Nutrition News: Does plant-based protein build muscle as well as meat protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient for good health; however, many Canadians are unsure of whether meat or plant-based protein sources can best help achieve their health and fitness goals. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that plant protein builds muscle as well as meat protein.

Using health records from nearly 3,000 men and women ages 19 to 72, as well as food questionnaires, researchers estimated:

  • Total protein intake and sources (fish, chicken, dairy, full or low-fat options and legumes)
  • Participants lean muscle mass prior to the study
  • Bone mineral density
  • Quadricep strength

Vegetarian Pad Thai Inspired ZoodlesAfter comparing the data, researchers found people who consumed the least protein had the least amount of muscle mass overall; however, the type of protein did not affect muscle mass or musculoskeletal health for men or for women. Ultimately, the study showed that if people exceed their daily requirement for protein, their muscle health will improve – the source of protein does not matter. For those who follow a plant-based lifestyle and love peanut products, this is a winning combination because peanuts contain more protein than any other nut. In fact, a ¼ cup serving of dry, roasted, unsalted peanuts contain nine grams of protein.

Kelsey Mangano, PhD, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell made clear that while meat or plant-based proteins don’t affect muscle mass, people should still opt for lean protein sources and consider their sugar intake. For those looking to increase plant-based protein while limiting sugar intake, natural peanut butter is a great option. One serving of natural peanut butter contains 7.5 grams of protein and its only ingredients are peanuts!