The benefits of Plant-Based protein
Plant-based diets have been in the public consciousness and gaining popularity, across the world, in recent years. People have been making the switch for varied reasons: dietary intolerances, meat shortages, environmental concerns, or simply a desire to eat healthier. From Youtubers and IG fitness influencers, to celebrity chefs and celebrities like Kelly Clarkson and Kim Kardashian, plant-based diets have been getting ringing endorsements. So why the hype?
Protein: the nutrient that your body needs to rebuild.
Your body needs three types of macronutrients – carbohydrates, fat and protein. Of these, protein generally gets the most attention, with good reason. Yes, you need protein to build muscle (especially after a good workout). But more than that, it also helps to build your immune system, is necessary for the production of hormones and enzymes, and even plays a role in regulating the fluids in your body. The catch? Unlike fat and carbohydrates, your body doesn’t store protein. So it’s important that you keep feeding it a steady supply of the stuff instead.
Plant protein vs animal protein: to-may-toe, to-mah-toe?
Not really. Typically – and a scroll through your Instagram feed will probably confirm this – meat (red and white) is considered the best way to meet your daily protein requirement. Also, until recently, plant-based protein was considered the lesser protein. If you’re wondering why this is – the answer lies in the Amino Acids that each type of protein contains.
The human body needs 20 different amino acids – and while your body produces 11 of these, you must get the remaining 9 from your food. Animal proteins are considered to be complete proteins because they contain ALL the amino acids that you need to get from your diet, and are quite similar to the protein found in your body (unsurprisingly).
On the other hand, only some plant proteins, like quinoa and soy, are complete proteins. Other sources, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and veggies have some but not all the amino acids your body needs. Is this a big deal? Not at all. It just means that you need to eat a variety of these foods (and variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?)!
Your protein sources: the sum and the parts
Another factor to consider is the ‘package’ in which your protein comes: because when you eat foods for their protein content, you also consume the fats, fibre, sodium etc. that they contain. For instance, a red meat steak will also add to your saturated fat consumption. Salmon – or any kind of fatty fish for that matter – would be low in saturated fat and sodium, and an excellent source of Omega-3. And a cup of cooked lentils packs a protein and fibre punch, minus the saturated fat and sodium.
The Plant Advantage
So plant-based protein or animal-based protein? If that’s the question, our answer is unequivocally plant-based protein. While there are studies that have shown that certain sources of animal protein can increase risk of heart disease – particularly if they are processed, the simple fact is that plant-based protein delivers amazing health benefits.
A plant-based diet typically has dietary fibres, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which do the body a world of good. They are also low in saturated fats, are easier to digest and free from antibiotics and chemicals. Definitely good news for our country’s significant vegetarian population.
Your protein sources: the sum and the parts
Any number of plant foods. There’s soya, with more than a few options, including tofu, tempeh, soya milk, edamame and soya chunks. Legumes, which are essentially all the grams that we love: chickpeas, black beans, mung beans and lentils, are great sources of plant protein. You can also go nuts for nuts such as almond, cashew, pistachios and Brazil nuts, seeds like chia, flax and quinoa, and veggies such as sweet potato, spinach, broccoli and asparagus, as they are also great sources of plant-based protein.
So much to do, so little time?
Of course, sourcing and preparing these different foods is another story altogether. Don’t have the time? That’s fine. There are a number of helpful alternatives in the form of protein powders for shakes, smoothies, cakes, even dosas, such as Origin Nutrition, available, so you don’t have to stress. The important thing to remember is that plant-based protein offers quite a few benefits. So whether you want to try to eat healthier, lose weight, or just improve your overall health, incorporating a plant-based protein into your life is a great place to start.