Minimally-processed plant protein is the future whether we like it or not.
These young, green fava beans are the second richest source of amino acids from a non-meat food. Freshly harvested they are absolutely delicious; old and starchy they are perfectly horrid.
Soya beans are at the top of vegetable protein list but they are very indigestible unless fermented as the Chinese do; it's all about so-called antinutrients.
You will almost certainly not to be able to purchase fava-beans, except perhaps in England, Morocco and the Blue Zone countries; therein lies the rub. So you have to grow them yourself. It is not particularly onerous.
Red meat especially when processed as in bacon, ham and sausages, along with refined-starches from say a burger bun, have been strongly associated with chronic disease and some malignant tumours.
This page was updated on 8th January, 2023.
Smear that roll with margarine or another spread high in hydrogenated fat, add a hot dog and you have just turned it into the perfect recipe for cardiovascular disease, obesity and the attendant type-2 diabetes.
Not only is that excessive red meat proving deadly for us but it is also rapidly destroying the planet; both through greenhouse gases and pollution of our water-sources.
Climate-change is upon us with all its ferocity despite those in denial.
The new concept of the flexitarian diet is a huge step in the right direction. It is for those who are determined to eat less red meat but are unwilling to become vegans. In short enjoying fewer portions of beef in particular and filling the protein-gap with more peas, beans and nuts; seeds too.
It is about being flexible, not going the whole hog and becoming vegetarians; red meat might be enjoyed once or twice a week. For the rest the adherents get their amino acids from minimally-processed plant protein.
Those making the change have realised that the loss of well-being of both themselves and the planet is reversible; and are determined to be part of the process. They have no desire to succumb to the pain, disease and disability they see all around them; and are willing to ring in the changes.
Minimally-processed plant protein sources are not only good for the planet, but also for us; they are one way to sustain the unprecedented population growth.
The food industry of course has noted this change of attitude and, looking to make money whilst providing solutions has come up with what are known as plant-based meat alternatives.
They have their merits but also some inherent dangers.
They are providing alternatives from plants but they are certainly a highly-processed food.
These plant-based meat alternatives use far less water to grow and generate smaller amounts of greenhouse gases, it is claimed, as compared to raising beef.
What is certain is that these PBMAs use highly-processed plant proteins that have been extracted from legumes; they cannot be considered whole foods.
The effect of these processed and refined plant proteins on human well-being have yet to be thoroughly tested. Whilst they are lower in cholesterol than meat obviously, they in fact are higher in saturated fat than whole foods like lentils, peas and fava beans; they also have far more added salt.
Served with a plateful of chips on a refined white bun they can hardly be described as wholesome, yet the concept is not without merit; it just needs further investigation. Do they contribute to lower cardiovascular disease and obesity, and do folk who buy them actually eat less red-meat?
Heme from a soy-based chemical that is high in iron is being added to some of these PBMAs to increase their meaty flavour.
Researchers reporting in the journal BMC Medicine found after doing a large meta-analysis that a daily increase of just 1 mg of heme iron is significantly associated with T2DM.
They conclude that whilst iron is an essential nutrient, in excessive amounts it produces reactive oxygen species to which the beta-cells in the pancreas are particularly susceptible, raising the spectre of diabetes. Even moderate increases in heme were strongly associated with raised blood glucose and insulin levels.
Non-heme iron from plant sources does not appear to have this risk.
Researchers following 70 thousand Japanese adults for 18 years found that substituting plant for animal protein, mainly for red and processed meat, was strongly correlated with a lower all-cause of death from tumours and cardiovascular disease.
"Plant-protein intake was significantly inversely associated with the risk of overall mortality."
The "take home" from this is that both minimally-processed vegetable protein, and meat alternatives from plants may be beneficial for Mother Earth, but the same cannot be said with certainty for our own wellness. There are numerous questions that need to be answered first before PBMAs can be recommended.
Guidelines continue to recommend eating less red-meat in favour of peas and beans such as favas, limas and lentils; legumes in general.
Legumes also contribute to the fertility of the soil from nitrogen-fixation bacteria that attach to their roots.
Favas are not difficult to grow. Also known as broad beans, they need a strong central stake and have to be supported with twine. They are the very best zero-processed plant protein.
Fava bean plants do need plenty of water. That may mean that you have to consider harvesting and storing the rain.
Enjoyed from breakfast oddly in Eggs Hilton they are our perfect solution to the 11 o'clock blues; hunger-pangs that have us reaching for a cola or candy bar. In nutritional terms they give people satiety.
It is interesting that in all five of the blue zones of the world where ten-times as many people reach zestful old age they grow and enjoy young, green broad beans.
Blue Zone longevity has received much attention; consumption of these legumes appears to be one big reason why their elderly are so strong and vital. It's not really minimally-processed plant protein since they are enjoyed straight from the garden; and they are not generally vegetarians.
Folk often find it mysterious how vegans can get enough protein without eating meat, chicken and fish; dairy-products and eggs too. They do have to work quite hard to get all the essential amino acids but it is eminently possible. Vitamin B12 remains their nemesis.
Flexitarians who are trying to eat less meat can benefit from the wisdom of the vegans. Beans, peas and nuts are great sources of protein; seeds too. Tempeh in particular looks interesting to me; it ticks all the right boxes.
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