There is a belief that vegetable protein makes you fat. But is this true? On this occasion we discuss its properties and solve this question.
Last update: 06 May, 2022
There are those who believe that vegetable protein is better than animal protein, but when ingesting it in excess it makes you fat. In addition, for many followers of different diets, this macronutrient represents “the best thing” in the eating plan. After all, they are associated with the formation of cells, molecules, tissues and satiety.
What many ignore is that the caloric intake of vegetable protein is equal to that of animal origin and carbohydrates in the diet. Even so, as a nutrient its action is not aimed at giving energy or being stored to gain weight. Its functions are others. So, should you consume it? Here we detail it.
What are proteins and how do they work?
protein in food they are the only macronutrients that provide nitrogen for the body. They are made up of amino acids, which are linked together to form larger molecules. In total, there are 20 amino acids, but 9 are considered essential and must be supplied through food.
For what reason? The body does not make them on its own. On the other hand, the non-essential ones are produced in the body. Either way, if the protein contains all 20 amino acids, it is considered “complete.” This is used to form tissues, antibodies, enzymes, hormones, among other functions.
However, there are very few complete proteins and, therefore, they must be combined with each other. In relation to this, You have to know that those of plant origin have fewer amino acids than animal ones.
Despite this, it is possible to approach a complete protein when different plant foods are combined, such as legumes with cereals, for example.
In short, the main function of proteins is not to provide energy to the body; That’s what carbs and fats are for.. Only in those circumstances of deficit in energy intake, they are used as an emerging caloric source.
In addition, not only its quality is important in a diet. The amount consumed is essential to meet the requirements of each person.
How much protein does a person need?
Some experts consider that the recommended daily intake of protein is low to maintain muscle mass and good health. Specifically, 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight is suggested.
That is, a 68-kilogram adult will need about 54 grams of protein per day. Older adults require a little more to avoid age-related loss of muscle mass. The value is 1.3 grams per kilo of weight.
Until now it is known that a high-protein diet aimed at losing weight must provide between 1.2 and 1.6 grams per kilo of weight. These values ultimately represent between 20 and 30% of daily calories provided by protein.
On the other hand, the magazine The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that for the body to better use this macronutrient, its intake must be distributed evenly throughout the day and not in a single meal.
Is vegetable protein fattening?
Vegetable protein is not fattening. In fact, neither do the animals. In a balanced and sufficient diet, adjusted to the calories required in the diet plan, each nutrient must fulfill its function.
For example, carbohydrates are the main source of energy for daily activity and metabolism. Fats also provide energy and form necessary compounds in the body. They are stored and used as a caloric source when carbohydrates are depleted. Proteins fulfill a plastic and restorative function.
If you eat more than necessary, not only protein, but also carbohydrates and fats, weight gain will occur. But this must be given under conditions of excessive caloric intake.
For this reason, it is important to balance the consumption of each nutrient in the diet and to be clear about the objectives pursued by each one in the eating plan.
Now, some vegan protein powders can promote lean muscle but not body fat. This occurs when taken in conjunction with strength training to help tone muscles.
In that case, Weight gain due to an increase in muscle fiber is not interpreted as being overweight. On the contrary, when vegan or animal proteins are included in a high proportion in the diet, it is possible to lose weight. How? Let’s see its properties.
Properties of proteins that allow weight loss
It is clear that vegetable protein is not fattening. Instead, some research indicates that increasing your intake of this macronutrient may have positive effects on weight loss.
Proteins take longer to digest. Hence, its satiety power is greater than that of carbohydrates. In addition, they reduce the levels of ghrelin or the hunger hormone, while increasing the hormones that give the feeling of fullness. Therefore, by following a calorie-restricted diet, they help reduce the hunger that occurs.
As the assimilation of protein is slower, the metabolism remains active for longer and thus burn more calories during digestion. The metabolic rate of protein digestion increases by 20-35% compared to a 5-15% increase for fats and carbohydrates. By eating them and having a physical exercise plan, the weight loss effect increases.
High protein intake for weight loss protects against loss of muscle mass. When faced with caloric restriction, the body uses lean tissue as an energy source. Instead, a high protein intake will be used for the formation of muscle fiber.
Main sources of vegetable protein
Not all vegetables provide vegetable protein. Its main sources are seeds and grains, as well as their derivatives. Let’s see.
Vegetables: They are considered one of the most concentrated sources of protein. For example, a cooked cup of lentils provides about 18 grams of protein. Beans of different colors and chickpeas also enrich the diet with vegetable protein. These provide 15 grams per cooked cup.
seitan: is a gluten-based protein, known as “wheat meat”. About 100 grams provide 25 grams of protein. It can be sautéed, grilled, or fried to add to many recipes.
Tofu, tempeh and edamame: these 3 products are obtained from soybeans. Tofu is a kind of cheese whose neutral flavor adapts to any recipe. Tempeh is mature soybeans that are cooked, fermented, and then pressed. Edamame are immature seeds. The protein in these products ranges from 12 to 20 grams per 100-gram portion.
nutritional yeast: is an inactive strain of yeast used to make bread and alcoholic beverages. Because of its cheese flavor, it is used to enhance the flavor of other preparations. Half an ounce provides 8 grams of protein.
Spirulina: it is an algae concentrated in protein and, therefore, just 2 tablespoons provide 8 grams. It also contains iron and copper, in addition to other minerals and vitamins.
amaranth and quinoa: They are considered pseudocereals because they do not grow from grasses. However, they can be ground and prepared like cereal flours. A cooked cup provides 8 to 9 grams of protein.
soy milk: It is a substitute for cow’s milk. One cup provides 6 grams of protein. The ideal is to choose it fortified, since it lacks vitamin B12.
chia seeds: they are a source of the best vegetable proteins. One ounce enriches with 5 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber. Furthermore, the magazine molecules highlights the variety of beneficial compounds it has for health.
Nuts: They are excellent sources of protein. An ounce contains 5 to 7 grams, depending on the variety. Although it is true that they have a high contribution of fat, these are the healthy type, as explained in the magazine Nutrients. Raw and unroasted are better nutrient vehicles.
Should I eat more vegetable protein?
Vegetable proteins in the diet play the same role as those of animal origin. After all, they are nitrogenous substances that They fulfill the functions of synthesis and repair of molecules and tissues. Its caloric distribution as part of the daily intake does not have to produce weight gain.
Despite this, if your interest is to include more protein in your diet, you should consult a nutritionist to define what the objective of your plan is and what nutrients you should compensate for.
Remember that if you need to gain weight, you should focus on all the nutrients that are sources of calories. But if you want to lose excess kilos with vegetable proteins, you can achieve it with certain readjustments.
In addition, you should opt for a selection of high-quality vegetables, balancing your intake with healthy fats and carbohydrates.