Plant-Based Proteins: It Really Isn’t A Mystery!

Diet & Weight Loss

Protein is essential, regardless of the type of lifestyle or diet we follow; it’s an important building block of life. Our digestion processes breaks down protein into amino acids that enables our bodies to perform a wide range of functions, such as: cell growth and repair, managing our metabolism and body processes (making hormones and enzymes) and also forming parts of our organs, muscles, bones, collagen, connective tissues, skin, nails and hair.

 

Besides the above, it can offer a high satiety level and depending on the source, comes bundled with a range of macro and micro nutrients, including: fibre, B-vitamins (niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and B6), Vitamin E, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids.

 

Every protein molecule consists of a chain of amino acids. There are many types of amino acids, but our body can only produce 11 ‘important’ amino acids that are used to make up proteins within our bodies. There are 10 essential amino acids that must be derived from protein-rich foods; good, quality protein sources (in adequate amounts) are essential as the body does not ‘store’ protein and therefore needs a regular supply from our diet.

 

 

If you have already decided to take the plunge and try a vegan lifestyle, even on a ‘flexi’ basis, I’m sure your more than aware of where your dietary protein is coming from.

It is one of the most common questions vegans or vegetarians get asked “where does your protein come from?”

Typical ‘westernised diets’ obtain protein from: meats, eggs, dairy, poultry and fish. These can all can be good sources of protein, but some of these foods are not ideal if we are watching our cholesterol, prefer to have alternative dietary choices or want to follow a vegan lifestyle! Good sources of plant protein include: nuts, seeds, pulses, beans and soya products; there is also some in grains.

 

 

Our Daily Protein Needs

For a ‘typical’ man or woman, the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein is:

0.75g Of Protein/Kg of Body weight (BW)/Day

For example….

  • A 70kg man needs 52.3g protein/D
  • A 58kg woman needs 43.5g protein/D

The average UK daily protein intake is: 88g for men and 64g for women. So it’s obvious that the current consumption is beyond the current recommendations.

NB: There is approximately 30g of protein in 100g of roasted chicken breast. So if you are having protein (from animal sources) at every meal in addition to grains etc, you can see how it quickly adds up!

 

 

Protein Combining

Various plant proteins are not considered ‘complete’ because they lack one or more essential amino acids, however they can be ‘combined’ as part of a meal, e.g. eating a grain and a legume. This is ‘protein combining’ which can result in a higher biological value of the food and provide complete proteins.

With any type of diet, it’s a good idea to look into how to make these ‘complete proteins’ (See Table 1);  the UK Vegetarian Society also gives a nice explanation.

 

Protein Combining: Meal Examples

 

Some of the major contenders for plant-based proteins…

 

Common & Nutritious Plant Protein Sources

Here’s a nutritional breakdown for some plant protein sources….

 

Nutritional Info: Protein From Plant-Based Foods

*Sources: 1,2,3

 

For example: If I consumed porridge made with 40g of oats, 15g of almonds, 10g of flax seed, 250ml soya milk and some berries, along with 2 standard fresh apricots, a 250g potato with 200g of baked beans and a small, a low-fat stir-fry with 150g tofu, a vegetable mixture (inclusive of dark leafy greens) on top of 65g of brown rice, I would be more than meeting my daily protein needs (it provides approx. 55g of protein); let alone whatever other fruits, vegetables or nuts/seeds/grains I decided to eat!

 

Photo by: nalm fadll Flickr

Photo by: nalm fadll Flickr

So let’s not let the food industry or anyone else dictate our dietary choices, because that’s what we have- choices.

Nature has so much to offer us, and there is such an assortment and amalgamation of cuisines… that I have to wonder why would anyone want to stick to a ‘typical westernised meal’ of meat and two vegetables anyway?

 

Whether you are trying to save money, are struggling financially, have decided to make some positive lifestyle changes to your health, or maybe even have a new ethical stance on animal welfare… rest assured, plant-based proteins are nutritious, varied and relatively cheap to buy; especially beans and lentils in their dried varieties.

 

We do not have to consume over-priced whey protein powders, meat, poultry, fish or any other animal products to meet our daily protein needs. With a carefully planned plant-based diet, we can reap the benefits of ‘complete nutrition’ and improve overall health. Whilst a high protein diet on its own is unlikely to cause you ill-health, if the source of the protein is from animal products high in fat, then your overall diet is probably unhealthy; if coupled with unhealthy lifestyle choices it can increase the risk of heart diseases, bowel cancer, stroke and possibly osteoporosis.

 

If you are unsure of where to start, there are lots of resources available…

  • The Vegan society
  • The Vegetarian society
  • BBC Foods (they have a decent supply of recipes that you can adjust to your personal preference)
  • An endless list of blogs that have personal recommendations of recipes and/or plant-based cook books.

 

And…

Photo by: Jena Jezy Flickr

Photo by: Jena Jezy Flickr

Don’t let all the chopping and meal planning discourage you, it comes with the territory and it’s essential to make sure your plant-based diet is ‘nutritionally sound’; like a lot of things in life, the best things take a little patience and perseverance but are worth it in the end.

 

Happy plant-based cooking everyone! 🙂

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: qual dieta Flickr

 

Sources:
1. USDA Database
2. Foods Standards Agency (2002) McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods, Sixth summary edition. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemisty
3. Foods Standards Agency (2002) Food Portion Sizes, 3rd Revised edition edition. London:TSO
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Is Sugar Souring Our Lives?

Diet & Weight Loss

Are you currently reading this article and eating a sneaky bit of chocolate at your desk? It must be that inescapable afternoon slump or perhaps it’s your annoying ‘sweet tooth’ wreaking havoc again? Let’s not dismiss the obvious- you might have an underlying ‘sugar addiction’.

 

This is not sugar discrimination, with me suggesting you empty the entire contents of your kitchen to rid yourself of sugar, nor am I not getting paid to promote fruit and vegetables (Farmers don’t have the budget!)

The biological fact is we all need sugar, just not the stuff in the little sachets. Every time you eat carbohydrates they’re broken down by your body into glucose molecules. Our body takes glucose from our bloodstream and moves it into our body’s cells for energy via the hormone insulin. Glucose is the number one fuel used to power our brain and our bodies. Unlike our liver, our brain neurons cannot store an energy source and requires a regular and healthy source of it from our diet. …But let’s be honest, cake and chocolate have never been healthy (although they might be regular). We have all probably consumed too much sugar at one point in time, causing our blood sugar levels to spike and then crash; leaving us tired and looking for our next ‘sugar fix’.

 

It can be hard to undo habitual behaviours though, especially ones learnt from a very young age; allowing your brain to see sugar as a reward stimulates this on-going ‘sugar wars’. You might say that you’re not addicted to sugar… but let’s look at and consider some possible signs.

Sugar Addiction: Signs & Symptoms:
  • Constantly craving sugary things, even when you’re not hungry?
  • A cycle of feeling low in mood/ tired and then perked up by a sugary snack?
  • Regular ‘binges’ on sweet things? Or do have a constant supply in your cupboards?
  • Do you regularly eat white breads, crackers, pasta, long grain rice, sugary cereals or cereal bars?
  • Maybe you have a specific health problem related to eating sugar, but you keep eating it anyways?
  • How many days can you go without sugar? Only a day? Be honest…
Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this could be wake-up call to the way you view or select your next meal, at least in regards to sugar.  If not, maybe the media can persuade you about the pitfalls of sugar.

 

Some current articles from this year that you might find worth reading include:

 

Additionally a U.S. programme ‘FED UP’ which started out as a film is gaining increased interest; it tackles the problems of the food industry and proactively gets people think about reducing their sugar intakes, highlighting the ‘56 names of sugar’ that lurk in our foods and drinks!

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge

 

It’s obvious that the sugar industry isn’t making it easy for us, with ample ways of enabling our love affair with sugar. Not only is it widely and readily available, they insist on giving us ‘options’, yes options, ( i.e.) ten flavours or new and improved flavours of every product.

But let’s face it, sugar doesn’t improve our lives or give us a reason to live- it just makes us fat, tired, highly-strung and perhaps sour-faced from the spiralling reality that it can’t sustain our happiness long term!

So why do we do it? We all know the horrible cliché, ‘a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips’, but this topic resonates deeper for us than those tongue in cheek rationalisations of why we should be monitoring our sugar intake.

 

Sugar is sometimes compared to as a ‘drug’; it’s not surprising as a great deal of us share physical, emotional and mental dependencies on it.

Photo by: Sammy face :) Flickr

Photo by: Sammy face 🙂 Flickr

 

Could this be make or break? What are we going to do to make realistic changes to turn this situation around? I’ll be filling you in on’ 5 simple steps to cut sugar out of your Diet and why you’ll be happier for it’ in an upcoming article. So watch this space!

Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below if you have recently made positive dietary changes in fighting your sugar war or have any thoughts on this topic.

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Denis Vrublevski on Flickr

Diet And Exercise- Not Just Seasonal? Plus 8 Lifestyle Changes

Diet & Weight Loss

So you notice the changing leaves, cooler air, earlier sunsets, following by the torrential downpours on your journey into work? This all points to one thing here in the U.K… yes winter is coming but so are the dreaded changes to your diet and exercise regime. You know what I mean, keeping high-calorie carbohydrate cravings at bay, followed by the excuses that stop you from exercising now that its dark and cold outside…it’s inevitable, or is it?

 

It’s time to get real, be consistent with our health, in what we’re doing year round, not just season to season. There are too many reasons to diet and exercise sporadically… birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and I don’t know about you, but I dislike diets, especially as they don’t work and are a waste of energy! Wouldn’t it just be easier to maintain a healthy and ‘you-friendly’ shape all year? Yes, undoubtedly yes!

So how do we go about it? A personal trainer once told me that in order to achieve a beach body (or a celebrity’s body as I prefer to think of it) you would have to spend a year in the gym eating a ‘clean diet‘. Beach body- who has the time for that?! I’m way past keeping a diary of how many lunges and push-ups I’ve completed or the amount of couscous I’ve eaten; if this is you, I applaud it. It takes a strong drive to maintain this military-like regime and still keep you sanity intact!

For the non- G.I Jane’s out there, a more practical solution is needed. As a food lover and a nutritionist, I would never recommend anyone to follow a very low calorie diet (VLCD) or ‘fad diet’. Why put yourself through the misery? So it’s a new chapter, not a new diet; burn the diet books! By following the changes below you’ll develop a healthier lifestyle.

 

The 8 Lifestyle Changes You Should Make Year Round Include:
  • Mindfulness. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry? Maybe it’s just thirst? Think about what you are eating, the portion sizes and enjoy every mouthful; make time to enjoy meals with friends or family.
  • Sleep. Studies have shown getting less than 7 hours of beauty sleep a night can lead to weight gain.
  • Meal plan & eat in moderation. It’s possible to eat healthy meals on a budget all year; it just takes some planning and a little research. The My Supermarket app compares food prices and can reduce your bills. Your weight loss doesn’t occur on a daily basis, but over weeks & months, so avoid your daily, or weekly snacks or ‘treats’; your waistline will thank you!
  • Reducing alcohol. Remember, alcohol=calories, whether it’s champagne, a martini or whatever your drink of choice.
  • Experiment. Your old ‘diets’ or usual meals might have made you bored of food; seek a colourful dinner plate to make sure we eat as many nutrients as possible.

I encourage you try these healthy, alternative, stodgy winter recipes:

These versions slice the calories you would normally consume in their ‘standard’ recipes but do not fail to satisfy!

  • Eat to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Try legumes, yoghurt, wholemeal pastas and rice, porridge, nuts, seeds and whole fruits. Protein and fibre will help keep you going for longer and reduce your appetite, whilst cupcakes and doughnuts, courtesy of the ‘office feeder’ won’t.
  • Buy a measuring tape. Your weight can fluctuate daily, so ditch the scale; take measurements every 2-4 weeks to see your progress.
  • Exercise! Get your heart racing for 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week. Studies show that even exercising for three 10 minute intervals/bursts per day is beneficial for your overall health. Keep motivated by involving your friends and family! Just keep your goals SMART, as you want to be able to keep up this new regime.

Be kind to yourself and maybe have a crack at some of these new workouts:

Always get a health professional’s opinion if you are new to exercise. I don’t want anyone injuring themselves.

Making these changes will allow your body to adjust to a healthy, comfortable weight. Just keep it realistic, interesting and remember, its ‘lifestyle changes’ so keep it up as the seasons change!

Check future articles for more great ways to exercise throughout the winter!

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image: Running By: fatfeet_Flickr
Sources:
NHS Choices
Web MD
BDA Weight Wise
My SuperMarket.co.uk
Mayo Clinic
Department of Health (DOH)