What is Protein and why you need it in your diet?

Posted by Lewis Robling on

Protein, what's all the fuss about?

Simply put, protein repairs and builds your body’s tissues. Your body’s tissues include connective tissue (bone, blood, lymph… delicious), epithelial tissue (skin and linings of other passages in the body), muscle tissue, and nervous tissue.

What is protein?

All proteins are made up of a combination of amino acids, often termed ‘the body’s building blocks’ - and there are 20 different ones. 9 of them, we can’t make on our own, so it is up to us to ensure we consume them in our diet.

When a particular protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, they are termed a ‘complete protein’.

What food is protein found in?

Protein is found is most foods in varying quantities. In the plant-based world of protein, there aren’t that many complete proteins out there (Pea protein found in our porridge is one of the few!). However, this isn’t a problem. As long as you combine foods that have all of the essential amino acids between them over a course of a day.. there’s nothing to worry about!

Now, it’s easy to get lost in the noise of articles out there on the positives and negatives of protein. Whilst we at Cocabana are vegan, it’s important to have facts and not opinions when it comes to learning about a nutritionally balanced diet.

To put this into perspective, in 2017, there were 64m Google searches for “protein”. Here are some of the questions most frequently Googled: 

Can you survive without protein?

In short, no!

The tens of thousands of processes and reactions that occur in our body continuously would not be possible without proteins. These proteins are secreted by endocrine cells that act to control or regulate specific physiological processes, which include growth, development, metabolism, and reproduction meaning we wouldn’t survive without them! The enzymes that help to break down our foods, or trigger key processes in the body, are also proteins.

Jars of chickpeas and lentils

On the other hand, there are risks involved if we consume too much protein. It’s important to understand what happens to our body if we consume excess protein:


  1. Bad breath - This can happen if your body begins to enter a state of ketosis. Keep your carb/protein/fat intakes balanced and this shouldn’t be an issue. Otherwise, you’d better carry a toothbrush with you…
  2. Constipation - Typically, if your diet is higher in protein, you consume less fibre. Less fibre means that the amount of undigested material passing through your intestines is limited.
  3. Kidney damage - No major studies have linked high protein intake to kidney damage in healthy individuals. However, excess nitrogen found in amino acids means the kidneys need to work harder to get rid of it.
  4. Increased risk of cancer - when individuals consume a diet rich in animal proteins, red meat in particular, studies have shown an increased risk of various health issues, cancer being one of them. Scientists believe it could be due to hormones, carcinogens and the high level of fats found in red meat.

As with everything in life, balance is the key to a healthy diet!

How much daily protein do we need?

We’re not going to bore you here… let’s leave it to the experts - International Protein Board. You’ll find everything you need about protein requirements here!

 List of protein foods 

Animal vs Plant Protein (beef vs beans / chicken vs chickpea)

Is one really healthier than the other? 

We know what protein is now, it plays a crucial role in the development of… blah blah you know the score. We’ve also covered whether a protein is complete or not, of which most plant based sources aren’t (I guess that’s 1-0 to animal protein?)

Or is it…

Yes, meat, fish and dairy products contain all the essential amino acids the body requires, whereas being vegan or vegetarian, we need to combine a selection of proteins from nuts, pulses, (beans & lentils) soya and cereals for it to be complete. We have also mentioned that the total amount of protein consumed and the variety of sources throughout the day is what’s important.

So I guess the real question is, what else are you getting when you consume a diet rich in plant protein?

Maybe the best benefit of consuming plant proteins is the huge hit of fibre! Consuming generous portions of beans and whole grains are a win-win in this sense, offering an abundance of fibre and protein! You become strong and regular… And they also contain a hit of carbs, whereas animal protein doesn’t.

Another thing - even if these preventative effects are speculative, plants also contain phytochemicals (biologically active compounds found in plants) that some studies suggest are linked to lower risks of chronic diseases.

Bottom line: 

At the end of the day, you could get your protein from plants or animal sources, or both! A healthy balanced diet can mean incorporating both types.

We believe in a whole food focused plant-based diet and consuming plant protein not only for the nutritional benefits associated with it, but also for the ethical and environmental reasons too. But we can explain those reasons in another blog! :)

To conclude, we’d like to share a little about our brand new product!

Cacao Vegan Protein Porridge

As the winter draws nearer, starting your day with a wholesome healthy breakfast is all the more important. Our brand new Protein Porridge delivers just that. It’s 100% organic and is as indulgent as it is healthy! Ingredients include: oats, pea protein, cacao powder, cacao nibs, coconut sugar and natural flavourings… that’s it.

 Cocabana Protein Porridge

With 10g of protein, 5g of fibre and a tonne of antioxidants, you can start your day knowing you’re already on your way to a healthy balanced diet.


”Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” - Hippocrates


Stay Coconuts!

Team Cocabana 

Sources: Nutrition.org.uk, livescience.com, healthline.com, internationalproteinboard.org

Cocabana Coconut Bowls Healthy Eating Healthy Lifestyle Porridge Porridge Bowls Positive Change Protein World Porridge Day

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