We can certainly say that protein is the most famous macro-nutrient for all physically active individuals. This is simply because the benefits of it are endless, especially for people involved in any kind of training.
Protein is sought and consumed in many ways, recovering and building the cells, muscle tissues, skin, bones, blood, and it even creates antibodies if needed.
Plant Protein Vs Animal Protein
Depending on the amino acid content, there are two types of proteins- complete and incomplete. Complete proteins are the ones that contain all essential amino acids and are usually of animal origin. Incomplete proteins are mostly plants, which lack one or more essential amino acid.
However, even though complete proteins are contained in animal products, it is possible to ingest complete protein from plants, through careful combination of different such. The limited amino acid content varies in different proteins, meaning that if you combine two different foods with different amino acid profiles, you can compensate for the lack of a given amino acid in one of them.
This is called “protein addition” and is a principle widely used in vegetarian diets. Besides that, the organism can synthesize complete proteins, if it has a variety of plant protein sources. Wheat plants for example have a low lysine content, while bean plants have little to none methionine.
Combining plant proteins like wheat and beans, gives the body high quality protein, which is just as good and sometimes even better than protein derived from animal products. Soy has a high protein content, which can be fairly compared to animal protein.
Vegetarians and vegans should have a well-balanced diet that contains wheat, beans, seeds, nuts and vegetables, that compensate each other. Examples of such protein additions can be- Peanut butter sandwich, oats with milk (soy or cow milk), rice with peas or beans.
It is usually considered that vegetarians and vegans are severely depleted of protein. However, this is not even close to reality for those vegetarians who have a rational, balanced nutrition plan, which will give the body all the needed amino acids.
Plant Sources Of Protein
Some of the best plant protein sources, that can replace the traditional animal products, are- Nuts, seeds, beans, soy products and grain plants. Different foods contain different proteins, each of which has its own, unique amino acid content.
The ratio of important amino acids in foods can be differentiated from the ones required by the body to synthesize protein. The proportions of each basic amino acid in foods, containing protein, determine its quality.
The quality of protein is usually determined according to the amino acid profile of egg protein, which is considered ideal.
Reference- Read our article on Protein- Biological value
Knowing that, it is not hard to come to the conclusion that animal protein (meat, eggs, dairy products) tends to be of higher quality, compared to plant protein.
In the table below, you can see the most popular sources of plant protein and their protein content per 100 grams of product. Keep in mind that protein content can change depending on the type of preparation of the given food.
|Plant foods||Protein content per 100 gr|
|Beans||21 to 25 depending on the type of beans|
|Short grain white rice||6.5|
|Long grain white rice||7.13|
|Medium grain white rice||6.5|
|Jumbo olives (green)||0.97|
|Long grain brown rice||7.94|
|Medium grain brown rice||7.5|
Benefits Of Plant Protein
According to a research, where over 4500 people were tested, no significant blood pressure changes were observed with prolonged consumption of plant protein sources, compared to other people who consume animal products as a main protein source.
This shows that vegetarians are not likely to develop hypertension or other cardio-vascular diseases, unless of course, there are genetic predispositions for such diseases. Another benefit of vegetarian diets is the lesser saturation of the total protein volume, compared to non-vegetarian diets.
Such nutritional approach is adequate if you want to cleanse the gastro-intestinal tract, as it helps detoxicate the organism. Certain researches show that we don’t need as much protein as it was originally thought we do. The recommended protein intake for adults and kids has lowered significantly during the past two decades.
The increased protein needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding are easily met due to the increased food consumption. Because kids and babies are in a process of constant growth, they need more protein, compared to adults, proportionally to the body weight.
Recommended amounts of protein are valid, only if the energy needs are met. Otherwise, the protein is used for energy, more than it is used for recovery and growth. This however, is not valid for vegetarians, as most plant sources of protein usually contain solid amounts of carbohydrates, which are used by the body for energy.
Contrary to popular belief, physically active individuals don’t need additional protein for energy, as carbohydrates are the most potent energy source for the organism, and every self-respecting athlete, has a proper nutrition plan, built according to the organism’s demands.
Plant protein has its own benefits when put next to animal products, as it is a healthy, light alternative of a protein source.