DIET

Plant proteins—a meatless way to building muscles

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Eating legumes can give you as much protein as someone who eats meat, a new study reveals

In vegetarianism versus non-vegetarianism debates, veggie lovers often find themselves in a tight spot when asked about their source of protein. Besides, the notion that one cannot achieve high muscle mass by relying solely on vegetarian food is so popular and strong that one often turns to protein supplements to build muscles. Now, vegetarians have a 'green' way of gaining muscle strength without depending on protein shakes, if a new study from University of Massachusetts is to be believed. 

According to the study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, including more legumes, nuts and kale in diet can give you same strength as a meat-eater. The lead author Dr Kelsey Mangano, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said, “High-protein diets do benefit most individuals. It can be beneficial to maintaining muscle mass and strength–particularly as we age.”

As part of the research, nearly 3,000 people were questioned about their dietary patterns, which were later classified as: fast food and full fat dairy, fish, red meat, chicken, low-fat milk, and legumes. The researchers found that 82 per cent of participants were getting the recommended daily amount of protein. Their muscle mass, strength and bone density were assessed to see if dietary patterns had an impact. The assessment revealed lowest measures of muscle mass and strength among those who consumed low amounts of protein, while those who had high protein intake showed better muscular health. The results did not vary based on an individual's dietary pattern. Also, the type of protein consumed by participants did not have a significant impact on their musculoskeletal health.

The study concluded that animal-based proteins provide same muscle strength as proteins obtained from vegetarian sources, and those who consume most proteins, irrespective of the source, generally have more muscle mass and stronger quadriceps.

Giving a reason for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians to celebrate, Mangano said, “As long as a person is exceeding the recommended daily allowance for protein, no matter the source in their diet, they can improve their muscle health.” Advising on factors to be considered while choosing protein, he said, “Choose protein sources that are lean—limiting saturated fat—and also those that are low in sodium.”

Taking the hint, here are some of the best sources of plant proteins:

Soybeans: One of the best meat replacement for vegetarian cooking, soybeans are, perhaps, the best source of plant protein. Each cup of soybean has as much as 29gm of protein. Soybeans can also be consumed as tofu and soy milk.

Nuts: While nuts are infamous for their fat content, what is often ignored is the fact that nuts are a rich source of healthy, unsaturated fat and protein. A cup of mixed nuts has almost 27gm of protein. Cashews, almonds, pistachios and peanuts have higher proportion of proteins compared to other nuts.

Lentils: These high-fibre seeds of the legume family are packed with as much as 18gm of protein per cup. In addition, the seeds are rich in vitamin B1 and iron.

Black-eyed peas: Belonging to the beans family, black-eyed pea is a rich source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. But it also has as much as 16gm of protein per cup.

Green peas: This member of the legume family is a powerhouse of rich nutrients. One cup of green peas has 8gm of protein and your daily dose of vitamin C. With less than a 100 calories per cup, green peas are also good for weight watchers.

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