Proteins constitute one of the most important macronutrients of our diet. There are numerous misconceptions about its value and its source of origin. Among them, it is the supposed poor quality of vegetable proteins.
That’s not true. The vegetable protein is of very good quality, since it has a high bioavailability, although it needs to be supplemented with various vegetables and legumes. What does it mean to be high quality and which one is the best?
Vegetable protein: High biological value in endless food
It is true that many of the vegetables are not as complete as some foods of animal origin, in which we can find all the amino acids in a single food. On the other hand, there are legumes whose aminogram is complete. But that’s not bad; it just means you have to supplement it with various vegetables and legumes. Proteins are the basis of every living being, since they are the most versatile biomolecules that exist.
It constitutes tools in themselves as they have a composition according to their function, that is, the role they will play in our body: there can be enzymes responsible for the degradation, catalyzing reactions, transporting nutrients or anything that comes to mind. There are literally billions of proteins. Our body is capable of forming many of these. But, for this, it needs the essential blocks that form them: amino acids.
Among the millions that exist, there are 20 in particular necessary to form life-related proteins. Of these, 9 (or 10) are considered essential for human beings, since we cannot manufacture them and must be obtained by eating. These are essential to determine the quality of the protein.
This depends on the biological value and is related to its bioavailability. While the biological value refers to the extent of absorption and synthesis of proteins in our body, bioavailability refers to the amount of useful amino acids that get absorbed and, therefore, can be used. But, another essential aspect is which of these amino acids, and in what quantity, we will find it in the food.
In that sense, the biological value of the vegetable protein, as well as its bioavailability, is very high, but the proportion of amino acids is not so complete and several different vegetables have to be combined to find them all, something relatively simple.
Vegetable protein: In the combination is the secret
Vegetables are one of the most profuse and highest quality sources of protein at the food level. Although animal products are good sources of protein, that does not mean that vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes are not. In fact, legumes are among the foods that contain the most protein, by far.
Among the foods that have more proteins are legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas), some cereals such as wheat and soy. Tofu, seitan and tempeh are especially prolific in quality protein. Under no circumstances will they be 100% complete in amino acids, but they are close.
Vegetables also contain quality protein, although their bioavailability is lower due to the matrix rich in fiber they contain or the nature of some components, more difficult to assimilate. This brings us to the most important consideration: as we have already said, it is essential to combine the vegetable protein so that it is “complete”. The best option is to mix, especially legumes with cereals. Look, it is not necessary to mix them in the same dish. Eat these foods at different times, lunch and dinner, breakfast, etc. It is more than enough. The important thing is not to forget to combine.
This assures us a good amount of quality vegetable protein in our diet. Leaving aside exceptions such as tofu, tempeh and seitan mentioned above, we will need, without further remedy, to combine. While legumes are deficient in methionine and cysteine, cereals, nuts and seeds are usually deficient in lysine and methionine. Therefore, it is convenient to combine food and in this way, they will complement each other obtaining all the necessary essential amino acids.
Foods with higher and better quality vegetable protein
Among the foods with the highest quality vegetable protein are, for example, spirulina, one of the algae with the highest protein intake, in its dried or dehydrated format. The protein concentration reaches 58 grams per 100 grams. The TVP is another impressive example, 53 grams per 100 product.
In that same position, soybeans, and soybean meal, also contain a huge amount of protein, which ranges between 39 and 35 grams per 100. Dried fruits are a spectacular protein intake. Surprisingly, peanut butter is one of the best examples of this, with its 30 grams per 100. Although wheat has more questionable quality, its high biological value and its 29 grams per 100 are an option to consider.
We end up pointing out as good protein source legumes, such as beans, with high biological value and a negligible amount of 25 grams per 100. From here, the amounts may vary downward, but not too much anymore. In any case, and as we have said, the important thing regarding vegetable protein is its combination, something that we can exploit in all kinds of original recipes and ideas.