. Improves Gut Microbiome Diversity: The microbiomes living in our gut perform a host of important functions like enhancing digestion, boosting immunity, protecting from invading pathogens, and regulating metabolism. The more diverse our microbiome (different species of bacteria) is, with more friendly bacteria and fewer pathogenic ones, the better our gut health. Plant-based proteins, such as pea protein consumption, have been shown to increase the growth of beneficial bacteria, which also tend to protect against pathogens, keep the gut lining healthy, and boost immunity.
  4. Plant Protein Enhances Digestion: Nearly 50% of the consumed protein is utilized for making digestive enzymes that help in the digestion of food and rebuilding new cells in the body. Moreover, by maintaining equilibrium in the gut microbiome, plant proteins enhance the overall process of digestion.


How to Improve Gut Health with Plant Protein

You may enhance your gut health by combining different vegan plant protein sources like whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds regularly in your diet. Some of the vegan plant-based protein sources include:

  • Beans: Black beans, kidney beans, white beans, soybeans, lima beans, etc.
  • Lentils: Brown, red, green, and yellow
  • Edamame
  • Nuts: Peanuts, almonds, and pistachios
  • Green peas
  • Brown Rice
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds
  • Vegan Milk: Soy milk and pea milk
  • Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, mustard greens, collard greens, artichokes, spinach, etc.

How Plant-Based Protein Powders may be a Better Option?

Some people may have sensitive guts or existing gastric disorders, and meeting protein requirements through diet alone may not be an easy task in such cases. Due to their high fiber content, proteins tend to create a feeling of fullness, so you may not be able to eat the optimum amount of protein that your body needs. A fast-paced lifestyle and hectic schedule may also pose a constraint on ensuring adequate protein intake daily.

You may resort to vegan plant protein powders in such cases. Plant-based protein powders are sourced from different sources, like brown rice, peas, chia seeds, etc.

Vegan plant protein powders can be a better alternative than whey protein for people who are lactose intolerant or follow veganism. Furthermore, some of these supplements are enhanced with additional ingredients like digestive enzymes, superfoods, and antioxidants like Goji berry, spirulina, moringa, grapeseeds, etc., which help you absorb the proteins smoothly and give your immune system a boost. Such vegan plant-based protein powders help you achieve your daily protein requirements, strengthen your immunity, and are gentle on your digestive system at the same time.

Wrapping Up

Proteins are important macronutrients required at every stage of life. These proteins can be obtained from both plant and animal sources; however, research has shown that vegan plant proteins are particularly good for our digestive system. It not only feeds and improves the diversity of our gut microbes but also enhances digestion and serves as an anti-inflammatory agent for our gut health. Consuming vegan plant protein powders is a safe and effective way to improve your gut health.

References

https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2016/fo/c5fo01530h

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/dietary-protein

https://www.eufic.org/en/whats-in-food/article/what-are-proteins-and-what-is-their-function-in-the-body

https://gi.md/resources/articles/nutritional-balance-your-gut-health

https://www.jeffersonhealth.org/your-health/living-well/the-best-foods-for-an-anti-inflammatory-diet

https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/plant-based-protein-decreases-chronic-inflammation

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/15/12/2675

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352345X20301144

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