Healthy diet includes a variety of plant proteins

Daily intake of meat or plant-based protein is ideal for optimum health. A diet focused mainly on meat-based protein may be lower in dietary fibre and the many nutrients found only in vegetables and grains and higher in fat.

A plant-based protein regime will have more variety in nutrients, will have a good source of dietary fibre and may be lower in fat.

Proteins are a macronutrient made up of amino acids that are essential to the well-being of a healthy body and necessary for almost all cellular activity.

Some act as enzymes and are vital to metabolism. Others have structural or mechanical functions, such as the proteins that maintain cell shape. Proteins are important in immune responses and controlling inflammation.

The body can make some of the 22 amino acids occurring in foods but there are eight it cannot make, and children cannot make 10 of them. They are called the essential amino acids and must come from the foods we eat.

Meat is called a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids, but eating a wide variety of plant products can also supply the essential amino acids. No one plant contains all of the essential amino acids so we need to eat a wide variety.

Good sources of plant protein include chickpeas, lentils, nuts and beans. | Getty photo

The old school of thought recommended eating complementary plant products such as beans with rice, so that all essential amino acids were present at each meal. This is no longer the case.

Scientists now know that through digestion the body will break down proteins and store amino acids from one meal to the next over the day but not longer.

It is a myth that animal protein is superior to plant protein but the structure of amino acids in both is identical.

Poor quality is confused with lower quantity. Plant products are lower in protein, but the quality is equal.

Meat is a highly concentrated protein foods but has fewer of the other nutrients the body needs. We may be lacking in other…

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