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Vegan special: Ten sources for plant-based protein
March 10, 2017
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Vegans have a distinct taste for plant based products and they prefer their diets to be devoid of animal products and their by-products. It is important to note that people who stick to restrictive diets have a challenge with getting all the nutrients the body requires and in their optimal proportions. When not properly sourced and included, proteins could easily be omitted in the vegan diets.

Proteins serve as building blocks for the body. They function to repair worn out tissues and are very essential when building muscle mass. Strict vegetarian diets usually eliminate those foods that are widely known as good sources of protein – diary products, eggs and lean cuts of meat. Poor protein diets will result in associated deficiency syndromes and complications, thus vegetarians should aim to keep their meals well balanced by researching for good plant based options for all the relevant classes of foods.

Listed below are some of my preferred sources for plant based protein:

  • Soybeans

This vegetable source is composed mainly of protein – soyprotein. It is a legume and is classified among the richest sources  of plant based protein. One cup of soybeans contains up to 29 grams of protein. It can be boiled, processed into the soy milk or the soy powder. The types of protein in soybeans are glycinin,  conglycinin, lectin and lunasin.

  • Lentils

An edible pulse like the soybean also comes form the legume family. They come in different varieties – brown, green, red, yellow, etc. In addition to other nutrients, lentils have a high protein content. They are very nutritious, delicious, and due to the variety of serving options available, are very versatile.

  • Nuts and seeds

Nuts come from a variety of sources, but a common feature among them is their rich nutritional value. They are very versatile as they can be eaten raw, cooked, and processed into powders and oils that can be used to enrich various dishes. Some options are: almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts, hazel nuts, chestnuts, etc.

  • Potatoes

Potatoes are considered as a low calorie energy giving food. It is one very healthy staple that usually makes it to the menu of almost everyone on a healthy journey and the reasons are not far-fetched. Potatoes are categorized as good carbs and they also provide a good serving of protein, as well as phytonutrients.

  • Broccoli

This green plant which belongs to the cruciferous family may not be as rich as the ones mentioned earlier but it is indeed an easy pick due to its distinct taste and fibre. It is best when eaten raw as the nutrients can easily be destroyed when overcooked, but several recipes allow for ideal cooking options.

  • Whole grains

Whole grains are a staple source rich in proteins and good carbs. They also serve as good sources of fibre. Good sources include; corn, oats, rice bran, quinoa, wheat, couscous, millet, barley, semolina, etc. They can be used to make bread, pasta, porridge and pastries.

  • Mushrooms

When choosing mushrooms, it is important to note that some of them are not edible. They come from the fungus family, and can be poisonous. Edible mushrooms are mostly sourced for in food markets and they come in varieties. They can be steamed, made into soups or used to fortify salads. One cup of raw white mushrooms contains up to 2.2 grams of protein.

  • Leafy greens

Lots of dark greens are packed with nutrients including proteins. When they are not over cooked, green vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens, fluted pumpkin leaves, etc can serve as ready sources for plant based protein.

  • Fruits 

Interestingly, fruits are usually omitted when listing protein sources. It is important that vegans understand how to include those fruits that have protein content in their diets to help balance them up. Some fruits in this category include, guava, passion fruit, jackfruit, strawberry, starfruit, blackberry, peach, apricot, raspberry, cherry, banana, avocado, kiwi, orange,watermelon, currant, etc.

  • Yeast

This is another protein rich fungus. Yeasts are usually processed and added to foods and beverages for their distinct nutritional value.

 

Further reading

American Heart Association. (2016) Vegetarian diets. Available at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp#.WNRtDNJ97IU Accessed 7 March, 2017

Chan, R., Leung, J., Woo, J. and Kwok, T. (2014). Associations of dietary protein intake on subsequent decline in muscle mass and physical functions over four years in ambulant older Chinese people. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 18(2);171-177.

Houston, D.K., Nicklas, B.J., Ding, J., Harris, T.B., Tylavsky, F.A., Newman, A.B., Lee, J.S., Sahyoun, N.R., Visser, M. and Kritchevsky, S.B. (2008). Dietary protein intake is associated with lean mass change in older, community-dwelling adults: the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(1);150-155.

Hu, F.B. (2003). Plant-based foods and prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(3);544S-551S.

Vollmann, J. (2016). Soybean versus other food grain legumes: a critical appraisal of the United Nations International Year of Pulses 2016. Die Bodenkultur: Journal of Land Management, Food and Environment, 67(1);17-24.

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