We need protein because it is a vital component of our muscles, hair, nails and collagen – a connective tissue protein that holds your body together. Protein is also needed to make your brain’s messengers (neurotransmitters), hormones, red blood cells and DNA. Another important role that protein plays is in maintaining a healthy immune system.
But not all protein is created equal. Each protein molecule is made up of small building blocks called amino acids. We can make some amino acids ourselves but there are nine that the body cannot make, so they must be obtained from the diet. These are called essential amino acids. A varied plant-based diet provides more than enough protein and all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts (1, 2, 3, 4).