The WHO recommends that two-thirds of the daily protein come from plant foods.
Proteins are essential components of life. They collaborate in blood clotting, digestion, defense against infection, or the preservation of muscles and bones. It will sound to you that those proteins are in meat, eggs, dairy, poultry, or fish. But not only there.
There is vegetable protein. In fact, a well-planned vegetarian diet (even a strict vegetarian, known as a vegan) does not have to be protein deficient.
Some foods with a large amount of vegetable protein are tofu, tempeh, quinoa, lentils, textured soybeans, amaranth, or chia.
Going a little further, and without getting into a debate on ecology and care of the environment (which I would give for another article), it can be said that there is evidence that a diet rich in vegetables is healthier for the body:
“Animal proteins are often associated with saturated fat, cholesterol, excess calories and also generate waste products in the body when processing them -urea, ammonia- that it has to eliminate, overloading the kidney ( Lucía Martínez, nutritionist dietitian, @dimequecomes in networks and author of the book Vegetarianos Con -Ciencia, Arcopress, 2016).
Overdoing it with animal protein is never good. The WHO says so.
COMPLETE PROTEINS … OR NOT?
Nutritionists never tire of repeating it: any need to eat meat. Proteins are found in almost all foods, although in some it is “a very, very small part that we do not usually take into account, as is the case with fruits and vegetables,” says Martínez.
To find relevant amounts of protein in plant sources, you have to go to legumes, nuts, cereals, seeds, and some pseudo-cereals, such as quinoa and amaranth.
Plant protein is often disregarded as incomplete. In contrast, animal proteins are said to be complete (they have all the essential amino acids that must be obtained through food) something that, of course, is true.
However, it should be pointed out: first, there is complete vegetable protein, and, second, the one that is not can be completed. Namely: quinoa, soybeans, hemp seeds, and amaranth are complete proteins. And, for example, soybeans provide more protein than meat.
“100 grams of soy contain 36 grams of protein and 100 grams of beef, 20 (Lucía Martínez)
We said that to get a complete plant protein, it must be combined with other things. Two examples: legumes can be completed by adding cereals and nuts and cereals and nuts can be combined.
Both pairings provide complete proteins and, here comes the important thing, that combination or sum does not have to be in the same dish or at the same time. The liver is already in charge of organizing itself to take the little pieces it needs to form proteins. You, calm down.
VIRTUES OF VEGETABLE PROTEIN
-Less saturated fat and more fiber, as well as the addition of other micronutrients that contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.
-It provides essential fatty acids (also called polyunsaturated), necessary for development and growth, omega-3 and omega-6, through nuts and certain algae, soy, hemp, and corn.
-Vegetable calcium is obtained by taking almonds, hazelnuts, broccoli, turnips, cabbages, or fortified soy beverages and cheeses. Seeds such as poppy, sesame, flax, and others also provide a significant amount of calcium.
SOURCES OF VEGETABLE PROTEIN
To complete this reflection on vegetable protein, it is convenient to go down to the most practical aspects. The nutrition expert Ata Pouramini, author of the book You are your medicine (Vivir Books, 2014), has prepared a list of nine foods rich in proteins of high biological value, that is, they contain all the necessary nutrients for the body to function just like eating animal protein:
Amaranth: It has 16% vegetable protein, with a very important positive balance of essential amino acids, including lysine. It can be consumed as a cereal, as flour, and even as pasta.
Tofu: Soy cheese is considered a substitute for milk and meat in terms of its protein index.
Quinoa: It is a kind of gluten-free cereal that is consumed in the form of a seed or grain. Very rich in Omega 3, it has all the essential amino acids. It is boiled and eaten in a salad, also as a base for vegetable burgers.
Buckwheat: It is not wheat, not even cereal. It is a seed that produces flowers and its majority use is in the form of flour. Its protein level is considerable: 13 grams. every 100 calories. It is consumed mostly in flour.
Legumes: Soybeans, lentils, and beans are the ones that contain the most protein.
Nuts: They contain complete proteins, very energetic, and high in fiber. They are essential in a balanced diet free of cholesterol and rich in good fatty acids
Chia seeds: Also rich in complete proteins, they have considerable levels of calcium and magnesium, two essential minerals.
Tempeh: It is a product resulting from the fermentation of soybeans that is consumed as a kind of bread or cake. For 100 grams of its consumption, we contribute 40% protein to our body. It is especially indicated in the diets of vegetarians to supply the lack of meat.
Some vegetables provide proteins to our body, even if they are not of high biological value. For example, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and green leafy vegetables (spinach and chard).