What is plant protein, and why include it in your menu

Before, vegetarians and vegans were almost the only ones to incorporate plant protein into their diet. Now the followers are more numerous: 

What is plant protein, and why include it in your menu
Plant based protein

The first months of 2020 saw an increase in sales of plant-based protein products by 148% compared to the previous year, according to the Plant-Based Foods Association. You will be surprised to learn that these foods contain more protein than an egg!

What Makes Plant Protein So Popular? Why should we prioritize them over traditional protein sources such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products? Here's everything you need to know about plant-based protein.

What is a plant protein diet?

A diet based on plant proteins consists of incorporating foods from plants into your diet. These can include fruits and vegetables, whole grains (oats, brown rice, and quinoa), legumes (beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas), nuts and seeds, spices, and herbs as well. than occasional animal source foods.

Those on a plant protein diet are not necessarily vegans or vegetarians. Instead, they opt for a plant-based diet and eat less meat and processed foods.

How is it different from a vegan or vegetarian diet?

There are several similarities between a plant protein diet and a vegetarian or vegan diet. The main difference is that those who maintain a vegetable protein diet will occasionally eat animal-sourced products.

Conversely, a vegan diet consists almost entirely of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds (preferably). Vegan diets exclude all foods from animal sources, and even products such as honey, gelatin, and collagen.

Similar to vegans, vegetarians don't eat meat, poultry, or fish. But, unlike a vegan diet, theirs may contain dairy products and eggs. Other people who follow a vegetarian diet choose to eat fish and seafood.

What is plant protein?

Protein is extremely beneficial for the body. In addition to building muscle mass and keeping you feeling full between meals, protein helps build bones, hormones, antibodies, and more.

Some of the best sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. However, plants like beans, soybeans, seeds, and even whole grains contain an impressive amount of nutrient protein.

Plant protein versus animal protein

Animal proteins provide a complete protein, that is, they contain all the essential amino acids for the body to produce its own protein supply.

On the other hand, plants offer an incomplete protein and therefore lack one or more essential amino acids. However, there are exceptions. Soy and quinoa are complete proteins.

For several years, nutrition experts believed that the only way to get the amino acids needed from a plant-based diet was to combine plant-based protein sources with meals, such as beans with rice. In this way, the combination would have allowed a complete protein supply in order to have all the essential amino acids. now the way of thinking is different.

Do Plants Really Provide Enough Protein?

Yes, but it all might take a bit of work. “Lean meat, low-fat dairy products, and eggs have a higher protein density, making them ideal for omnivorous eating with a higher protein requirement.”, says Heather J. Leidy, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas at Austin, and member of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. "It is very difficult to get the protein you need when you eat only vegetable protein without any supplements."

And yet, that doesn't mean it's impossible. The key to getting the protein you need on a plant-based diet is eating a variety of foods that are high in protein.

“Just because the meat is a more concentrated source of protein doesn't mean that there aren't plant-based foods that aren't also high in protein,” says Angela Wortley, Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Consultant in Michigan. “More and more people are understanding that foods such as tofu, lentils, and seitan are good sources of protein and have health benefits.”

Why is vegetable protein good for you?

"The biggest advantage of a plant protein is that it is a happy blend of good fats and fiber," says Wesley McWhorter, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In fact, vegetable protein is low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. This kind of eating trend has already been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, overweight, and obesity. It is proven that a vegan diet would lead to better cardiovascular capacity.

It's so powerful that a 2020 meta-analysis - comprising 32 studies - published in the British Medical Journal, found that for every additional 3% of calories a person consumes from a plant protein, their risk of premature death decreases. by 5%.

Of course, just because a food is high in plant protein, that doesn't automatically mean that it is healthy for you.

“There are a lot of processed plant foods that lack fiber and have excessive amounts of sugar, sodium, and bad fats,” says McWhorter. This is why it is important to read the nutrition label and the list of ingredients, in addition to minimizing the consumption of processed foods.

The risks and side effects of vegetable proteins

High fiber plant proteins like beans and lentils can do a lot for your health. But they can also cause bloating, especially when they're not part of your daily diet, says Sheth. Ditto for plant-based meats, often made from pea protein.

The good news is, you can still eat it.

Add them to your diet gradually so that your digestive system adapts, Ms. Sheth always advises. However, if you are allergic to soy or tree nuts, you should avoid these foods.

What are the best sources of protein?

If you want to add more plant-based protein to your diet, but don't know where to start, here's a list that will help your enlightenment:

Soymilk: The complete protein in soymilk is an interesting alternative to cow's milk. For a comparable nutrient intake, choose an option fortified with calcium and vitamin D (as well as vitamin B12, if you're a vegan.

Quinoa: This fiber-rich grain (it contains 5 grams per cup) also has a low glycemic index, making it great for controlling blood sugar. Plus, it contains all the amino acids your body needs.

Tofu: Made with solidified soy milk, tofu is perfect for smoothies, stir-fries, and sandwiches. Always check the nutrition label: some brands of tofu offer as much calcium as a glass of cow's milk!

Tempeh: This fermented soybean pancake is packed with iron and is an excellent source of zinc. Use tempeh in your veggie burgers, or put them in your tacos or bolognese sauce.

Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, the meaty texture of seitan makes it the perfect substitute for meat (unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance). Try it in the pan, or grilled.

Sorghum: Besides being a good source of protein, sorghum offers iron, magnesium, and vitamin B. Serve it on the side or make it in popcorn for a snack!

Amaranth: This gluten-free grain is also an antioxidant that fights inflammation. Try it as an interesting alternative to oatmeal.

Legumes: With their impressive amount of protein (around 15 grams per cup), these little foods are packed with soluble fiber and potassium, all to help support your heart health.

Bean Pasta: Whether made with chickpeas, edamame, or black beans, these noodles are a great way to give your pasta dish a protein boost!

Sprouted Seed Bread: Made with a blend of protein-rich beans and grains, each slice of this bread contains 5 grams of plant protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Nuts: thanks to a trio of vegetable protein, fiber, and good fats, nuts ensure you stay full between each of your meals.

Plant protein powder: If you find it difficult to get enough protein from plant sources, pea or soy protein supplements may be a suitable alternative for you.

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