Non-Animal Sources of Quality Proteins in Our Diets

Mushrooms, quinoa, and soybeans are non-animal sources of quality proteins. Learn why essential amino acid-rich diets are necessary for good health.

Essential amino acids are a crucial component of healthy diets. Essential amino acids are found in mushrooms, fish, meats, dairy products, and eggs. We also have plant-based sources, but very few plant-based sources contain all of the eight essential amino acids. Quinoa and Soybean are two well-recognized plant sources of quality proteins.

Complete proteins or quality proteins contain all necessary amino acids. The eight essential amino acids needed in foods with quality proteins are shown below.

  • Phenylalanine
  • Lysine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Leucine

Why are Essential Amino Acids Important in our Diets?

Essential amino acids are necessary because the cells need them to synthesize the thousands of proteins needed by the body. Proteins are made up of amino acids. However, our body can not synthesize the essential amino acids, so the essential amino acids must be obtained from our foods. The body can synthesize the non-essential amino acids using carbons from such metabolites as pyruvate.

If a needed essential amino acid is absent, the synthesis of the protein will stop. This is followed by amino acid breakdown. If the concentration of an essential amino acid needed for protein synthesis is low, it becomes a limiting factor in protein synthesis. Essential amino acids are required for bodily repair and maintenance.

Why is the Source of Amino Acids and Proteins Important?

Generally, people prefer to get their nutrients, including proteins and amino acids, from sources they consider better for good health. If one consumes foods from poor sources of essential amino acids, the person would need to eat foods from a wider variety of sources than those with high-quality proteins. Some specific reasons for preferring some proteins and amino acids citations are below.

  • Some sources have more quality proteins than others.
  • Cholesterol and saturated fats are mixed with some proteins and amino acids sources.
  • Some sources may be contaminated with hormones and chemicals that may pose health hazards for us.
  • Some sources are more prone to contamination by harmful bacteria.
  • Individual preference in the food flavor of the nutrient source.
  • Religious and cultural factors may discourage proteins from specific sources.

Quality Proteins in the Mushrooms (Fungi)

The mushroom is a vital non-animal and non-plant source of essential amino acids. Mushroom, a fungus, does not have the high-fat content seen in the animal sources of proteins and amino acids. The small amount of fat in the mushroom is good oil, the unsaturated types of fat. The mushroom is a cholesterol-free food with vitamins and significant amounts of minerals, including trace minerals like selenium and zinc.

Quality Proteins in Quinoa

Quinoa is a nutrient-rich pseudo-grain with a history that goes back over 5,000 years. The Incas of Peru ate quinoa thousands of years ago.

Quinoa has the unique property among plant-based nutrients of containing all classes of food nutrients at an inadequate level that sustains good health:

  • Essential amino acids
  • Essential macro and trace minerals
  • A wide array of vitamins

Quality Proteins in the Soybean

The Soybean is another source of plant-based quality proteins. It contains all eight necessary amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. However, one concern with the Soybean is that it also has estrogen-like compounds (phytoestrogens) that have been shown to increase the risk of gynecomastia (enlarged breast) in men and may support certain forms of cancer (1).

Consuming High Nutrient Foods in Moderation

One advantage of consuming super-nutrient foods like mushroom, quinoa, and Soybean is that one can obtain all (or nearly all) of their nutritional needs from one source. Consequently, one (e.g., a person on a vegetarian diet) may be tempted to consume large amounts of food from one source and try to obtain all of their daily nutrient needs. Such a move is a significant dietary mistake. The estrogenic properties of the Soybean and the high levels of manganese in the quinoa underscore the importance of consuming super-nutrient foods in moderation.

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