Plant-Protein: the underrated nutritional gem
Considering a plant-based diet, the first question to arise is if plant protein is as good as animal protein! VeganDukan being one of India’s largest vegan marketplaces, we consulted a few registered dietitians to help us properly measure the benefits of choosing vegan protein sources over regular animal meat.
As we all are already aware of how important consuming enough protein is, we must know that it provides much-needed energy to our body, helps in building and repairing muscles, and also plays a crucial role in maintaining our gut health.
And what is the easily available source of complete protein? Animal meat of course. Since the age of hunter-gatherers, we’ve acquired the easy yet cruel way to complete our nutritional needs by feeding on other animals! So, over time, in many cuisines around the world, meat, dairy, and eggs replicated the concept of protein. However, most of these meaty cuisines are from the Western part of the world or have been influenced by Western colonization in history.
Moreover, animal-origin proteins are often seen as superior to plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, tofu, soya chaap, etc. Though the truth is somewhat different! Practically, plant protein is better than animal protein in so many aspects. And we’re here to explain why.
Understanding proteins as our bodily needs
How does protein work?
In brief, protein is one of the vital macronutrients. Proteins are made up of different combinations of amino acid chains linked together by folding and inter-bonding. Our human bodies use a combination of 20 different amino acids to build different amino acid sequences to build different protein structures. However, our bodies can produce 11 of those amino acids internally while the other 9 amino acids must be acquired through food. Therefore, these amino acids are called “essential amino acids.” These essential amino acids are histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, phenylalanine, methionine, tryptophan, threonine, and valine.
Moreover, protein is vital to several health functions, such as supplying energy to our bodies while building and repairing tissues and muscles during growing age or after injuries, surgery, workouts, and other forms of wear and tear. Also, our body uses protein for enzyme synthesis and these enzymes are majorly needed for healthy digestion, muscle contraction, blood clotting, and producing energy. However, protein is also a crucial factor to strengthen our immune system, regulate fluids, aid in transporting nutrients to our cells, and help us maintain proper pH throughout our body.
Therefore, we definitely can say that protein does a lot for our body to go on!
Can protein be acquired from plants?
Oh yes, we can get protein from plant sources, and of course, there are plenty of such options to choose from. There are peas, lentils, beans, seitan, and pre-packed plant-based meat and dairy alternatives! Even soya-based products like soya chaap, tofu, tempeh, and edamame are especially packed with complete protein as well as vital vitamins and minerals. Thankfully, VeganDukan houses the largest range of Mock-Meat and Dairy-Free dairy alternatives to aid your plant-based diet!
Conveniently, Kristin Gillespie, MS, LDN, RD, and advisor for Exercisewithstyle.com once said, “Beyond their protein and micronutrient offerings, soy products contain phytoestrogens to lower osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer risks.”
Also, to address the downsides she said, “Of note, the iron type and content does vary between plant-based and animal-based protein sources; non-heme iron, which is found in plant proteins, is less readily absorbed than animal origin irons.”
Is animal protein anyway better than plant protein then?
In VeganDukan’s POV, the biggest offense of consuming animal protein is that it comes from those poor animals who have been subjected to a life of being raised in captivity to be killed or abused for their milk or eggs. Though these animals are alive enough to think and experience all the feelings and emotions like happiness, sorrow, fear, and even pain, they are slaughtered in masses to supply our animal protein demand. Moreover, the animal agricultural industry is a significant contributor to climate change, air, and water pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, habitat loss, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, etc. caused by us humans.
To us, those are more than enough reasons to consume plant-based protein more often than abusing animals to meet our nutritional needs. But as we always recommend, you should go through your doctor’s consultations before abruptly making any major dietary changes that could affect your health. Even you can consult a registered dietitian who could develop a meal plan that’s structured according to your lifestyle and teaches you how to satisfy your complete protein needs from plants.
What are the health benefits of eating plant protein?
Of course, there are plenty of cool health benefits to eating GhasPhus. And here’s why:
- There’s absolutely no denying how crucial it is to consume protein as per RDA. Generally, our daily calories should come from protein leveled anywhere between 10-35%.
- However, the actual protein requirements of our body depend upon age, physical fitness, size of the body, different illnesses, pregnancy, or recovering from any surgery or an injury.
- Thankfully, recent researches show that there is very little difference between plant proteins and animal proteins concerning the way our bodies use them.
- This is why Dana Ellis Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD says, “The differences that once were thought to make plant-based proteins less bioavailable are now understood as not being all that important.”
- As we all know, inflammation is the natural reaction of the immune responses of our body against any antigens, illnesses, and injuries. However, according to Harvard Health, over time, chronic inflammation scenarios can contribute to fetal diseases like Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even cancer!
- And as per Dana Hunnes, animal proteins tend to be more inflammatory because they often contain higher amounts of amino acids that can act as an antigen to trigger an inflammatory reaction in our body. Also, as animal proteins are packed with animal fats as well, it can lead to cholesterol uprise in our body making our body diabetic or susceptible to cardiovascular diseases! Plant proteins on the other hand often contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and polyphenols that are anti-inflammatory substances themselves! Some of these plant-based substances can even cancel out the adverse effects of any inflammation. For example, chickpeas, lentils, soya beans, split peas, and other legumes are so high in fiber and phytonutrients. Therefore, they are amazing at decreasing inflammatory reactions in our bodies.
- Fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate that keeps our good gut bacteria happy as they feed on fiber. And as those good bugs flourish in our gut, our digestive systems maintain their good working order. Also, fiber has been linked to several health benefits, like regulating blood sugar levels, maintaining bowel health, and lowering bad cholesterol levels.
- However, meat, seafood, dairy, or any animal derivatives are not naturally fiber-containing products; Whereas plant proteins like beans, lentils, and other plant-based whole foods do.
- Apart from lentils, legumes, etc.s, even some vegetables contain small amounts of protein. Though we should source these proteins from heavy hitters like legumes for building muscles. though you should source most of this muscle-builder from heavy hitters like the Leguminosae family.
- Therefore, protein deficiency clearly won’t be an issue unless our plant-based diet includes foods like cookies, chips, deep-fried snacks, etc. covering up the majority of our meals with little nutritional value. So, it’s nearly impossible to suffer from protein deficiency, even if you don’t like beans, lentils, or bean curds.
- In this regard, Hunnes says, “If you don’t like tofu, don’t force yourself to eat tofu. Almost any food contains some protein. So, even whole-wheat bread has around 4-5 grams of protein in every slice. Therefore, if you’re varying protein up, you’ll get enough protein, fiber, and nearly all the other nutrients you need from your daily plant-based diet.”
- There has been a constant argument over plant protein being harder to digest compared to animal protein. However, the absorption difference between plant and animal proteins is minimal, which is about 10-20% lower in plant proteins than in animals. Moreover, it would only concern us if our diets are not meeting our daily protein requirements, which is about 10 percent of daily calories, or about 0.8 g per kg of body weight.
- Also, it is always advised by nutritionists to sprout or at least soak the beans or lentils for a while before cooking or consuming them. This is because when the legumes or any plant protein sources are soaked in water, the protein content in them becomes easily absorbable in our bodies!
- Now you know how to explain plant protein absorption to win over the digestion of animal proteins.
- The main difference between plant and animal protein lies in their amino acid profile. That is why plant proteins are often reputed for being inferior to animal proteins. Since animal proteins do contain all nine essential amino acids in general, they are most likely to take away the limelight from plant proteins. But the idea that plant proteins are lower in quality in comparison to animal protein is definitely a myth.
- As we have discussed earlier, some plant-based protein sources, like soybeans, tempeh, quinoa, tofu, buckwheat, amaranthus, hemp seeds, and even nutritional yeast, are complete proteins containing all essential amino acids. But, some of those options can be hard to get in the market. Thankfully, VeganDukan comes to rescue us here with a wide range of plant-based superfoods.
- Also, it’s way easier to get all nine essential amino acids from plant protein sources by combining different kinds of plant-based foods; Because many plant proteins tend to be densely packed with some amino acids but contain insufficient of others. Therefore, the options to overcome this include a combination of carbohydrates and proteins, which sound delicious, isn’t it?
- Well, to elaborate more, we can discuss the mouthwatering protein-carb combo examples. Hence, the combos to provide complete plant protein sources include our good old Desi Rajma-Chawal, Dal-Bhat, Idly-Sambar, Chhole-Bhature, Tadka-Roti, etc.s or even brown rice with black beans, hummus with pita bread, whole-grain pasta with peas, peanut butter on whole-grain toast, hearty lentil or bean soup with whole-grain crackers, etc. from around the world.
Summing up the Plant Protein Perks
As previously discussed above, whole-food plant-based proteins not only contain higher amounts of dietary fiber in general but also come with many more health benefits. That's right, plant proteins contain a wide range of vital vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals while proteins of animal origin tend to be higher in unwanted cholesterol and fat.
Moreover, recent studies on this matter have shown that a whole plant-based food diet can lower our risk for many chronic health hazards, including strokes, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
To sum it up, we can acquire sufficient amounts of protein from plants, and it’s nearly impossible to become protein deficient on a plant-based diet with proper protein-carb combo meals.
So, add different types of plant-protein sources to your diet along with carbohydrates to ensure that you’re getting all the nine essential amino acids with vital vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and dietary fibers. Because plant protein is the new age smart protein without any cruelty involved.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- While the proteins in animal products tend to be absorbed more easily than those from plant sources, that's not a reason to choose beef over beans, according to Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Plant protein is way more beneficial than animal protein because certain plants make excellent sources of protein, often with lesser harmful effects and fewer calories than animal products. Some plant proteins, such as soya, quinoa, etc. are considered complete protein sources containing all 9 essential amino acids that our human body needs.
- Plant proteins do have essential amino acids but in comparison to animal proteins, in most plant proteins very few amino acids remain missing or in lesser quantity. And as you know, a significant reduction of limiting amino acids i.e., methionine, lysine, tryptophan, etc. means lower protein synthesis. Although the good news is, there are plant proteins like Soya, Quinoa, etc. which have a complete amino acid profile!
- The answer is yes according to a new study report. Recently, researchers have found that vegetarian protein or vegan protein is just as beneficial for building muscle mass and strength as animal protein.
- Plant-based proteins are generally considered to be lower in saturated fats and cholesterol, as well as easier for the stomach to break down than whey proteins. Whey proteins are higher in essential amino acids and have a higher concentration of protein than their plant-based counterparts.