Proteins are a type of macronutrient that contribute to the proper functioning of the body.They are essential for our health as they are considered one of the three main nutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats, in our diets. Proteins and amino acids are the main components of our muscles, bones, skin, tissues and organs. When we eat protein our body breaks them down into individual amino acids during digestion and then uses these amino acids to create new proteins where needed.
Although, as its name indicates, vegetable proteins are those that are obtained from foods of plant origin, Dr. Maria Gonzalez, member of the General Council of Official Associations of Dieticians-Nutritionists and president of the Professional Association of Dieticians-Nutritionists of Galicia, clarifies that “consuming protein is not synonymous only with eating meat. It can be obtained from a wide variety of foods, many of which can be of plant origin.”
Where are these types of plant-based proteins found?
These proteins are found in chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, nuts, whole grains, seeds, soy derivatives (tofu, tempeh, textured soybeans, miso), pseudocereals (quinoa, millet, or buckwheat among others).
for Gonzalez animal proteins are found in foods that also contain a high percentage of unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats in meats and processed products, and that favor the development of some pathologies such as cardiovascular diseases.
Furthermore, it clarifies that vegetable proteins are less available; that is, they are absorbed in less quantity. “A little more quantity is needed to cover the requirements. But if we carry out a varied diet we ensure the contribution of all essential amino acids. In fact, it is recommended that at least half of the protein we eat be of plant origin”, he adds.
For the doctor, it can be a good substitute for meat. “With a varied vegetarian diet, well planned and supervised by a dietitian-nutritionist, if necessary, protein requirements can be perfectly covered,” he says.
for the doctor Alberto Cormillot, can you follow a vegetarian diet depending on the combinations that are made. When you start a vegetarian diet, one of the main questions is to know where to find the complete proteins. Proteins that are complete are called “complete” proteins. has all the essential amino acids in its composition in sufficient quantities.
“It is possible to have a healthy and balanced diet with complete proteins by eating only plant-based foods. On a nutritional level, few foods can compete with quinoa. It has vitamins from group A, B and E and a large amount of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus or zinc in the right amounts to be as healthy as possible. And of course 100% complete proteins. The Soy, one of the most consumed foods by vegetarians and vegans, it also has all the essential amino acids for the body,” Cormillot said.
Between plant protein highlights, the doctor Maria Gonzalez maintains that the foods that provide it also contain minerals, vitamins and fiber, which it’s converts them into foods with a high nutritional density.
“Another point in favor of vegetable proteins is the promotion of a sustainable diet since they require less consumption of resources (water) and generate less amount of greenhouse gases. The production of plant-based foods has a lower environmental impact”, added the specialist.
What the doctor does clarify is that it is not about eliminating animal proteins.“There are foods such as eggs or fish, also animal protein, and whose fats are more heart-healthy than others”. However, he prefers to prioritize plant-based foods in weekly meals.
It recommends including 2 servings of vegetables a day, at least 3 pieces of fruit, in addition to ensuring a consumption of legumes at least 3 times a week. In turn, it suggests reduce or avoid the consumption of meat, as well as meat derivatives, and processed foods.
Dr. Cormillot adds that the quinoa and soy They have complete proteins. The frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables guarantees the intake of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, in addition to many essential nutrients. Finally, combinations such as lentils and brown rice are combinations of proteins that complement each other and make a complete protein. Brown rice, added to nuts and flax and chia seeds, are also very good foods.