Replacement of meat products for vital nutrients. Part I. Proteins

As is known from biochemistry, Any product is a collection of chemicals. With the help of digestion, the body extracts these substances from foods, and then uses them for its own needs. At the same time, some nutrients affect the body more, others less. Research has identified substances that, if absent or lacking, are detrimental to health. These substances are called “essential”, they include 4 groups of substances:

Group I – macronutrients:

protein – 8 amino acids (for children – 10 amino acids),

fat – 4 types of fatty acids and their derivative – cholesterol,

carbohydrates – 2 types of carbohydrates,

II group – 15 minerals  

III group – 14 vitamins

Group IV – dietary fiber

In this article, we will trace which of these substances are found in the meat of animals and birds, and learn how to replace them with other products – sources of these nutrients.

Other nutrients contained in foods affect the body to a lesser extent, and with their lack of significant changes in health have not been identified. They are called “essential” or minor nutritional components, we will not touch on them in this article.

Part I. Replacing meat products by macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates)

Let’s see what essential substances are found in meat products and compare with the average content of the same substances in plant products. Let’s start with macronutrients. 

1. Replacing meat products for proteins

We will analyze the protein content in meat products and options for replacing them with other products. The table below shows the comparative amounts of essential nutrients in the meat and organs of animals and birds compared to the average values ​​of these same substances in plant foods. Red indicates a lack of nutrients in plant foods compared to meat products, green indicates an excess.

Here and below:

In line 1 – the average content of nutrients in the muscles and organs of animals and birds

In line 2 – the maximum amount of nutritional substance that can be obtained from meat products

Row 3 is the average amount of a nutrient in plant foods, including cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and berries, vegetables and herbs, mushrooms

Line 4 – the maximum amount of nutrient that can be obtained from plant products

Row 5 – champion herbal product that contains the maximum amount of nutrient from the group of herbal products

So we see that On average, in terms of calories, plant foods are not inferior to animals. Therefore, when switching to a plant-based diet, there is no need to supplement the diet with special high-calorie plant foods.

By protein the situation is different: we see that the average protein content in plants is 3 times lower than in animal products. Accordingly, if you do not intentionally replace meat with other protein products, then with a reduction or release of food from meat, less protein will begin to enter the body and there is a high risk of getting symptoms of protein deficiency.

How does protein deficiency manifest itself and how to check for yourself? To do this, consider why the body uses protein – from here we will see how its deficiency manifests itself in practice:

1. Protein is a building material. 

The fact is that the body consists of tens of trillions of cells, each cell has its own life span. The lifespan of a cell depends on the work it does (for example, a liver cell lives 300 days, a blood cell lives 4 months). Dead cells need to be replaced regularly. The body needs water and protein to produce new cells. In other words, the body is an eternal building, and this building constantly needs water and cement. Protein acts as cement in the body. There is no protein or it is not enough – the cells are not replenished, as a result, the body is slowly destroyed, including the muscles, and the person is no longer able to perform the amount of physical exercises that he did before.

2. Protein – an accelerator of processes.  

The point here is that metabolic processes are continuously going on in the body – substances enter the cell and there they are converted into other substances, the sum of these processes is called metabolism. In this case, unused substances are deposited in the reserve, mainly in adipose tissue. Protein accelerates all metabolic processes, and when little protein enters the body, the processes do not accelerate, they go more slowly, respectively, the metabolic rate decreases, more unused nutrients appear, which are more deposited in adipose tissue. Outwardly, a decrease in the metabolic rate is observed in weight gain against the background of poor nutrition, lethargy, slow reactions and all processes, including mental ones, and general lethargy.

3. Protein is the basis of digestive enzymes. 

In this situation, we are also talking about protein deficiency. Digestion is carried out to a greater extent due to digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are also proteins. Therefore, when there is not enough protein in the diet, few enzymes are produced, as a result, food is poorly digested, which leads to digestive disorders, a reduction in the types of foods in the diet, and poor absorption of even those that have been digested.

4. Protein – transport of minerals. 

Almost everyone who comes to me, being on a plant-based diet, I ask to do a hair analysis for trace elements. Hair analysis shows the level of essential elements in the body over a period of 6-8 months. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for one or more of these elements to be in short supply. This deficiency is caused, on the one hand, by the lack of these elements themselves in the diet, and, on the other hand, by poor absorption. What determines the absorption of minerals? For example, celery entered the body, there is a lot of sodium in celery, digestion has released sodium and now it is ready to enter the cell, but sodium cannot penetrate on its own, it needs a transport protein. If there is no protein, then part of the sodium will pass through without getting into the cell. That is, the passenger (chemical element) has arrived, but there is no bus (squirrel) that will take him home (to the cage). Hence, with a protein deficiency, a deficiency of elements in the body occurs.

In order not to bring yourself to protein deficiency when freeing food from meat products, replace protein from meat with protein from other products. What foods contain enough protein to replace meat?

Protein content by type of food

It can be seen from the diagram that There is a lot of protein in fish, cottage cheese, egg whites and legumes. therefore instead of meat products, eat those protein products that correspond to your type of nutrition at the moment, at least in the same quantities as you ate meat. Cheese, nuts, and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) are also high in protein, but also high in fat, so if you replenish protein with these types of foods, over time, fat will accumulate in the body along with protein, which will lead to overweight.

How much protein do you need to eat per day for normal work? Practice and research show that, regardless of the type of food, a good amount for an adult is 1 g of protein (not a protein product, but an element) per 1 kg of body weight, for children and athletes – this number is higher.

To get this amount of protein, taking into account other foods eaten per day, it turns out that Eat at least one protein product every day, for example, if it is cottage cheese, then in the amount of 150-200g, if legumes, then in the amount of 70-150g. in dry weight. A good solution would be to alternate protein foods – for example, one day there is cottage cheese, the other – lentils.

It is often written that on a vegetarian diet there is no need for such a large amount of protein as on a traditional diet. However, my personal experience and the experience of people who contact me clearly shows the groundlessness of such statements. The amount of protein per day does not depend on the type of food. If a person does not make sure to replace meat with other protein products daily and in the right quantities, then sooner or later such a person will develop symptoms of protein deficiency.

It also makes sense to take into account not only the total amount of protein that this product contains, but also protein composition.

The body, having received the protein, disassembles it into amino acids, as into cubes, so that later these amino acids can be combined in the right combination. The process is similar to building a house with Lego blocks. For example, you need to build a house from 5 red cubes, 2 blue and 4 green. In this case, a part of one color cannot be replaced with a part of another color. And if we have only 3 red bricks, then 2 will be missing, and you can no longer build a house. All other details will lie idle and will not bring any benefit. For the body, 8 cubes, that is, 8 amino acids, are most important. From them, the body builds all kinds of cells that it needs. And if one type of cubes is not enough, then the body will also not be able to fully use all the other amino acids. The number of amino acids and the proportions in which they are combined with each other is also important. By how balanced amino acids are relative to each other, they judge about the usefulness of the protein product.

Which protein product is the most balanced and contains all 8 amino acids in the right proportion? The World Health Organization (WHO) through research has revealed the formula of the ideal protein. This formula shows how much and what kind of amino acid should ideally be in the product for a person. This formula is called amino acid score. Below is a table of correspondence between the amino acid composition of different protein products and the WHO amino acid score. Red indicates deficit compared to WHO recommended amount.

Relative content of amino acids in protein products


Absolute content of amino acids in protein products


It can be seen from the tables that:

1. Neither plant nor animal products there is no ideal protein for humans, each type of protein has its own “strengths and weaknesses”;

2. It is impossible to get the ideal amino acid formula from one type of protein product, so it makes sense to make a varied protein diet and alternate different types of protein products. For example, if the body cannot take enough lysine from pumpkin seeds, then it will have a chance to take lysine from, for example, lentils or cottage cheese;

3. Meat in regard to essential amino acids does not contain unique qualities, respectively, with a reasonable approach meat products can be replaced with a combination of other types of protein products, which is confirmed by practice.

4. Meat could be called a successful protein product if it didn’t have so many disadvantages in the form of hormones, decay in the intestines, drugs contained in meat, and the living conditions of animals and birds on farms, therefore exemption from meat, subject to its full replacement for each vital component of nutrition, cleanses the body, benefits health and consciousness. 

The body does not care about the form, it needs nutrients, in the case of protein, these are amino acids. That’s why choose for yourself those foods that are acceptable to you and eat them every day in the right amount.

It is better to replace one product with another gradually. If you haven’t eaten enough legumes before, your body needs time to learn how to get amino acids from legumes. Give your body time to learn how to do its new job. It is better to gradually reduce the amount of meat products, while increasing the number of products replacing them. According to studies, the change in metabolism takes about 4 months. At the same time, at first, new products will not seem appetizing. This is not because the taste is mediocre, but because the body is not used to it, it does not stimulate your appetite hormonally. You just need to go through this period, after about 2 weeks, new products will begin to seem tasty. By acting thoughtfully and consistently, you will succeed. 

Read about the replacement of meat products for other nutrients necessary for health in the following parts of the article.

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