Plant-based sources of protein
Protein is important for building and repairing muscles and for our immune system. For this reason we all need it in our diets, not just aspiring body builders! safefood research fellow, Sally Griffin, tells us more about the different sources of protein.
What should we be eating to get an adequate amount of protein?
Protein belongs to the meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and nuts group. Two servings per day from this group are recommended. Beans, peas and lentils are good sources of plant protein and are low in fat.
Meat is a rich source of protein, so if you decide to exclude or reduce your meat intake you will need to get your protein from other foods. Eating a variety of different food sources that are high in protein, from lentils to eggs will ensure that you get what you need.
Plant sources of protein can be very convenient and versatile. They have shorter cooking times, they can be cheaper to buy (especially canned peas, beans, lentils) but still delicious! Personally, I have made an effort to try new meat free meals this year. For example, the curried chickpea and sweet potato burger is a go-to of mine because I can have it for lunch (in a wrap with hummus, or a salad) or for dinner in a bun with some homemade chips. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, have a look at our meat-free recipes.
Vegetarian meat substitutes
There is a large range of vegetarian meat substitute products on the market right now, and some of us may see them as a healthier option. Plant based burgers, sausages, mince, chicken alternatives, steaks, fish alternatives, kievs, pastries, pies and more are available to buy.
We did some research and found these products are in fact processed and have long ingredient lists. Protein content varied, with 1 in 4 products lacking adequate protein. Meat substitutes are low in energy, sugar, and saturated fat, and some are a source of fibre (unlike meat). You can still enjoy meat alternative products but remember they are processed foods so they should not be used as sole replacements for protein rich foods, and intake should be limited.
Our advice is to read food labels and look for products that are a source of protein and lower in saturated fat, sugar, and salt. There are lots of other dietary sources of protein that you can choose from including meat, poultry, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, tofu, and chickpeas.