Eating less meat has become a norm thanks to calls in developing countries to reduce the level of consumption of meat. According to the 2016 Daily Nation Newsplex, Kenyans are consuming 2kg less compared to when the country got independence in 1963. Apart from much emphasis being put on the reduction of competition with livestock for more land, food, and water, the United Nations Environment Programme report of 2010 also throws weight behind saving populations through vegetable-based diet.
You are not alone, if you’re trying to eat less meat!
The current trends reveal that even Americans who consume about three times the average global meat, have started to cut down for the sake of their health. The UK Daily Mail reports that, meat-based foods are the worst and can cause serious health risks like developing cancer.
As you try to eat meatless foods, you need to balance, so that you don’t depend on dairy products and miss out on meat nutrients at the same time. This article is dedicated to providing you with the information about the best plant-based meat alternatives that are packed with nutrients and which you can find locally in our stores.
But first, what exactly do we stand to gain from these foods?
Health aspects to consider
Generally, people who avoid meat, opt for diets that emphasize vegetables, beans, grains, and nuts. These plant-based foods have less calories and less saturated fats. In addition, non-meat and non-dairy meals are high in fiber, vitamins, and are better than the vegetable versions of processed foods, that have excess sodium. As such, diets that incorporate seeds, nuts, seafood, and fruits, reduce the risk of diabetes, heart diseases and cancer.
When proteins are ingested into the body, they are broken down into amino acids, which go into forming tissues of the skin, neurotransmitters, hormones, and all other body organs. Out of the 23 types of amino acids, the body must first obtain 8 of them through ingestion, and use them to manufacture the remaining 15. Unfortunately, these 8 essential and complete amino acids are only provided by animal protein. It is therefore important to not only eat from a whole spectrum of amino acid sources, but also to identify the right and most recommended non-meat protein sources.
Daily protein requirement
Kenyan National Nutrition and HIV/AIDS guidelines by the Ministry of Health say 50-80g of protein per day is adequate to meet the body’s daily energy requirements of 2000 calories, while at the same time support growth and maintenance of body tissues. A number of factors determine the right amount of protein that one can take in. For example the sickly, very active individuals and muscle builders will require higher quantities to supplement their growing protein needs. The converse is true, because you cannot achieve your weight loss goals if you keep adding animal proteins in your diet.
Protein-rich plant sources
1. Soy and Legumes
Soybean is the most popular and most nutritious legume in the world! It is the richest source with all essential amino acids, 40 percent protein and 22 percent oil. A meal containing 100g cooked soybeans can supply 100 calories and 17g protein. In Kenya, big supermarkets stock soy in form of tofu and soy milk.
Soy milk extracted from soybeans can be in natural form, sweetened with sugar or flavored with chocolate. Apart from being the best alternative if you’re allergic to dairy milk, it is a good source of vitamin E. On the other hand, tofu is coagulated soy milk and contains additional amounts of calcium.
Beans are ordinarily available throughout the year, although they are mostly produced once during rainy season. Like soy, there are a number of varieties of beans, such as kidney, black, and pinto. As the most versatile members of the legume family, beans, lentils, and peas provide an average of 15g of protein per cup (240ml).
2. Nuts and edible seeds
Products that are derived from nuts and seeds are great sources of protein. Traditionally, nuts are consumed as snacks and apart from providing protein, they are also a good source of fats and fiber. Nuts complement legumes, since they contain tryptophan, methionine, and cysteine; essential amino acids that legumes lack.
Protein-rich nuts and seeds that are found in our region include: almonds, cashew nuts, peanuts, coconut, macadamia, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. They are low in cholesterol, highly antioxidizing and most of them supply more than 20g of protein per 100g.
3. Whole grains
Whole grains are predominantly known as the source of calories or energy. That’s correct. But they have other benefits too. Cornmeal, whole wheat, rice, millet, and oatmeal, are among the most commonly shopped whole-grain sources of protein. 100g serving of whole maize meal, avails 8.1g proteins for use by the body, and adds other nutrients like vitamin B. Also, brown rice and whole wheat are high in fiber.
4. Vegetables and Fruits
Unlike other plant protein sources, leafy vegetables lack considerable amounts of carbohydrates and protein. On the flip side, beetroot is an excellent and meat-alternative source of iron. Dark green vegetables like spinach, kale, lettuce, cowpeas (likhubi), and black nightshade (lisutsa), contain high levels of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C. Therefore, vegetarians can use these rich minerals to supplement legumes and nuts.
Whether you are strictly vegetarian or a perspicacious individual who is mindful of what you’re taking in, health is no doubt a concern for everybody. Resisting the temptation of a meaty meal can be a daunting task. But being aware that meat alternatives are equally nutritious and even more beneficial, could set you on the avenue of escape from the most dreaded diseases of the heart and cancer. Always remember to make the right vegan protein combination, so that you don’t miss on the most essential amino acids while you enjoy your favorite dish.
What’s your preferred dish of plant protein? Share your comments below.