Those who are on a weight loss journey would have heard the word, ‘Protein’ being thrown around all the time. Speaking for myself, it is my favourite nutrient. For meat eaters, consuming sufficient protein is quite easy, given the presence of large quantities of the nutrient in their diets. However, vegetarians do not have to fret! We have for you, a ready reckoner and a list of foods rich in vegetarian protein! Incorporating these in your diet in sufficient quantities every day will ensure you receive the required amounts.
Did you know the average sedentary man requires 56 grams of protein a day and an average sedentary woman needs 46 grams of protein every day?
The Top 10 Sources of Vegetarian Protein
Aim for a good amount of protein in every meal. This keeps you full, is healthy and one feels much better in terms of general well-being.
#1) Soy and Soy Based Products
Consumption of Soy products every few days, like soy beans, tofu and soya milk among others, will ensure an adequate intake of protein. There are some discussions regarding long term side effects of soy products. However these do not appear to be conclusive yet, and as long as consumed in moderate amounts, with around 48% protein content, soy products make for a great meal packed with vegetarian protein.
Pregnant and lactating women, and those who indulge in strenuous physical activity, need to consume more protein in their diets, than the average person.
#2) Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
Pumpkin and squash seeds not only make for a great snacking option, toasted and added to salads, but can be used as thickeners for gravies and other dishes instead of the rich cashews or starches we normally would, or as a healthy addition to breads. A must try, especially since they contain 34% vegetarian protein on average.
Apart from water, which constitutes nearly 80% of our body weights, proteins make up the next biggest component.
#3) Pulses and Lentils
Lentils are an everyday affair in most households. The trick to get the maximum benefit of vegetarian protein is to have absolute thick versions and not the soupy, rasam kind of preparations. With 26% protein content, a meal of lentils during the day with some vegetables and Low GI carbs is as healthy as it gets!
Consuming too much protein can affect the filtration process and affect our kidneys, especially so if there are pre-existing kidney problems.
#4) Peanut Butter
Do you struggle to let go of the need to spread some butter on your toast and rotis? Next time, try peanut butter. It is healthier for sure compared to the traditional butters, contains 24% vegetarian protein and has more good fats! Try portion control with this one and remember to try this butter if you ever crave some!
Protein is the fuel that is needed for a body’s growth and maintenance. It has a role in muscle strength, in organ functioning, hair, nail and all cell growth.
#5) Walnuts and Almonds
Nuts are a satisfying, portable and versatile snack. They do represent a bit of a nutritional minefield however, given the amounts and types of fat they contain. If you do want to go the nutty route during snack times, try these healthier nuts which also contain good fats in good amounts in addition to 24% vegetarian protein.
There are thousands of amino acids but our body only needs 22 for functioning, out of which 9 come from dietary sources.
#6) Beans & Legumes
Our good old rajma or kidney beans is a blessing for vegetarians and can be made in a variety of ways like salads, curries, burgers, burritos etc. Rajma and other beans should be a part of your meal on most days for that punch of vegetarian protein! Apart from containing between 19 to 24% protein, kidney beans are also a great source of soluble fibre!
Protein supplements should not be treated as replacements to regular dietary sources of protein. They should be consumed on the advice of a nutritionist/dietitian or physician.
Although for many this may not be a local and/or cheap produce, but Quinoa needs a special mention as this wonder grain has all the 9 essential amino acids in it. A rarity, don’t you think, given that this grain also contains 24% vegetarian protein?!
Proteins are the, ‘Building blocks of life’ and are made when several amino acids branch up together.
#8) Sesame seeds, Chia seeds and Flax seeds
Every so often we see trends in food, with specific foods being pushed all across the consumer spectrum. It is now the turn of Sesame (18% protein), Chia (17% protein) and Flax (18% protein) to be worldwide celebrities. These seeds are currently in vogue and people tend to religiously use them in daily meals. Do be aware however, besides being rich in vegetarian protein, they are also rich in good fats.
We need all essential 9 amino acids in sufficient amounts for the protein to do its job properly.
#9) Low Fat Dairy Products
The keyword here is, ‘Low Fat Dairy’. Dairy products do have protein but they are also rich in saturated fat. Selecting low fat options like semi skimmed milk, low fat mozzarella, low fat yogurt for consumption will ensure a good dose of vegetarian protein (up to 24%), calcium, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin A.
1 gram of protein gives 4 Kcal of energy. In real terms, this means, eating a whole chicken breast (150gms each on average) will result in the addition of 600 Kcal.
#10) Vegetables like Edamame, Broccoli, Asparagus and Peppers
Vegetables may come far down the charts when speaking of protein content, but edamame, broccoli, peppers, asparagus and peas among others are fairly good sources of vegetarian protein (about 18%) not to mention all the fibre, nutrients and antioxidants they bring with them. Vegetables should make up the bulk of your meal and are as important as any other meal component, if not more!
As you can see, some of the above mentioned rich sources of protein are also rich in good fats whilst some others are richer in fibre. Some can be expensive to incorporate like Quinoa but Besan or Chick pea flour might be a cheaper option as it has (22 grams of protein per 100 grams). It is all about choosing your ingredients wisely and being aware of what other nutritional elements are present in each food and making them a part of a sensible meal.
References 1) http://nutritiondata.self.com/ 2) http://www.frysvegetarian.co.uk/vegetarian-sources-of-protein/