Proteins are part of the macronutrients essential for the proper functioning of our body. Present in all our cells, they form an important part of our genes, our muscles and are essential components in many of our systems, such as the nervous, immune and hormonal systems. Indispensable to life, quite simply, it is essential we consume them.
Proteins are mainly found in animal products, but not always. Excluding animal products from our diet, as vegetarians and vegans do, is not dangerous to our health as long as they are replaced properly. So how should we do that?
Do not worry, many foods contain protein, including grains, legumes and seeds! However, you should know that most of these plant proteins are not complete and have what is known as a limiting factor.
A LIMITING FACTOR?
Proteins are synthesised from amino acids. About twenty amino acids participate in protein synthesis, eight of which are essential; in other words, they must be brought in externally as the human body is unable to manufacture them on their own.
When an amino acid is missing or insufficient, it is called a limiting factor because this will have the effect of limiting the manufacture of proteins. It can be visualised as a bracelet. A protein is a complete bracelet, made up of a set of elements: wire, beads and a clip. If one of these elements is missing, the bracelet can not be completed and therefore can not be used. It’s exactly the same system for proteins. If there is a limiting factor, the protein can not be completed and so can’t be used by the body.
VEGETABLE PROTEINS AND LIMITING FACTORS
You may have heard that vegetable protein is of a lower quality than animal protein, and that’s because most of these vegetable proteins have limiting factors, unlike animal proteins.
But thanks to nutritional supplementation, it is possible to improve the quality of vegetable proteins.
NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTATION, WHAT IS IT?
By combining certain vegetable proteins in the same meal, it’s possible to improve their quality and benefit from all the amino acids that are needed. Nature is a genius.
For example, pulses (dried vegetables) are rich in lysine but poor in methionine. Conversely, cereals are low in lysine and high in methionine. Therefore, by combining pulses and cereals, we can perfectly meet our protein needs without having to consume meat!
So, if you are or would like to go on a vegetarian diet, consider combining pulses with cereals, and you will replace your famous steak, fillet of fish or eggs without suffering from any deficiencies.