Home Protein Rich Foods The Bioavailability of Protein in Vegan Diets – Thrive Global

The Bioavailability of Protein in Vegan Diets – Thrive Global

9 min read

The culture of veganism is on the increase in the Western world. There’s a common belief that animal food sources come with a high price tag as far as lifestyle diseases are concerned. Therefore, many individuals are embracing vegetarian diets in their daily meals.

Veganism now gets a lot of attention with researchers combing the practice day and night. Many research findings point to the fact that one can get all the required nutrients from a complete vegan diet. Contrary to popular belief, plant-based food products can deliver the right amount of macro and micro-nutrients when a proper diet regime is followed.

Whereas some research findings warn of dietary deficiencies in young children, the invention of protein recipes helps in bridging the deficiency gaps by combining certain foods.

Possible nutrient deficiencies in vegan diets

  • Iron,
    iodine, calcium and zinc deficiencies in children
  • Fat
    deficiency with respect to cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Omega-3
    fatty acids deficiency

The upside of vegan diets

  • High
    dietary fiber intake that curbs constipation
  • Low serum
    cholesterol that minimizes chances of hypertension
  • High levels
    of poly-unsaturated fats
  • Adequate
    consumption of potassium, magnesium, Vitamins A, B, C and E.

How much protein do you need as a vegan?

Studies reveal that a
human being requires nine essential amino acids to manufacture other
non-essential amino acids needed by the body. The essential amino acids are
lysine, histidine, methionine, threonine, valine, tryptophan, isoleucine,
phenylalanine and leucine.

Rich plant-based sources of protein

The Recommended Dietary
Allowance for protein is 0.8g/body weight. Protein is available in a variety of
foods. However, the following food items carry significant amounts of protein
that can help you meet your daily protein needs.

  • Soy bean and it’s derivatives (Tofu, Tempeh)
  • Hemp seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kales, broccoli)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Seitan
  • Quinoa
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Nuts (cashew nuts, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds)
  • Tahini
  • Potatoes
  • Beans (red beans, Lima beans, kidney beans, black beans
  • Spirulina
  • Brown rice
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Green grams
  • Chia seeds
  • Oats
  • Flax seeds
  • Pistachio
  • Lentils

How cooking methods affect proteins

Generally, protein
shrinks and denatures when subjected to extremely high temperatures. Several
amino acids are extra sensitive to heat. They include tryptophan, lysine,
arginine, cysteine, methionine and histidine.

Phytic acid is an
infamous food inhibitor that binds iron, zinc and calcium in legumes, nuts and
cereals. The acid is a compound of phosphorous and negatively affects
monogastric mammals who lack the phytase enzyme. Phytic acid is reduced through
soaking, germination, treatment using phytase enzyme, and fermentation.

Soaking legumes help
minimize the oligosaccharide content. Oligosaccharides reduce the uptake of
protein in legumes such as beans, chickpeas and peas.

According to a study
published on the Journal of Brazilian Chemical Society, protein concentration
reduces during cooking. The study carried out on beans revealed that globulins
fraction reduced significantly, Cooking diminishes the percentage of albumins,
glutelins, prolamins, and globulins.

Since a majority of protein rich foods contain iron, cooking helps in breaking the protein complex and availing iron in the body.

protein bioavailability

Nitrogen is an element that’s crucial in the structure
of an amino acid. Amino acids are building blocks and the simplest unit of
protein. Measuring the decrease and increase of nitrogen levels can assist in
identifying the approximate value of a protein food source.

There are three proven ways of determining
protein bioavailability

  1. Biological
  2. Protein
    Efficiency Ratio
  3. Net
    Protein Utilization

Biological Value is the difference between protein
intake and protein excretion. Protein Efficiency Ratio compares weight gain to protein
intake. Net Protein Utilization compares protein intake to nitrogen excretion.


As a vegan, it is highly likely that you will seek protein sources that are ‘complete.’ In this regard, the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) projects the completeness of a protein and its bioavailability. PDCAAS is therefore, an effective method of establishing a high-quality protein source.

to increase your PDCAAS

You can mix certain
foods to gain more nutrients in one sitting. Grains have high levels of
methionine. Legumes have concentrated portions of lysine as compared to
methionine. The incorporation of protein in recipes can go a long way in
capturing all required macro and micro-nutrients.

High protein vegan recipes will help you acquire the necessary essential amino acids in your diet. Children practicing veganism are often susceptible to nutrient deficiencies. Therefore, high-protein snacks can help them acquire nutrients in the required amounts. Examples of high protein snacks include sesame balls, smoothies with chia seeds, roasted pumpkin seeds and almond bars.

Vegan snacks

However, remember to watch your overall caloric intake. One thing is for sure; our bodies have the ability to store amino acids. Therefore, whatever you eat, the body is able to take up the necessary nutrients for proper functioning of the body cells.







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