Rapeseed protein consumption has comparable beneficial effects on human metabolism as soy protein, say nutrition scientists in Germany.
Soy protein dominates the plant-based space. Ninety-five percent of all plant-based proteins, with the exception of wheat, come from this legume – which originally hails from East Asia.
Soy protein contains no cholesterol, a minimum amount of fat, and perhaps most importantly for consumers seeking a high-protein meat alternative, soy is a complete protein. This means that it contains all nine essential amino acids, including those humans cannot produce themselves.
Dependence on a singular plant-protein source, however, can encourage monoculture cropping and have detrimental effects on global biodiversity. The vast majority of soy (80%) is produced in just three countries – the US, Brazil, and Argentina – and is regarded a major contributor to deforestation in South America.
But what if there was another high-protein crop that could help meet growing global demand for plant-based foods? Researchers in Germany suspect they have found just the thing: rapeseed.
“Due to a rising world population it will become increasingly important to open up further protein sources, to guarantee the supply for the world population with enough protein,” nutritionist Christin Volk from the Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg told FoodNavigator.
“Previous studies showed a valuable amino acid profile [in rapeseed], which is comparable to that of soy protein. For this reason, rapeseed protein is a promising new protein source.” Rapeseed protein and our metabolism
Rapeseed, or canola as it is known in the US and Canada, contains approximately 20% high-quality protein.
Rapeseed also contains phytochemicals – chemical compounds produced by plants – which the researchers believe could have beneficial effects on health. Another advantage is that rapeseed is already being cultivated in Europe, predominantly to produce rapeseed oil.
Rapeseed cake, a by-product of oil production, is currently used as a nutritious feed for livestock, but the researchers see potential for this protein-rich side stream to be used as an ingredient for new food products.
Having determined that rapeseed has a comparably beneficial composition of amino acids to soy, the researchers set out to investigate its effects on metabolism. “So far, only a few data on the effect of rapeseed protein intake in humans had been available,” said Volk’s colleague Gabriele Stangl.
The researchers conducted a study with 20 participants, who were invited to eat a specifically prepared meal on three separate days: noodles with tomato sauce, that either contained no additional protein or was enriched with soy or rapeseed protein.