From protein to alternative protein
“What will be your daughter’s source of proteins??” Friends and family kept asking this question to my mother when I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of ten. People were always concerned with being a vegetarian and finding protein sources that are not meat based. So, what are proteins? And why do we need them, is meat really the only source? In this article, I will discuss all these matters, so next time someone will ask; it will be clear why there are no reasons to be concerned.
What is a protein?
Proteins are essential macronutrients that play an important role in maintaining the overall health and well-being of any living creature. They are made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids, which are linked together in a specific order to form complex structures. There are 20 different amino-acids, some of which our cells can make and some we need to get from our food. The complex structure amino acids form when chained together, proteins, perform a variety of functions within our body. There are many different types of proteins, each with their own unique function. Common protein groups are enzymes, which catalyze chemical reactions in the body; hormones, which regulate various bodily processes; and antibodies, which help to protect the body against disease.
Why do we need proteins?
As mentioned earlier, different protein types perform different important tasks. They are essential for growth and development, as well as for maintaining healthy muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Proteins also play a crucial role in the immune system, helping to defend the body against infection and disease. Additionally, proteins are important for regulating a number of metabolic processes, including energy production and the storage and use of nutrients.
There is a recommended daily allowance that is considered the minimum amount of protein needed to meet the basic nutritional requirements of most healthy individuals.On average, a healthy adult needs 50g of protein (e.g., 5g of boiled lentils is good for the daily amount)
However, people who are more physically active or have certain medical conditions may require more protein.
What are natural sources of proteins?
There are many different sources of plant-based proteins, including legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and peas, are particularly rich in protein. Also, whole grains, such as quinoa, oats, and barley, also contain high levels of protein. On a daily basis you probably already consume a lot of plant-based proteins without knowing it!
There is a slight difference in the absorption of animal-based protein and plant-based protein. Animal-based proteins, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, are considered "complete" proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids (the amino acids our bodies cannot make themselves) the body needs. These proteins are also typically more easily absorbed and utilized by the body.Plant-based proteins, on the other hand, are often considered "incomplete" proteins because they typically lack one or more of the essential amino acids. However, it's important to note that many plant-based foods can be combined to provide a complete protein source, such as rice and beans, peanut butter and bread.
Plant-based proteins can also be less digestible than animal-based proteins, although the degree of digestibility varies depending on the source. For example, soy protein is considered to be one of the most digestible plant-based proteins, while gluten and other proteins found in grains like wheat and barley can be less digestible.
Overall, it is important for those on a plant-based diet to include a variety of protein sources in their diet.
The alternative protein industry is rapidly growing as more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of plant-based proteins. The increasing demand for alternative protein sources is driven by a variety of factors, including concerns about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, the health benefits of plant-based diets, and the desire to reduce the dependence on animal-based products. Alternative proteins such as plant-based meat, lab-grown meat, and insect-based protein are becoming more popular among consumers as they are considered more sustainable and ethical than traditional animal-based proteins.
All in all, proteins are essential macronutrients that play a vital role in maintaining overall health and well-being. Plant-based proteins are a great alternative to traditional animal-based proteins, providing health benefits and reducing the environmental and ethical impact of animal agriculture. The alternative protein industry is rapidly growing, providing more options for consumers looking for sustainable and ethical protein sources. If there is still something not clear about the wonder of proteins, feel free to reach out to me.
About the author: Mira holds a PhD from Weizmann Institute of Science and is published in renowned scientific journals. She had the opportunity to present her research at international conferences, as well as review/edit a variety of scientific articles and data. Over the years, she gained experience working for major pharma organizations where she specialized in clinical trials. She is currently freelancing for Rosen & Ko (https://www.rosen-ko.com/) as a food-tech consultant and scientific writer.