Why are proteins important for us? Proteins play an important role in our body in terms of transport and storage of various substances in the body; they also control some physiological functions, they trigger chemical reactions in the body and they contribute to the immune ability of the body. They are the foundation of growth of hair, bones and nails and they influence growth of muscle matter.
Most frequently, the dose of 1 g of proteins per 1 kg of body weight daily is recommended; if you do some sports or need to build up some muscles, you may increase it by 30%. However, that is the maximum; any higher intake of proteins burdens the body and is unhealthy.
The intake and portion of proteins in our diet should also be appropriate to the age and current health condition of the body. Daily intake per 1 kg of body weight should be 0.9 to 1.1 gram in children, ca 0.8 g in adults to 35 years of age and even less than 0.7 g in age category above 45 years. In lower intake, health problems may occur. That is why the protein intake should not drop by more than 10% from the stated levels.
Higher need for proteins occurs in adolescents in periods of intense growth, i.e. mainly at the onset of puberty. During this period, human body is able to process as much as 2.4 g of proteins per 1 kg of body weight. This increased need also occurs in breastfeeding women; they are able to process up to 2 grams per 1 kg of body weight because they spend a big portion of the protein to produce breastmilk.
Proteins are made of chains of amino acid residues. There are usually 23 basic amino acids in proteins and their properties are determined by various orders and ways they are arranged one after another in the amino acid chain. Even the number of amino acids in a chain varies.
Protein molecules are too big to transfer through the intestinal wall into blood. That is why they get disintegrated into short chains and individual amino acids in the digestive system. Free amino acids and short chains containing 8-12 amino acids at maximum are transported into blood and into liver cells. Here, they are further broken down; they serve to build proteins necessary for the body.
Although proteins are in many foods, their usability varies. The best proteins for use are proteins necessary for fetus development and growth of the young. Therefore, eggs and milk are the top proteins in terms of usability. It is only logical, since nature knows very well why the body should be supplied with these proteins at the time of development and growth. Even the higher content of cholesterol in eggs is a purposeful intention of nature. Cholesterol and amino acids contained in proteins are necessary for cell membrane formation at the time of development and growth and thus the need for them is higher in that period than in any other period in life.
Vegetable Sources of Proteins
There are animal and vegetable sources of proteins. The advantages to the vegetable sources of proteins are especially lower content of fats, higher content of dietary fibre and many other protective substances of vegetable origin. Legumes rich in protein and dietary fibre are an excellent source of vegetable proteins.
Vegetable Foods Rich in Proteins:
Foods rich in proteins are especially legumes - soy, lentils, peas, chickpeas, beans, Mung beans. You may cook legumes or let them sprout and then eat them like that. You can also eat soy meat or tofu, tempeh and similar foods as they are also rich in proteins.
Other important sources of proteins are cereals, e.g. the South-American quinoa contains about 15 g proteins per 100 g; if we consider some traditional Czech foods rich in protein, we can name e.g. buckwheat. Buckwheat is a significant source of rutin which helps with problems with blood vessels, haemorrhoids and varicose veins. It is also suitable for physically and mentally strained people. It also enhances the immune system and helps in the detoxification of the body. In winter, it helps us warm up.
Another source of vegetable proteins are for example nuts - walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds or hazelnuts - they all have around 15 to 20 g of protein per 100 g.
We also find lesser amounts of vegetable proteins in some vegetables, e.g. in broccoli, corn, spinach and others.
Robi is a blend of vegetable proteins, it is a product of rational diet. It contains no fats or cholesterol, no animal proteins or meat; it is produced only from vegetable raw materials. No conservation agents, additives or substitutes are used in its production. Preparing Robi is no different from preparing meat. Half-finished Robi products are suitable for making meatloaf, hamburgers, Asian-cuisine styled noodles; you can also marinate them, grill them... Robi works well with various spices or sauces. Unlike e.g. soy meat, Robi meat is not that readily available in Czech conditions.
It is essentially a dehydrated soy protein available in the form of cubes, granules or noodles. Soy is rich in minerals, iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A, E and B. They are also rich in dietary fibre. Soy proteins reduce the amount of cholesterol in blood. First, it is necessary to boil soy meat in water, since it is a dehydrated product. Actual soy meat has virtually no taste, but similarly to Robi, it works very well with spices. Another advantage of soy meat is that it is very easily available, even within hypermarkets, where it is also very favourably priced.
Klaso is another half-finished product. Its protein content is similar to actual meat. Klaso is suitable for further thermal processing; it is frequently sold in the form of various "meat" products - patés, spreads, sausages, meatloaves, etc. As far as its taste is concerned, it is also suitable for work with spices or sauces. However, unlike Robi, Klaso consistency is generally softer, shorter and less "meaty". The basic ingredient of Klaso is a cereal protein. Klaso is excellent for its high amount of dietary fibre and minimum fats. There are many recipes for Klaso meals and it is not difficult to get Klaso in healthy-food stores or even in some chainstores.
Wheat gluten is a high-quality vegetable protein made from wheat flour; you can even make it yourselves using some wheat flour at home. It is available in stores with various flavours and it tastes fairly strong by itself. You can prepare wheat gluten in a way similar to preparing meat and it is great for dishes inspired by Asian cuisine. Wheat gluten was originally made in China.
It is perhaps the most renowned vegetable product with relatively high amount of protein. Unlike the aforementioned products, it does have somewhat higher content of fat but its energetic value is higher. Tofu originally comes from China and it is frequently and abundantly used in Asian cuisine. It is also used for preparation of various spreads, salamis, etc.
Tempeh is not very much widespread in the Czech cuisine yet; however, it is a more than suitable alternative to meat. Tempeh is very rich in easily digestible proteins, calcium, iron and many other beneficial substances. It contains 2.5 times more calcium than milk. It is suitable as food for reduction diets, in training and bodybuilding exercise regimens. It also comes from Asia; it is widely used in China and Japan and it is considered to be a full substitute to meat. During production, tempeh is left to ripen, similarly to cheeses. You can use it in the kitchen in the same way you would use meat. In our conditions, there is a disadvantage to tempeh in the form of its unavailability. It is not as widespread in the Czech Republic as other meatless foods.
Cerie has 23.5 g of proteins per 100 g; this ratio is very favourable and it even outnumbers some types of meat. You can eat it cold, add it into salads or process it thermally - Cerie is best fried with various spices and sauces.
Lentil is a great source of vegetable proteins. There are 27 grams of protein in 100 grams of lentil. Compared to meat, lentil is one of the richest sources of proteins ever. E.g. turkey breast have approx. 24 g of proteins in 100 g. You can eat lentils alone, or in combination e.g. with rice. It is also suitable for various salads. You can also get fairly tasty lentilburgers which may substitute complex meat proteins, in combination with wholemeal bread and vegetable garnish. There are countless types of lentil products. If you combine lentil with wholemeal bread, you may achieve favourable amino-acid range.