The debate over animal versus plant protein can sometimes take on religious fervor – kind of like Democrats versus Republicans. But unlike our neighbours to the south, those on both sides of the food divide have significant middle ground. Even if, like me you’d prefer a nice juicy steak, plump chicken breast, or a tender salmon filet over tempeh or a ‘tofurkey’ burger.
Indeed, the last two items, derived from soy, are part of a growing trend among consumers trying to eat more alternative proteins from plant-based sources. According to Vince’s colleague Danielle Cosentino, a holistic nutritionist and natural chef, “These are a healthy addition to your diet. They are generally cheaper, provide more fibre, fewer calories, and are better for the environment.”
Plants; Better Than You Think
The argument against plants is that few have all nine “essential” amino acids – the building blocks of protein that your body can’t produce on its own, and must get through diet. Soy is an exception, as is quinoa, but Danielle notes that you don’t need to consume complete proteins at every meal. “By combining legumes and grains like beans and rice, or lentils and barley, the body does this ‘completion’ for you.”
She suggests other pairings like, chickpeas and tahini (which make hummus), or lentils and toasted almonds in a salad. How about natural peanut butter on a slice of whole-grain artisan bread? These are rich sources of protein, and together provide all the essentials.
There are still others like hemp and chia seeds, which are good sources not only of protein, but fibre and Omega-3 fatty acids. They’re a healthy addition to your morning smoothie, or sprinkled (with fresh fruit) on porridge.
We’ve Come A Long Way
Until recently, veggie meats have taken a bad rap, with few having a similar texture or ‘mouth feel’ to ground beef or other meats. But even these have improved, and although I can usually tell the difference, I’ve had a few burgers that come close to the real thing.
I’m not advocating for a vegetarian or vegan diet, but there are strong arguments for both. As there are for eating moderate amounts of high-quality animal proteins, alongside an even larger portion of veggies.
But no matter which flag we wave, let’s all agree that plant proteins are a delicious and healthy option, and deserve to find even more room on your plate.
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