Protein is one of the most important constituents of our diets and virtually the building blocks of all the components of our body. Our hair, nails, skin, muscles, everything is protein. It’s anywhere and everywhere! Moreover, protein determines the quality of our everyday life, our intellect, ability to function, our mood and our cognitive brain function. Virtually every aspect of a healthy and happy life can be attributed to a balanced diet rich in protein- not only in quantity but quality, And how can we forget about the biggest protein processing unit of our body.
The Liver: Liver processes and produces all the non essential and assimilates or absorbs all the essential amino acids and makes them available to the body.
It also stores the excess nutrients and expels all the harmful substances out of the body.
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And protein again is important for its function too.
Nowadays, given the fast food culture that we live in , it is pretty tricky to get your protein right.
Henceforth, below we have listed every aspect related to protein and also the best vegan protein options and low fat – high protein options for non vegetarians!
Why is there a shift from animal diet to a plant diet?
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Animals in the past were considered an excellent source of protein. It is a direct and the highest amount of protein source by weight required for lean muscle building.
However, this diet has quite a few side effects that we have discussed below in detail.
Owing to these, a shift toward animal free diet has been all a rage in recent times and for good.
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Below, we have analyzed the difference between animal and plant based protein and WHICH ONE IS BETTER.
But first let’s look at some of the basics. We do understand the quantity of protein. It should roughly be around 60 grams for a person weighing 60 kilograms and so on.
But what exactly is the quality of protein?
For this we need to understand the basic structure of a protein molecule.
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Proteins are actually composed of different kinds of amino acids.
These when joined together in a repetitive manner form a protein molecule.
Given below is a diagram to show you what exactly an amino acid looks like.
Different types of amino acids are formed by attaching different types of functional groups at the variable site and hence the variety in proteins itself.
The variable functional groups determine the structure and hence the function that the amino acid will perform in the body.
Broadly, there are two groups of amino acids
Essential and Non-essential.
Essential amino acids are the ones which are required to be supplied by our diet because they are not produced in the body or rather cannot be stored by it.
These amino acids are the prime focus of all the diets in the world and when we mean protein in food, our target are these amino acids (AA).
Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by the body and hence, are not a necessity to be supplied in the diet.
However the quantity of non-essential AA that the body produces is mostly not enough to meet the body’s requirements and hence it’s always better, for these, to be included in our diet as well.
In totality there are hundreds of AA. However the ones that are prime are 20.
Out of these 9 are essential and 11 are non-essential.
Whether or not your diet contains these 9 essential amino acids determines the quality of the protein in your diet.
Moreover another standard which is used in determining this, is by the amount of biochemical absorption that our body responds to regarding a specific food. Easier the absorption, easier the assimilation and more the nutrition.
So given the functional role that these essential AA play in your body, it is important to keep an eye out on the amino acid profile while you choose your supper.
Now the major question that we’ve been waiting for:
Plant based vs animal based protein
As mentioned above, a growing shift toward a plant based diet is being observed in recent times.
This pattern has been widely publicized by celebrities and influencers.
We see dedicated vegan food restaurants and also top fast food chains including an alternative vegan meat like option in their menu.
Below we have compared animal and plant based protein sources so you get to decide your verdict:
1. Amino acid profile in animal based protein is very variable. Moreover, animal protein as compared to plant protein contains all the 9 essential amino acids which the latter lacks.
This does not infer that a plant diet does not possess all the essential AA.
It simply indicates that a single plant based component does not have all the required AAs whereas meat has all of them packed together in one!
This is a very important point in determining the protein standard of both the sources!
Related to this is a term called Bio availability
Bio availability is a term that refers to the amount of available essential amino acids in a certain diet source. It is rated anywhere between 0 – 100.
Animal source proteins like whey, the dairy class- milk, cheese along with the meat class- Steak, beef, pork rank around 90 in their bio – availability which is quite high given the amount of diverse amino acid profile that they exhibit.
Plant protein on the other hand start ranging around 50 which is quite less as they have a lesser chance in the amino acid profile and their availability.
One thing to note is that the protein in animals or plants is the same.
A specific protein is not different in a plant or an animal.
It basically has the same structure and the same rate of assimilation and absorption by the body, henceforth it does not mean that plant proteins are any different from animal proteins or vice versa.
For example: Collagen protein, as a singular, is similar in plants and animals. It does not defer in chemical composition irrespective of its source.
2. Plant proteins come packed with fibre and carbohydrates whereas animal proteins come packaged with fat.
So basically plant protein is difficult to get to because there is a lot of fibre that comes in the way and as you all know fibre is basically cellulose that is not digestible by our digestive system.
One good quality about it is that it keeps you full for long and is excellent for weight loss. The bad quality however is that your body will require more time and a lot more efforts to assimilate protein from this source.
Animal protein on the other hand is a ready protein. It gets absorbed easily in the body and is readily assimilated, however, that does mean it’s low on fibre which is the most essential for maintaining a healthy gut.
3. Plant proteins come packaged with a plethora of vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants and good nutrients.
On the flip side animal proteins are at a disadvantage. In Fact these come packed with free radicals which are absolutely dangerous for our body and can cause a variety of illnesses as grave as cancer.
Moreover, there is always a possibility of contracting infections by consuming animal products.There have been numerous cases of pathogen transfer from animal to human via this method.
Ebolavirus is one such example.
4. Dairy is nowadays associated with heaps of inflammatory illnesses including PCOS in women , adult acne, loss of hair- alopecia and other allergic diseases.
Lactose intolerance is also a growing condition that portrays the effect dairy can have on our digestive systems.
Moreover bloating is also a common condition given the high amount of sodium that is used in the dairy processing industry.
Plant proteins on the other hand are hypoallergenic and non-inflammatory. They do not cause any stress on our digestive systems and in fact maintain our gut health. However, if you are shifting toward a plant diet make sure that you keep a close track of your Vitamin B complexes. It’s because the biggest source of vitamin B complex is Dairy and Meat.
So it is also always important to keep some supplements in handy, just in case any underlying deficiency arises.
5. Ethical reasons: Animal keeping causes a great toll on the environment.
This can be attributed to the fact that 1 kg of poultry meat requires about 10 to 15 kg of grains. This directly illustrates the amount of resources used versus the amount of product that we achieve, not to mention it is considered unethical in many cultures as it involves harming a living being.
Although animal protein boasts of a better protein profile and having all the 9 essential amino acids in its account, plant protein is much more sustainable over a long time.
No allergens, no inflammation, lesser calories, lower harmful fat and higher good fat, high in vitamins, minerals and the absolute necessary fibre and obviously ethical reasons on the side gives it an upper hand and thus is a much better choice over animal protein.
The consumption of animal protein if desirable should be restricted to not more than 2 times a week.
Regular consumption of meat should be avoided as it also puts a great deal of toll on our liver which is our one and only chance at protein processing and production.
Here we jump in to help you!
Down below we have combined top 5 high plant protein options and high protein low fat options for non vegetarian diet
Plant based Protein options.
An excellent source of protein which is a major in the modeling industry and a staple in the Asian culture. An excellent source of low calorie, nutrient dense and protein rich superfood!
A serving of tofu which is roughly 100 grams contains
Carbs: 2.8 gms
Protein: 17 gms
Fat: 8 gms
Fibre: 3 gms
Calories: 144 kcal
A staple in South – India, made mostly from Moong dal or Yellow lentils.
Moonglet is made by soaking these lentils overnight, then grinding and spicing them up with some added vegetables and a roast like dosa.
And wallah! you are pretty much good to go:
A serving of one Moonglet which is typically 150 gms contain:
Protein: 8.6 gms
Fat: 5.1 gms
Fibre: 3.3 gms
Calories: 169 kcal
Also known as ‘Plant Meat’ is an excellent source of protein which is all wheat gluten. Along with being high in protein, this source is also high in other vitamins and micronutrients like Calcium, magnesium, etc.Let’s look at the macronutrient profile of this superfood. However, people with gluten allergies should strictly avoid this option!
100 gms of seitan contain
Carbohydrate: 14 gms
Protein: 50 gms
Fat: 6.2 gms
Fibre: 12.7 gms
Calories: 370 calories
Chickpeas and other group of lentils:
These are an excellent source of protein and fibre combined. When soaked overnight to remove all the anti nutrients, lentils can be an excellent source of protein and all the micronutrients.
100 gms of unsoaked black chickpeas contain
Carbohydrates: 60.9 gms
Proteins: 17.1 gms
Fats: 5.3 gms
Fibre: 28.3 gms
Spirulina and other microfoods:
These are actually one of the best direct protein sources in the protein industry. Being extremely low in calories and high in protein, these are rare but preferred choices among athletics and gym freaks
Carbs: 23.9 gms
Protein: 57.5 gms
fats: 7.7 gms
Fibre: 3.6 gms
Apart from the above loads of non – dairy and vegan options are available for almost every category of food.
Be it vegan cheeses to vegan protein powders, the options are many and that is clearly the best part of today’s time.
SO NOW GIVEN THE OPTIONS WE’VE PRESENTED YOU WITH NO OBE CAN ARGUE VEGAN OR PLANT BASED DIET IS LOW ON PROTEIN!
Down below we have compiled some high protein low fat options for all our non vegetarian friends out there!
This particular protein source is famous for being the best and an economical source of protein . Let’s take a look at its macronutrient profile and decide for ourselves!
A 100 gm serving which is roughly 3-4 scoops contain
Carbs: 19.5 gms
Protein: 61.1 gms
Fats: 9.1 gms
Fibre: 2.8 gms
Calories: 100 gms
Again a cheap and an excellent source of protein, eggs are the most economical yet the best protein source for all classes of people. Let us know in the comment section below: Team RUNNY EGG or Team BOILED EGGS?
Nutrition facts for a large boiled egg
Carbs: 0.6 gm
Protein: 6.3 gn
Fats : 5.3 gm (egg yolk can be separated to avoid this extra fat)
Fibre : 0 gms
Calories: 78 kcal
This again tops the protein game with a diverse macro and micronutrient profile along with being extremely essential to get in those omega 3 fatty acids
Mackerel and Sardines in gravy( Not fried) is an excellent way to get them vitamins.
100 gms of a fish curry bowl contains
Carbs: 2.4 gms
Protein: 10 gms
Fats: 6.3 gms
Fibre: 0.8 gms
Calories: 305 gms
This option is a better choice than other steaks in the game such as Pork, Fish, etc. Having scanty fat compared to a high protein is an expensive yet a worth it experience.
Nutrition facts for 100 gm uncooked beef steak:
Protein: 49.5 gm
Fats: 14.8 gm
Fibre: 0.4 gms
Calories: 134 kcal
Although we have discussed fish earlier , this kind deserves a special mention because of its impressive high protein and low fat content along with being high in omega 3 fatty acids.
A serving of 100 gm of Atlantic raw salmon contain:
Carbs: 0 gms
Protein: 20.5 gms
Fats: 4.4 gms
Fibre: 0.0 gms
Calories: 208 kcal
As you would have well noted above, food sources in the non vegetarian category do not have enough fibre.
It is less or none at all.
Fibre is very essential for a healthy digestive system, avoiding inflammatory ailments of the gut and also for regular bowel movements
If you do not consume enough fibre it can lead to bloating, constipation, inflammation in the digestive tract along with the retention of harmful waste in the body
Henceforth, it becomes absolutely essential to take care of the daily fibre requirement of the body.
To tackle this, it is important to add vegetables and other high fibre alternatives on a side.
Fruits when eating directly ( not juicing them because juicing is essentially removing all the fibre) also turn out to be a great option to up the fibre intake.
Moreover non vegetarian food is itself not as high in fat as it is when processed.
The excess fat comes from frying them to enhance the taste and texture of the dish.
Junk food restaurants, in fact, tend to refry and use the same oil for longer durations that increase the amount of saturated and trans fat in the food along with boosting antinutrients in them which are extremely harmful to the body.
Healthier options do exist and it is very important that we understand the balance between taste and health and prioritize health always!
Believe me when I say it, an air fryer is a great investment considering the fact that you get the same effect that frying has, but with way less calories and nil bad fat thus proving to be a much healthier and a better option to consider.
Moreover, it is also important to remember that our body does require a small amount of unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids to function properly.
This requirement can be fulfilled by choosing healthier options like flax, hemp and chia seeds, almonds , marine fishes, avocados and other good-fat options.
Frying is really hazardous to health and leads to a buildup of unnecessary saturated fatty acids, thus causing several health issues.
Health is nothing but a balance. It is very imp important that we realise this- No food or diet is 100% perfect or imperfect.
What determines a good diet is the amount of balance between the good and bad and a higher percentage of the former.
Believe me a good diet has an effect on every single aspect of a person’s life including his mental, physical and emotional well being.
So make sure you get that good diet and then nothing can stop you , you’re all the way up!
©WebChennel Nitiksha Dabhane Contributed to this article.