Proteins in plant based diets is a topic that is often talked about, and you can bet that anyone who is vegetarian or vegan has been asked at least once: “How do you do without proteins? Where do you find them, since you don’t eat meat?”.
Let’s start by saying, in an elementary way which gives the idea, what proteins are: our body needs a large amount and variety of nutrients, that obtains mainly by eating and drinking. Each element does its “job” in the biological machine of our body, and proteins have the purpose of building and repairing cells and tissues, as well as regulating some hormonal functions and give energy.
Not all foods can give us good proteins: some give us “quality” proteins, that is, rich in constituents (amino acids) that our body cannot manufacture by itself, others do not have any at all.
And here comes the contribution of beans, lentils, soy and the whole team of legumes…
We know that many foods of animal origin have high amounts of proteins, and we know the sad truth of many athletes, especially bodybuilders, who eat pounds of meat every day to maintain and build their muscles.
But not everyone knows the truth about legumes and the proteins they can give us.
Which is the food at the top of the ranking for the amount of proteins? Meat? Wrong: it’s soy! This legume offers about 36 grams of proteins per 100 grams of product, superior even to parmesan cheese (33 grams out of 100) and bresaola (32 grams out of 100, which is the same amount as pine nuts …).
Some foods that are praised for their purported amount of proteins, such as beef or chicken breast, stop at around 22 grams per 100.
There is one aspect, however, that concerns the “quality” of proteins: we know from biology that only foods of animal origin offer proteins complete with all the essential amino acids to our body, while each plant food offers only parts of the group of essential amino acids.
But also in this case, nature offers us the best solution: just associate plant foods of different origin (even a simple pasta and beans) with each meal to obtain all the essential amino acids and offer our body what it needs, without having to create suffering for our animal friends and, as we now well know, staying healthy!