Plant Protein: The Next Generation

Plant protein can either enhance a varied diet including both animal- and plant-based protein or, for vegans and vegetarians, form the basis of their protein intake. 

When it comes to eating plant-based protein however, not all of it is created equal. While our bodies require a "complete" range of amino acids to stay healthy, natural variations in the amino acid profile of different plants or industrial processing methods make some proteins more nutritionally valuable than others. 

As a result, a new generation of food makers is working to craft plant proteins that provide more complete amino acid profiles. 

We explore plant protein and its health benefits in more detail, including what recent advances in the field of biotechnology mean for the next generation of plant protein products. 

What is Plant Protein?

Plants naturally produce a range of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein, that help our bodies stay healthy.

Since our bodies can't produce all the amino acids we need, this makes ingesting them in the form of cultivated animal or plant protein a natural choice. 

New Developments in Plant Protein

Humans have been eating plants (and other foods) for a long time. However awareness has grown in recent years for the importance of plant protein in our diets, not just for our health but that of our planet's.

This growing interest in plants and the valuable contribution they make to our health has led a new generation of food-focused startups, including eatCultured and our parent company Afineur, dedicated to crafting better foods using the power of plants.

The goal? Increasing accessibility to plant protein's health benefits, promoting sustainable food practices and discovering useful new applications for plant protein along the way too. 

Why Refine Plant Protein?

Many of these developments involve either creating new forms of plant-based protein or, as in the case of eatCultured, refining existing natural proteins to make them even more nutritionally valuable. 

While plant matter naturally contains a range of health nutrients and amino acids, refining it can help concentrate or boost nutrient density and bioavailability, for maximum health benefits. 

This can take many forms ranging from cooking raw vegetables, for example, to processing grains for flour and beyond.  

Other options include refining plant-protein by concentrating or preserving it, which we'll review in the next two sections. These methods help increase the shelf-life of plant protein and make the benefits of a plant-based diet more readily accessible.

Finally by refining plant matter to remove irritants, for example, producers and food scientists can craft foods tailored towards individual health concerns such as those with gluten- or dairy-allergies. 

Fermenting Plant Proteins

As we've explored in earlier blog posts, fermentation can be a powerful natural tool to make plant-based foods not only more flavorful but nutritious too.

As a result, humans have been eating fermented and unfermented plants for protein since the dawn of civilization.  

Fermentation, where natural microbes colonize and cultivate food, can do many beneficial things including making naturally-occurring amino acids in the food easier to absorb, lower the level of allergens and enhance nutrient or flavor profile.

In plant-based foods, fermentation is what makes foods like tempeh and seitan more digestible than unfermented soy- and wheat-based foods, for example.

Microbes can also increase the range of available amino acids and nutrients in plant-based foods. That's because microbes, just like us, are also made of and create amino acids to survive. Therefore whenever we eat fermented foods, we derive benefits from ingesting them (live or otherwise) too. 

Fermented Plant-Protein: Enhanced through Biotechnology

Thanks to recent breakthroughs in the field of biotechnology, we now have the ability to boost the benefits of fermentation in a range of plant-based proteins.

For example, advances in our understanding of the microbial world combined with new ways of working with microbes at scale enable our parent company, Afineur, to work with select microbes to "curate" proteins with a range of health and flavor benefits. 

For example, this is what makes Cultured Coffee less likely to trigger acid refluxheartburn or the jitters while lowering bitterness

In fact as our latest research reveals, carefully-curated natural fermentation can boost protein content in plant-based foods like grains by as much as 35%.

Similarly fermentation boosts concentrations of essential amino acids, such as threonine, which would otherwise not be present in the food.  

Protein Isolates

Outside of consuming fermented plant protein, there are several other ways it can be useful in our diets.

That includes consuming cooked and raw plant-based foods or foods rich in plant protein isolates.

Isolates are concentrated forms of protein where amino acids have been mechanically separated from starches and fibers via industrial processes such as precipitation or centrifugation.  

Food producers commonly work with both isolates and whole plant proteins to manage the flavor, texture and nutritional profile of foods. However one downside of protein isolates is their lack of flavor and potential high fat content.

To manage these characteristics, some food producers treat protein isolates (especially soy isolate or "textured vegetable protein") with harmful chemicals derived from the petrochemical industry.

However practices vary significantly between food producers. For example this is why eatCultured prefers to work with natural fermentation to craft protein-rich plant-based foods without the need for chemical processing. 

Other Common Types of Plant Protein

Many plants can be eaten either raw or simply cooked to also provide a useful source of protein in our diets, for example:


A whole food, beans are naturally rich in complete plant amino acids, especially lysine.

Beans can either be cooked whole or fermented in foods like tempeh or tofu. Fermenting or sprouting beans typically reduces levels of natural irritants in the plant like phytic acid, which some people find harder to digest. 

When combined with other plants such as grains, it's possible to obtain all essential amino acids from beans and other plants. 

Grains and Grasses

Many grains contain not only a complete spectrum of amino acids but are also high in other required nutrients like fiber and carbohydrates.

Many "ancient" unprocessed grains and grasses like quinoabuckwheat (not related to wheat), teffoats and rice are rich sources of complete amino acids and other nutrients. 

While also a rich source of phytic acid, the action of fermenting and sprouting grains prior to eating them reduces levels of this irritant. 


Pea protein has recently garnered a lot of attention from food manufacturers as a vegan alternative to other plant proteins. In fact, the market is on course to be worth $360 million by 2022. 

Currently much of the pea protein on the market comes from the split pea, which contain more protein (20-25%) than regular green (garden) peas (5%).  

While some pea isolate on the market is made using the same questionable practices as soy isolate, standards do vary.


We hope you found this overview of plant-based proteins interesting and nutritious! Learn more about fermentation innovation and the benefits of plant-based foods in our blog today. 

In the meantime, stop by our store to sample Cultured Coffee, the world's first organic, whole-bean coffee refined via natural fermentation to taste better and be healthier for you! 



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