This nutrient is an essential part of a balanced and healthy diet. Learn the benefits of each type of protein by the source it comes from.
Medical Advisor: Amida Carvajal Guzmán – Clinical Nutritionist and Dietitian
One of the most popular nutritional trends right now is to replace animal proteins with vegetable proteins. According to a report on the current trends of the social network Pinterest on what we like to eat and drink in 2018, searches for “vegetable proteins” increased by 417% from the year before.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that both types of proteins are necessary, as they are responsible for our muscle and organ development as well as our immune systems. At any given time, proteins are playing an important role in our bodies, either by bringing to it, helping our defense mechanisms to fight diseases, or maintaining, replacing and regenerating the structure of our body tissue.
The suggestion is to eat them in the quantities that are right for each individual need, which depends on each person’s daily intake of calories and their body mass.
According to clinical nutritionist and dietitian, Amida Carvajal Guzmán, a balanced and healthy diet requires both animal and vegetable proteins, as both provide the body with important benefits.
Animal protein is considered one of the best sources of nutrition as it contains all the essential amino acids, making it a lot easier for the body to digest it. It is important to consume foods such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, seafood, organ meats, eggs and milk (whether it is cow, buffalo or goat milk) and its by-products.
It is also important, however, to keep portion size in mind, as well as how it is prepared, avoiding methods that are high in fat. “Sometimes the problem is not the protein, but rather how it is cooked: unhealthy oils may be used, too many starches may be added and people may not be aware of what the right portions are,” explains Carvajal.
The suggestion is to eat foods like chicken as it is easy to prepare, is an excellent source of protein, has a high biological value and depending on the cut, varies in its fat content.
Beef is also considered to be a complete food. According to our nutritionist, it is important to remember that its nutritional value is not always the same. It contains moderate amounts of vitamins, is rich in iron and is easy for the body to absorb.
Another valuable source of protein is eggs. “They offer balanced nutrition, are light and can be used in several different recipes.” They are also a good source of vitamins A, D and E and of minerals such as phosphorus, iron, sodium, zinc and selenium.
ANIMAL PROTEINS: Meat (beef, chicken, poultry, pork, fish, shellfish, seafood and organ meats), eggs, cheeses, milk and its by-products (yogurt, kumis).
As Carvajal states, this group of proteins is known for its low fat content. The most common vegetable proteins are lentils, beans and chickpeas, which also help lower cholesterol levels. Soy, brewer’s yeast, seaweed, nuts (such as peanuts, almonds, and pistachios), quinoa, tofu and amaranth are also recommended foods as they help prevent cardiovascular disease due to their high content of fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
They are also low in purines (molecules that produce a waste substance called uric acid when they are metabolized). “Foods that contain vegetable proteins often do not have high concentrations of purines and do not affect the skin, in fact, they help keep it hydrated,” the expert affirms.
For the body to better absorb vegetable proteins, essential to those who lead a vegan diet, our nutritionist recommends combining different foods together in the same dish. “You can mix lentils, beans and chickpeas with whole grain foods such as pasta and couscous; or fill burritos with beans, soy protein, vegetables and rice.” Another recommendation is to prepare different salad recipes such as lentils with walnuts or make shakes that include oats, soy protein and fruit. Another option is to add almonds and honey to an oat smoothie or add peanuts to rice pudding.
Spirulina is also a great natural source of protein that contains 8 of the 22 essential amino acids. When choosing what nutrition is right for you, always keep balance in mind.
After water, due to their volume and the functions they perform, protein is one of the main components of the human body.
VEGETABLE PROTEINS: Soy, legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas), nuts, grains and their by-products (flours, rice, wheat).