Vegetable proteins are those whose raw material is exclusively linked to non-animal sources. As such, proteins are the macronutrient in charge of carrying out essential functions for life, acting in the same way as those of animal origin.
Why do we need to consume protein?
They constitute one of the fundamental nutrients for any biological process, therefore they are also very important in all types of sports diets, and they intervene in the digestive process, protect the circulatory system, and are a fundamental part of tissues and organs. The amount of protein you need depends on your physical condition, type of training, and goals.
Although they are mainly and to a greater extent contained in foods of animal origin, there are different foods of plant origin that can provide different types of proteins, even with some benefits that meat does not have. Although many of these foods are mainly consumed in vegan sports diets, they are perfectly combinable with animal proteins, thus providing variety and new benefits for fitness diets.
Benefits of Proteins of Vegetable Origin
Proteins of vegetable origin have great advantages such as:
- Low-fat content,
- Ability to help reduce cholesterol levels and
- Prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Where can we find vegetable proteins?
We can find them in soybeans, dried fruit, cereals, and their derivatives, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, legumes, and vegetables. Combined with each other and with a balanced diet, these 11 protein foods of plant origin can bring an important amount of protein to our body.
Types of Vegetable Proteins
Depending on the vegetable raw material used in their elaboration we can find:
- Soy protein
- Pea protein
- Rice protein
What are Vegetable Proteins?
1. Soy and Tofu
It contains a high concentration of plant protein. It contains approximately 37g of protein per 100g and has low levels of saturated fat. Tofu, tempeh, and soy burgers are two good soy food alternatives that contain large amounts of protein, also contain large amounts of calcium, and iron. It is also advisable to prepare soups with soy, legumes, or chickpeas.
It is one of the best plant foods rich in protein. In one cup of cooked quinoa, we can find 18g of vegetable protein. Quinoa is considered a super cereal and also contains vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and a large number of amino acids. It helps reduce cholesterol and the risk of suffering from diabetes. It is also used in diets to control or reduce weight and helps control blood pressure.
Made from wheat gluten, Seitan is considered“vegetable meat”. In addition to containing a percentage similar to meat protein (20g per 100g), it is practically cholesterol-free and is very versatile when cooking it. To increase its benefits it is possible to combine it with cereals to avoid possible nutritional deficiencies.
Legumes, whether they are lentils, chickpeas, beans, or soybeans, are one of the plant-based foods with the highest protein content. Combined with some cereals, they provide high-quality protein comparable to meat. They are low in fat and contain large amounts of carbohydrates and fiber. One cup of lentils is capable of providing 18g of protein.
It is a basic and universal food. Its main benefits are the fact that it does not contain cholesterol or sodium, it is a complex carbohydrate, easy to digest and it also contains high-quality protein. Brown or wild rice has approximately 40% more protein than white rice. The absence of lysine in the amino acids present in rice can be compensated by combining it with other foods such as lentils and thus ensure a complete protein.
6. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are considered a “superfood” given that due to their composition, it provides an important amount of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. They contain 23% protein, helping to regenerate muscles and tissues. Also, these seeds help in weight loss diets, growth stages and in the treatment of various diseases.
Peas, although part of the legume family, could be included as a separate food on this list. They are an important source of nutrients particularly in vegetable protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals; they do not bring fat and only a few calories. Pea protein is currently becoming a great alternative to the rest the other sources.
Benefits of Vegetable Proteins
Plant proteins offer a number of benefits such as:
- They provide amino acids for the regeneration and development of muscles
- They do not have cholesterol, since it is present only in foods of animal origin
- They do not contain lactose, a type of carbohydrate present in milk and therefore food of animal origin
- They are easily digestible, so they do not cause gastrointestinal discomfort
Vegetable and Sports Proteins
Many people who practice sports, as well as a large number of athletes, lead vegan or vegetarian diets. In these cases, the supply of amino acids does not come from animal sources and has no repercussions on physical performance which, contrary to what one might think, is better. Many of these athletes compete at the Olympic level.
As for the protein requirement, that of those who play sports is greater than other people. Workouts are physical activities that cause a deterioration of muscle tissue, so it is necessary to supply substances that regenerate it, i.e. amino acids. Plant proteins are often deficient or have reduced amounts of amino acids. In these cases, it is necessary to consume various protein sources every day, in order to have the whole spectrum of amino acids necessary to perform the required physical efforts. Protein supplement powders will make this process easier.
In conclusion, vegetable proteins offer a multitude of benefits, including being a great source of essential amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants. They are sustainable and environmentally friendly, making them an excellent choice for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint. With their versatility and availability in various plant-based food sources, vegetable proteins are an essential component of a healthy and balanced diet for individuals seeking plant-based protein options.