When we talk about protein and its sources, the first thing that pops up in our minds is non-vegetarian food, which is somewhat challenging for vegetarians and vegans. Does that mean vegans or vegetarians will not get enough protein? Well, it’s not that; nature has given the alternative to everything, and the same goes for proteins as well. Alternative protein sources are readily available; you need to do a bit of research on it, and that’s it.
Why Is Protein Important?
Proteins are essential nutrients that we all human beings need to survive. They are one of the building blocks of body tissue, and they also provide energy to our body, just like carbohydrates. Amino acids are molecules that coalesce to form proteins. Protein catabolism is the procedure by which proteins are broken down into amino acids. Our body uses amino acids to make proteins to help the body grow, repair body tissue, break down food, and perform many other body functions. Our body can use amino acids as a source of energy also. But usually, protein is not used for energy. Nonetheless, suppose our body is not getting an adequate amount of calories from other nutrients or the fat stored in our body. In that case, protein is broken down into ketone bodies to get energy.
Best 10 Animal Protein Foods
- White-meat poultry
- Lean beef
What are Alternative Protein Sources?
Alternative protein sources are plant-based alternatives to animal protein. They include food products from plants, such as grains, legumes and nuts, mushrooms, and even lab-grown plant-based meats. The increasing demand for protein has revolutionized the food industry in making alternative protein sources with the best nutritional content. Nowadays, alternative protein sources contain everything from algae to re-engineered plant-based legumes and various meat substitutes.
Best 10 Plant Based Protein Foods
Is There a Difference Between Plant Protein and Animal Protein?
The most significant difference between animal and plant proteins is that most plant proteins do not contain all nine essential amino acids, while animal proteins are known as complete proteins, which means they contain all nine essential amino acids. Most plant-based protein sources lack at least 1 of the essential amino acids, although some are considered complete protein sources, such as pea protein and soybeans.
Plant Proteins Vs Animal Proteins
Plant-based diets are inherently lower in calories, cholesterol, sodium, and saturated fat and are an excellent source of dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Moreover, high-protein food such as butter, full-fat milk, and red meat is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, hence increasing the risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, and diabetes. However, protein diets rich in plant sources, including vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruits, nuts and seeds, and olive oil, can help reduce the risk of chronic health diseases.
Never Excess Your Protein Intake
Taking the right amount of proteins helps protect against many diseases such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, weight control, etc. The main disadvantage of overtaking protein is that it can lead to weight gain over time, especially when you consume too many calories while trying to boost your protein intake. When protein intake is excess, it may pose a metabolic load on your kidneys, liver, and bones because your body cannot use the extra protein efficiently. Besides the above severe health complications, other risks of overeating protein can be constipation, bad breath, diarrhea, dehydration, headache, nausea etc.
Healthiest Sources of Animal Protein
It’s always advisable to get your protein intake from the food available around you; if you are a non-vegetarian, try shifting or including some of these alternative sources of protein to keep the health risk in check. And if you are strictly a non-vegetarian, then look out for protein sources that are low in saturated fat, unprocessed, and rich in omega-3s. Some of the healthiest sources of animal protein are:
- White meat such as chicken or turkey breasts
- Fish, primarily fatty fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, lake trout, mackerel, and herring
- Pork tenderloin
- Lean or extra-lean cuts of beef
- Eggs and egg whites
- Non-fat/low-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
Sources of Alternative Protein Sources
- Cheddar cheese and peanut butter are some of the best alternative egg proteins for vegetarians. Peanut butter has 92%, and Cheddar cheese has 82% more protein than an egg. An egg has 12.6g of protein per 100 grams, peanut butter has 24.1g of protein, and cheddar cheese has 22.9g of protein.
- Seitan, steamed or boiled spinach, mushrooms, tofu, tempeh, texturized vegetable protein, and non-dairy milk products are great substitutes for animal protein for vegans.
- Other leafy green vegetables like spinach, watercress, mustard greens, kale, and collard greens are some healthier protein and greens options that both vegetarians and vegans can include in their protein diet.
- If you are on a diet or working on losing weight, protein plays a crucial role. Protein shakes play a significant role in fulfilling the protein requirements along with a protein-rich non-veg or vegan diet as they meet all necessary protein nutritional requirements. In your weight loss journey, do know when to drink protein shakes for weight loss. A protein powder is a dietary supplement. Some protein powders have little added sugar, but some have a lot, which might result in weight gain and blood sugar spikes. Consult your dietician or healthcare advisor about knowing the right amount of protein powder you can take. The possible long-term effects or side effects of drinking protein shakes are still being determined due to less data availability.
There are many motives for incorporating meat substitutes into your diet, even if you’re not following a vegan or vegetarian diet, because eating less meat is not only good for your health but also for the environment. However, the consumption of a non-vegetarian diet is much higher in comparison to the vegetarian diet worldwide. Still, overconsumption of these high-fat and high-protein foods can induce many health issues if not monitored on time. And those who understand the importance of protein in their diet know how to balance between animal and plant proteins or simply shift to alternative protein sources.