By Carol Harrison
Has the term “plant-based eating” left you wondering just how animal-based foods fit on a healthy plate? Get the unique nutritional benefits that both plant and animal-based foods have to offer, plus the added nutrition that comes from eating these foods together. It’s called “food synergy,” and here’s how it works!
Plant and animal protein foods are not created equal
The nutrient package offered by various plant and animal protein options varies a lot, which is why for optimal health, that good old variety message still rings true:
- Eggs champion choline, vital for brain health;
- Beef champions iron, vital for healthy growth;
- Beans champion fibre, helping keep blood sugars in check;
- Fatty fish champions omega-3 fats, good for heart health and,
- Pumpkin seeds champion potassium, helpful to keep blood pressure in check.
Good to know: In general, we get more protein for fewer calories from animal protein options compared to plant protein options. For example, to get the same amount of protein from one 100 g serving of beef (deck of cards-sized) at 245 calories, you would need to eat about 10 tablespoons of peanut butter at 865 calories. And animal protein provides all the essential amino acids that humans need.
For better nutrition, combine plant AND animal protein foods
Beef and bean chili is tasty, and it’s also a great example of food synergy. Known as the “meat factor,” some animal protein on our plates will increase the amount of iron we absorb from plant sources by a whopping 150%. So, not only are you getting the unique nutritional benefits each protein food has to offer, but also this added synergy benefit too. That’s why they are truly happy together!
Good to know:
If the term “plant-based eating” has you focussed on swapping your animal-based foods for plant-based, you may just be trading one healthy food (eg. eggs) with another (eg. walnuts) and missing the boat! With 50% of our calories coming from calorie-rich, nutrient-poor ultra-processed foods, (e.g., cookies, frozen waffles, pop, hot dogs, crackers, candy), consider a completely different type of swap – whole or minimally processed foods (eg. steak and veggie stir fry) over ultra-processed foods (frozen pizza and fruit drink).
Looking for meal ideas and recipes showcasing delicious beef and bean protein pairings? Check out the recipes below which are also featured in this free resource: Happy Together.
A traditional pot roast is transformed with tropical flavours like allspice, cinnamon and coconut milk. The slow cooker and shortcut Rice & Peas method means this recipe can be a great dinner option any night of the week. Brown rice and wilted greens provide the fibre boost for this meal. This meal provides a whopping 109% of your daily zinc needs.
This recipe is a snap to pull together with simple pantry ingredients. Use it to fill tortillas and bake as a casserole (see Chili Enchiladas) or just serve from the pot with wedges of baked tortilla.