Aysha Memon digs into the pros of a plant-based protein diet
Proteins are an integral part of our diet. It is a well-known fact that our body breaks down proteins into simpler substance called amino-acids which are the building blocks of our body. We intake proteins from either animal or plant sources. However, it is a misconception that only animal-based proteins give the right amount of nutrition to our body.
“While comparing plant and animal-based protein, a plant-based protein diet is associated with lower risk of heart disease, blood pressure and cholesterol. A diet containing animal protein foods such as fatty meats or full-fat dairy products have been associated with Cardio Vascular Disease, Obesity and Diabetes,” says Sana Merchant, a Mumbai-based dietitian.
Increasingly, people are interested in following vegetarian or vegan diets and reducing their consumption of animal products. A shift away from animal products is getting easier with more fortified and nutritious plant-based foods available. Soy products are among the richest sources of protein in a plant-based diet. The protein content varies with how the soy is prepared. “Gorge on black beans, lima beans, soya bean, hummus, quinoa, almonds/ almond butter, buckwheat, hemp seed, tempeh even jackfruit. I use a lot of proteins like lentils, beans, and chickpeas in our daily meals or snacks,” recommends Geeta Hansaria, a homoeopath and Instagram food blogger.
“A balanced meal meets all the nutritional requirements of the body. Non-vegetarian diet puts a load on blood circulation. It takes longer to digest as compared to vegetarian food which is easily absorbed by the body and is less stressful for its functioning”, says Shonali Sabherwal — Macrobiotic nutritionist from Mumbai.
In recent years, plant-based diet has also penetrated the world of sports. Is it possible for a professional athlete to excel and yet be vegan? Macrobiotic nutritionist from Mumbai Shonali Sabherwal shares, “A balanced meal meets all the nutritional requirements of the body. Non-vegetarian diet puts a load on blood circulation. It takes longer to digest as compared to vegetarian food which is easily absorbed by the body and is less stressful for its functioning.”
She recommends that vegan athletes increase their protein intake by 10% to meet their daily protein requirements. “Intake should be 1.3-1.8 g/kg/day. If you’re a vegan endurance athlete who weighs 60 kg (132 lbs), you need roughly 78-108 g of protein per day, or about 40% more than non-vegan, non-athletes.”
The idea that plant sources are insufficient to meet protein requirements is an outdated myth. An appropriately planned vegan or vegetarian diet can meet the energy and macro-nutrient needs of athletes. “But the key words here are appropriately planned. Meeting your protein needs as a vegan athlete isn’t rocket science, but it may take a little effort or at least forethought,” summarises Piyush Bachani, founder of Fit Food Company. Time to tuck in…minus any guilt!