Fats, carbohydrates and proteins are almost always in the news, whether it is tips on how much to consume, or about the latest health trend or fad around them. However, of the three, proteins are the most talked about food group; with good reason, of course. They help build muscles, repair tissue post workouts, balance fluids, boost immunity, create hormones and enzymes. In short, at least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way. Increasingly, more people are turning away from traditional animal proteins and opting for plant-based alternatives. In fact, the Journal of the American Heart Association did a study in 2019 that revealed that plantbased diets are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and that’s just one of the many reasons why plant protein intake has been on a steady rise.
Why it’s trending
“This rise of plant protein trend may be attributed to the social and digital influencers and animal activists propagating to eat more plant-based proteins,” says Dr Anjali Hooda, MBBS, MD and director, Delhi-based Livenutrifit and Center for Obesity and Longevity, adding, “There is a sudden high demand because people are realising that plants are more beneficial not only to the body but also for the environment and help reduce one’s carbon footprint. People are more conscious about what they eat and put into their bodies and if it is equally good for the environment, the better it is.” But is it just a fad? “Plant protein is not just a fad but we always recommend it be complimented with pea protein. Peas have high quality protein, are among the richest sources of iron and have proved to aid weight loss, muscle growth and heart health,” says Dr Priyanka Rohatgi, head nutritionist, Apollo Hospitals Group.
The need for It
“After conducting in-depth research, we found that a large number of vegetarians in India struggled to find sufficient variety in their daily diet that fits their taste profile as well as provides the essential protein and vitamins required to meet their nutritional needs. As a result, meals can get monotonous,” says Siddharth Ramasubramanian, founder and CEO of Vegolution, a Bengaluru-based a food venture offering tasty and nutritious plant protein. “Plant-based protein is hypo-allergen and good nutritionally for all those who are lactose intolerant,” adds Dr Rohatgi.
Where to get plant-based proteins
There are some commonly used plant-based food options available in the market. “Beans, lentils, tofu, soya, peas, edamame, nuts, broccoli soy, tofu, tempeh and whole grains are high in protein,” says Ramasubramanian. If you don’t like eating veggies, there are other ways to ingest it too. “Plant protein can also be taken as a supplement in powder form, like brown rice protein powder, hemp seed powder or pea powder,” says Dr Hooda.
Plant vs animal protein
According to Dr Rohatgi, plant protein has the richness of fibres that animal protein lacks, while animal protein has essential amino acids that plant protein does not felicitate. “Globally, there is not much debate anymore and it has been ascertained that a diet which mostly includes the right plant-based foods leads to better long-term health and a more sustainable environment,” says Ramasubramanian. Dr Hooda adds that plant protein is easily available and you don’t require a lot of space to grow it. However, there are a few cons. “A negative aspect of a plant-based diet is that it may not meet the body’s need of vitamins and minerals,” explains Dr Rohatgi.
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