When we talk about protein, we immediately think of a piece of meat or chicken, maybe some milk or eggs. Contrary to the belief that there is only protein of animal origin, in the vegetable kingdom there are foods that can provide us with the protein we require on a daily basis.
What is protein?
The amino acids in sequence form what are the molecules of proteins. There are 20 amino acids of which the organism can make twelve (they are non-essential amino acids). The remaining eight (essential or indispensable amino acids) we must acquire through food.
- Non-essential amino acids: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glycine, glutamic acid, hydroxylysine, hydroxyproline, glutamine, proline, serine, tyrosine.
- Essential amino acids: lysine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, leucine, isoleucine and phenylalanine. There is a ninth amino acid, histidine, indispensable in the infant stage since the infant organism is not able to synthesize the amount it needs.
When dietary recommendations speak of providing the body with the necessary proteins, in reality we are talking about the essential amino acids.
Why is it important to consume it?
It is a macronutrient necessary for certain essential functions of the organism to be carried out normally. Being the basis of our tissues, protein is essential to repair and build bones and muscles, skin, nails, blood vessels etc. The antibodies that protect your immune system, the hemoglobin that intervenes in the transport of substances within the body, the enzymes responsible for any chemical process in our body and hormones such as insulin or melatonin are mainly made up of protein. The list of physiological functions in which the protein is involved is really long. In fact, muscle contraction is allowed by a protein.
Which are the proteins?
Proteins are present in foods of animal origin, which we are used to consume, but are also found in other foods of plant origin, such as those you will see below:
Spirulina: It is an excellent source of vegetable protein. For each spoonful of spirulina powder you get 7g extra protein and almost no calories, in addition, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, pigments and enzymes with antioxidant properties.
Maca: It is an herbaceous plant native to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia; it gives you 10% protein with eight essential amino acids in addition to vitamins of group B, vitamin C and vitamin E.
With more than 90 nutrients and 46 different antioxidants, moringa is one of the richest known natural sources of vitamins and minerals, giving you 9.40 g of protein per 100g of moringa.
Chickpea: This species of legume from the eastern Mediterranean; it has 20.47 g of protein per 100g. Chickpeas can be eaten cooked, roasted, fried and even in the form of flour.
Not to mention the protein of other legumes (lentils, peas, beans) that of whole grains (quinoa, corn, rice, amaranth, seitan [wheat gluten]) and nuts (chia seeds, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower etc.)
You are probably wondering whether each of these foods individually can satisfy your daily protein needs. The answer is no. However, protein supplementation (accompany two or three foods to increase their protein and biological value) is a good resource to achieve the amino acid requirements that your body needs.