PLANT BASED DIETS — is it for you?
With more nutritious and plant-based diets gaining popularity, many of us are moving away from traditional plant-based products. Vegan foods contain relatively less saturated fats and lesser cholesterol than those following omnivorous diets. Research has also strongly indicated the benefits such diets have in curbing heart disease or cancer. They can also positively change the gut micro biome in the longer run and help with body weight regulation.
Plant Based Diets raise manyqueriesaround ‘how do you get enough protein’?
If your diet is free from animal products, some strategic planning can get you to score all your nutritional requirements. Protein has multiple sources and you would be consuming from a variety of plant based foods to meet your protein needs as opposed to those who meet the majority of their protein needs from one large animal based source. Even omnivore diets procure a significant amount of their protein from plants.
Vitamin B12 can be lacking in a vegan diet as the bioavailability of these in plant based foods can be low, especially if they are not consumed every day. Adequate iron intake can be difficult to reach especially in its non heme form. These can be met by consuming lentils, fortified cereals and some nuts. With the right planning, it is possible to THRIVE on a plant based diet. And it may only seem difficult because it is new and requires planning. To avoid developing deficiencies with Vitamin b12, Vitamin D, protein or iron and zinc it is crucial to not only eat a certain number of calories but to account for the macros and nutritional breakdown correctly.
Some plant proteins lack a full essential amino acid profile, but some such as quinoa and soy provide all the essential amino acids. However, through the nutritional lens, plant based proteins have decreased digestibility and bioavailability that do not keep them at par with animal protein sources. Planning on a veg or vegan diet involves understanding the different sources of protein that exist. The quality of a protein can be classified based on the amount of essential amino acids packed per gram within the protein. Our bodies need protein from our diet as it does not produce it sufficiently.
Where can I get my protein from?
Depending on your age, activity level and lifestyle, your protein needs can differ. To maximise the muscle protein synthesis, meals should have at least 20–30 grams of protein eaten in intervals across the day.
An example of approximately 20 grams of protein in a vegetarian meal looks a little like this:
Two medium Whole-wheat tortillas
1/2 cup of Beans
1/2 cup of Tofu
Avocado & Salsa
Here are some plant based protein sources that you can always turn to.
PLANT BASED PROTEINS
Chickpeas, Beans, Lentils, Split Green peas
Oats, Rice, Quinoa, Millet
Pumpkin seeds, Flax, Hemp, Sunflower
Brazil Nuts, Macadamia nuts, Almonds, Cashew, Walnuts
Edamame, Red Lentils, Black Bean, Chickpea
Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus
It is important to be informed of the various sources of protein so that you can include variety. But obsessively counting macros can disrupt your relationship with food and so, being mindful of this in your planning process can keep things in a healthy balance.