3 vegan protein alternatives you’ll love

Protein is an essential nutrient for so many body processes from building muscles to immune function. In this column we have previously looked at the need for alternative protein sources into the future as farming of livestock will not be sustainable as population needs grow. We have mentioned that insects will be one source of future protein but for there are also vegetable sources of protein that function equally well including legumes, quinoa, and even algae.

These findings come in a new report given to the US Institute of Food Technologists. Before we get onto what this report said however, we should address a commonly held misconception. It was, for a time thought that protein from vegetable sources is inferior because it is “incomplete”; that is, it does not contain all of the nine “essential” amino acids that we require. This fact spawned a belief that vegetarians need to “protein combine”, which means combining foods in each meal that will compensate for the lack of each other’s amino acids. However, current understanding is that those amino acids don’t need to be present in the same meal for your body to intelligently combine them to make the proteins that it needs. In essence then, eating a range of grains and vegetables throughout the week will provide your body all the amino acids it needs to maintain protein levels. It still is worth looking at the non-animal foods though that are your best protein sources.

As this report points out legumes (peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc) have long been recognised as a valuable, if windy, protein source. Quinoa is also a well recognised protein source. Perhaps the food that will surprise you most as a recommended protein source however, is algae.

The report states that algae is 63 per cent protein, 15 per cent fibre, 11 per cent fats, four per cent carbohydrates, four per cent micronutrients, and three per cent water. The bonus with algae apparently is that it is easily digested and of course (like legumes, quinoa, and even insects) is potentially much more sustainable to produce.

The bottom line is that there are sustainable ways to feed ourselves into the future but we just have to think about them. It is possible to be pro-protein and pro-planet.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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