More and more people want to decrease their daily intake of animal protein, some of them for ethical reasons, others in a bid to improve their health.
Decreasing the amount of meat, milk and eggs we eat, leads many of us to clash with oureducation in which we think that only animals can provide the protein necessary for the maintenance of health.
In this article we will try to address all the alternatives that nature has to offer.
What are proteins?
Proteins, along with carbohydrates and lipids (fats) are macronutrients. They are essential nutrients which provide energy and material for growth and regeneration in our body.
Specifically, proteins are molecules composed of amino acids, kind of like small “bricks” that are used for the construction of the larger molecule, the protein. There are around 20 different amino acids, 8 of which are deemed “essential” because the human body cannot create them.
These amino acids therefore have to be consumed through the diet. Food from animal origin has a better amino acid profile because they contain all the essential amino acids in good quantities; food from vegetable origin however is usually deficient in one or more essential amino acids. For this reason they are called “incomplete protein” sources.
Unlike animal protein however, plant proteins are devoid of fat and produce less waste products during their break down in the body. This causes less fatigue and overload in the kidneys.
What are good sources of vegetable proteins?
Listed below are the vegetables that contain the most proteins. As a comparison with an animal protein, parmesan cheese contains 33g of protein per 100.
LEGUMES: legumes are the richest plant source of proteins in nature. Just eat them in association with cereals to get all the amino acids missing in comparison to meat. Some examples per 100g include:
- Chickpeas 19g
- Beans 12g
- Beans 20g
- Soy 37g
- Peas 22g
- Lentils 23g
CEREALS: These include spelt, wheat (bread and pasta), and soy flour, which contain an average of 10 grams of protein for every 100g. By combining cereals with legumes, we get all the necessary amino acids for our body.
SEEDS: chia, hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in proteins.
ALGAE: An excellent source of protein with 6 grams of protein for every 100 grams of dried seaweed. Spirulina is a good example and can be found in most organic shops.
TOFU, TEMPEH AND SEITAN: Are products derived from soy beans, and wheat. They are rich in vegetable protein with 8 to 10g per 100g.
DRIED FRUIT: dried fruit is an incredibly rich source of plant proteins, especially pine nuts, here are the values per 100g of product:
- Pine nuts 31g
- Peanuts 29g
- Almonds 22g
- Pistachios 18g
- Cashew nuts 15g
- Hazelnuts 13g
QUINOA: quinoa is a food that looks like a grain but is derived from a plant of the spinach family which can be cooked like millet or couscous. It is very high in vegetable proteins, with 14g in every 100g.
VEGETABLES: Among the vegetables, the most protein-rich are broccoli, artichokes, cabbage, spinach, red peppers, asparagus, and potatoes.
VEGETABLE MILK AND YOGURT : dairy-free milk and yogurt can also provide proteins, the highest being soy milk and yogurt.
In order to avoid a protein deficiency when following a diet that is primarily plant-based, combining foods is essential. Choosing foods from the different groups mentioned above at each meal will help you to meet your protein requirements.