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What are Proteins and how do we get them from Plant-based Food?

Monday, April 11, 2022

Have you struggled to understand the role of proteins in plant-based food? As more people adopt plant-based diets, we’ve prepared a simple guide to break down all the information you need on proteins, their role in plant-based food and much more; so that you can help your customers make informed choices.

 

What are proteins?1

Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients – together with fat and carbohydrates. Proteins are large molecules made up of different combinations of smaller units, called amino acids. Our body needs 20 amino acids: 9 of them are considered essential amino acids and can be obtained only from food – as our body can’t produce them – while the others are considered non-essential, because they can be synthetized by the human body.

 

Why do we need them?2

Proteins are essential for the human body and their adequate consumption is important. Proteins participate in biological processes, and they provide amino acids that contribute to growth and maintain of muscle mass. Proteins also contribute to the maintenance of bones.

 

Where can we find it?

Protein can come from both animal and plant-based sources:

  • Animal-based: meat and poultry, seafood and fish, dairy products, eggs, and insects.
  • Plant-based: mainly pulses and legumes (soybeans, chickpeas, peas, lentils…), nuts (almond, hazelnuts, cashew…), seeds (sunflower, chia, hemp…) and whole grains and cereals (wheat, rice, oat). And also, in products containing those plant-based proteins, like Garden Gourmet!

How much protein do we need?3

Protein requirements can vary by age, weight, gender, and level of physical activity but the basic daily recommendation for protein intake is 0.80 grams per kilogram of body weight in healthy adults with modest levels of physical activity. This translates into 48g of protein for a 60 kg person.

 

Protein quantity4

In Europe, a food is considered “source of protein” when at least 12% of the energy value of the food is provided by proteins.

A food is considered “rich in or high in protein” when this % is at least 20%. For example, our GARDEN GOURMET® Sensational™ Burger, GARDEN GOURMET® Vegan Nuggets and GARDEN GOURMET® Sensational™ Fillet Pieces are high in protein.

 

Protein quality5

From a nutritional standpoint, not all proteins are equal depending on their composition: complete proteins will be the ones containing all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts to meet dietary requirements (e.g., 48g/day for a 60kg adult).

Although proteins from animal sources are usually of higher quality than plant sources, both can provide all 20 amino acids: for example, soy is a complete protein as it contains a good balance of essential amino acids and tends to be well digested by our body.

However, other plant-based foods are lacking in certain essential amino acids, so you will need to combine them throughout the day to compensate for each other’s lack. Combinations of cereals with pulses (e.g., rice and beans) are a winning mix to achieve all the essential amino acids in the right proportion and improve protein’s quality.

 

Protein role in plant-based diets6

Nowadays consumers are keen to expand their usual sources of protein, adding more plant-based options to their diet. Therefore, as a food service expert it’s important for you to know that there is tremendous opportunity to promote their consumption.

Abundant choices will facilitate following a plant-based diet. Offering a variety of plant-based alternatives in your menu will contribute to diversify the overall diet and it will help your customers to meet their protein needs. Moreover, a plant-based diet can contribute significantly to reduce the carbon footprint of the food system*.

*Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, 2019. Available at: https://www.ipcc.sc/srccl/

 

Why Garden Gourmet?7

GARDEN GOURMET® professional products can be useful for those adapting to a plant-based diet. They consist of a mixture of proteins, like soy with a blend of wheat, offering the 9 essential amino acids. All our products are either “source of” or “high in” protein to help consumers get their daily needs.

 


Sources

 

1 Medlineplus.gov, What are proteins and what do they do?

Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids

Harvard, The Nutrition Source: Protein

Booklet proteins small.pdf (nestle.com)

 

2 COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 432/2012

 

3 WHO-FAO, Protein and amino acid requirements in human nutrition.

EFSA, Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for protein.

 

4 REGULATION (EC) No 1924/2006

 

5 FAO, Dietary protein quality evaluation in human nutrition

Interactive Nutrition Facts Label - Protein (fda.gov)

Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids

Harvard, The Nutrition Source: Protein

Recommendations for the Substantiation of the Communication ‘Complete Protein’ (nestle.com)

Booklet proteins small.pdf (nestle.com)

EUFIC - Plant-based Fact Sheet

 

6 Eatright, Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2019: IPCC is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. There is no [association / affiliation / endorsement between / by] IPCC and Nestlé [complete name of the entity making the claim]”

 

7 Vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diet | British Dietetic Association (BDA