Why we must switch to plant-based diet– Key to a healthy and sustainable food future

Published: May 14, 2019 10:08:05 PM

Soy protein provides all the essential amino acids in the appropriate amounts to meet needs of children as well as adults, which most other legumes lack. The lack of animal proteins in plant-based diet often leads to several deficiencies.

plant based diet, soy protein, essential amino acids , legumes, animal proteins, plant-based diet, healthy foodSoy meat alternatives such as burgers, sausages, bacon and hot dogs can be used to imitate meat. Not only these substitutes ensure you’re consuming enough protein but they can also be cholesterol-free and lower in fat than meat.

By Jigna Sheth

One of the major finding in The EAT-Lancet Commission’s calculations were dietary changes from current predominantly animal-based diets towards the globally fair, plant-based diet could prevent approximately 11 million deaths per year, which represent between 19% to 24% of total deaths among adults. At present, our current food systems are outstripping the resources of the planet, while diets are resulting in global health crises of both over- and under-nutrition. Achieving a healthy food future demands global collaborative efforts and nations across the world need to come up with solutions to fight obesity, under-nutrition and climate change, according to a new report by The EAT-Lancet Forum, published in The Lancet journal.

The new EAT-Lancet Commission report outlines the way to achieve a plant-based, globally fair diet and provides a customizable, universal guideline for healthy eating needs of the world’s fast-growing population. This is the first time global targets have been set for achieving a healthy and sustainable food future that promises to prevent millions of deaths, feed billions of people and avert global environmental catastrophe. Our future depends on our ability to create a food system that supports healthy people and a healthy planet. Globally, the diet requires consumption of less healthy foods such as red meat and sugar to be cut by half, while intake of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, pulses and nuts must double.

The report states that protein content in many crops is likely to reduce due to climate change and calls for a universal global shift towards healthier, protein-rich diet that doesn’t completely banish meat and dairy. But it recommends getting most of our protein from plant-based sources, such as beans and other legumes instead. Ideally, people should put more plant protein foods —soybeans and foods rich in soy— at the center of the plate for meeting their recommended dietary allowance for protein. This is because the all plant-based protein foods do not contain essential amino acids in adequate proportions, and in general, you can get an adequate amount of amino acids from them as long as they’re consumed in variety.

Most plant proteins need to be blended with other plant proteins that complement amino acids that may be lacking or blended with animal proteins to deliver a well-balanced amino acid profile. However, soy protein provides all the essential amino acids in the appropriate amounts to meet needs of children as well as adults, which most other legumes lack. The lack of animal proteins in plant-based diet often leads to several deficiencies.

Soy protein is uniquely differentiated among plant proteins as the only widely available plant protein that is also a high quality, complete protein, meaning it meets the needs of people of all ages. Soy protein products can be good substitutes for animal products. Such products can replace animal-based foods—which also have complete proteins but tend to contain more fat, especially saturated fat—without requiring major adjustments elsewhere in the diet.

Include soy foods such as tofu, soy meat alternatives, and soy flour in each meal in order to feel satisfied. Soy protein is not just for the vegetarian people! Even meat eaters can reap the benefits of this amazing protein source without compromising on taste and nutrition value. One of the major finding in The EAT-Lancet Commission’s calculations were dietary changes from current predominantly animal-based diets towards the globally fair, plant-based diet could prevent approximately 11 million deaths per year, which represent between 19% to 24% of total deaths among adults. So, turning to plant-based diet is the biggest way to lead a healthy lifestyle and reduce your impact on planet.

But not everyone, especially meat eaters, want to completely give up the chewing sensation of meat. Meat eaters will only choose others alternatives if their mouthfeel and overall experience are similar to red meat, poultry and other current meat products they relish. So, the animal substitutes need to have a comparable mouthfeel to the products they’re emulating. This is where soy meat alternatives come into the picture. These alternatives are made specifically to resemble meats, poultry or fish products in taste, texture, and form.

Soy meat alternatives such as burgers, sausages, bacon and hot dogs can be used to imitate meat. Not only these substitutes ensure you’re consuming enough protein but they can also be cholesterol-free and lower in fat than meat. Animal products (meat, fish and eggs) are major dietary sources of protein for meat eaters, but they could be partly replaced by more sustainable protein sources. Increased use of soy and legumes are part of the solution. The future is clear, and consuming plant-based protein like soy is something that’s already occurring widely around the world. From a sustainability standpoint, such plant protein sources also use significantly less water and energy, and create much less pollution, than it takes to produce a similar amount of animal-based protein.

(The author is a well-known Nutritionist & Fitness Consultant. Views expressed are personal.)

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