Searching for tips to obtain more protein in your diet? Contrary to popular belief, high-quality protein is not found in animal products alone. For the omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans out there, protein is a dietary requirement regardless of diet choice. Today we focus specifically on plant proteins and the benefits of expanding your protein sources. All it takes is a little planning, practice, and experimentation to incorporate beneficial plant proteins into your daily diet as an alternative to meat.
Inform Your Physician
Proper supervision of your nutrient status before and after making diet changes is essential. For those who choose to go vegetarian or vegan and only consume plant-based proteins, you may be at higher risk for certain deficiencies such as iron, calcium, vitamin D, B12, zinc, and essential fatty acids. A properly trained medical professional can make recommendations as well as monitor for any potential nutrient deficiencies. Nutrient status is also highly individual and can vary depending on gender, age, current health status, medication use, and lifestyle.
Mix It Up Daily
Incorporate a broad spectrum of plant-based protein sources. Not all proteins are created equal. Animal products tend to contain all essential dietary amino acids, but a wide spectrum of plant-based proteins can cover all your requirements. By maintaining a diverse intake of different plant proteins, you won’t need to worry about amino acid deficiency that can manifest itself in many different ways. Symptoms that could be a clue to inadequate protein intake include muscle wasting, dull skin, hair loss, and poor wound healing, among other severe signs such as cognitive impairment, and psychosis.
*Note: Some online websites refer to protein complementation as being a myth. Complementation refers to pairing plant proteins together in one meal to ensure all amino acids are present in one serving. Usually, this relates to strict total vegetarians who do not consume any animal products, including eggs or dairy. Recent position statements by notable organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Heart Association now want to specify that if a mixture of plant proteins are included in the daily diet rather than meals, amino acid deficiency is not a risk.
*These are listed from greatest to least grams of protein per serving. This is not a comprehensive list, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has also created a great table, listed here.
Know Your Meat Alternatives, Cover To Cover
Know your substitutes and how to prepare them. Common meat substitutes that are high in protein include seitan, tempeh, and tofu. Seitan is made from extracted wheat gluten, so for those who suffer from a gluten intolerance or allergy, be aware. Tempeh and tofu are both soy products, but they differ in how they are made, as well as nutrient content. Furthermore, certain meat substitution recipes may work better with one substitution versus another. For meatier textures, seitan or tempeh may be the best option. Tofu is extremely versatile due to a variable texture, lack of taste/smell, and various methods of preparation.
Table 2. Examples of Meat Substitutes
Seitan: Extracted wheat gluten
Tempeh: Bound whole fermented soybeans
Tofu: Coagulated soy curd
Texture: Firm and tough
Texture: Soft, firm, extra firm
Taste: Virtually no taste or smell
Method of preparation: Usually marinated, cooked
Method of preparation:
Usually marinated, steamed, baked, fried
Method of preparation:
Raw, stewed, cooked, fried
Furthermore, Get Crafty In The Kitchen
Being open-minded in the kitchen is half the battle. By trying new recipes and being adventurous, you may discover new original methods to incorporate plant protein into your daily routine. Bring a friend, grab a recipe book, or pick a new Pinterest recipe to try. Here is a thorough website/blog written by Laura Lawless if you don’t know where to start. From A-Z plant protein can be incorporated into every meal!
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