Proteins are the essential building blocks for muscles, tissues, cartilage, blood, enzymes and hormones. Therefore, it is absolutely important for every individual to get adequate protein from his or her diets. However, a common misconception that exists among people is that Vegan or Vegetarian diet lacks protein, because of which vegetarians need to take protein supplements to fulfill their body’s protein needs.
The truth of the matter is that vegetarian diet is quite rich in protein. From fruits to vegetables to nuts, there are ample vegan protein sources that can provide the right amount of protein required for the physiological processes.
Let’s take a look at some of the richest and best vegetarian sources for protein:
- Soy – Soy or Soybeans are an excellent protein source that can be found in different foods such peanut butter and soy milk. Research shows that just one cup of soybean can provide up to 29 grams of protein, which is at par with that of chicken (a non-vegetarian protein source). Soybean also helps in preserving the calcium content in the body, strengthens the bones, and reduces the LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the blood. Fermented soy is best and includes tempeh, miso, and natto (fermented soybeans). Eat soy in moderation as the estrogen-mimicking compounds can have a negative effect if over consumed.
- Tofu – Tofu actually is a derivative of Soy, and is commonly called as the ‘Soy Curd’. It contains 9 of the essential amino acids, making it an excellent protein source for the vegans. It can be used in various forms – marinated, sautéed, or pureed. Tofu is also a rich source of calcium, and is especially beneficial for growing children. For those who are allergic to dairy products, Tofu can be an option to fulfill their calcium and protein requirements.
- Lentils – A common and rich source of protein are different types of lentils. Daily consumption of two cups of lentils provides adequate protein for healthy muscle development in kids and adults. Lentils are also rich in minerals. Since lentils are widely grown throughout the world, they are relatively an inexpensive and easily available proteins source that you must add to your daily diet. You can cook lentils alone, or add them to soups and stews.
- Red Kidney Beans – A delicious variety of beans that you can add to a variety of dishes are the red kidney beans. A cup of red kidney beans can provide up to 15 grams of protein, and many other nutrients as well. You can eat them as a side dish, or try out different recipes with this versatile variety of beans. Almost all types of beans such as the chickpeas, black beans etc are rich sources of protein, and you should make it a point to include these in your regular diet.
- Cheese – RAW, ORGANIC cheese in all its forms whether goat, ricotta or regular cottage cheese, is a very good source of protein. You can add them to your lasagna, salads, or simply layer your sandwiches with it. Just one cup of cheese can provide up to 28 grams of protein, and if you are on a diet, try the low-fat variety.
- Yogurt – For an excellent meat-free protein source, there can be nothing better than yogurt. Besides providing good amount of calcium and Vitamin D, yogurt also fulfills your body’s protein requirements with ease. Having a bowl of yogurt with your meals can improve digestion, strengthen your bones, kill fungal and yeast infections and help in building muscles and tissues. Yogurt also keeps you feeling full for longer hours and can help you in losing weight.
- Seitan: Also known as the vegetarian ‘Wheat Meat’, Seitan is usually found in Asian and Buddhist cooking. It is derived from the gluten of wheat, and is commonly used in various recipes as a replacement for meat. Seitan is a great source of protein, but if you are sensitive to gluten or wheat, then this is not for you. You can mix Seitan with soups and stews or add it to different dishes that require a thick texture.
- Spirulina – Spirulina is considered as the ‘wonder food’ by health because of the unlimited number of nutrients it contains. Spirulina, basically, is a form of blue-green algae, found in both sea and fresh waters. It contains unusually high amounts of protein, unmatched by even the richest non-vegetarian protein foods. Experts recommend Spirulina for various reasons – apart from being a complete protein source with all the essential amino acids, it also contains Vitamins A, B, C, D and E, minerals such as potassium, calcium and zinc and essential fatty acids.
- Seeds – Seeds such as Sunflower seeds, hemp seeds etc are other rich sources of protein that vegetarians can consume. While these might appear small, they have loads of nutrients packed inside them. Hemp seeds contain up to 34.6 grams of protein, along with all the 22 amino acids. Hemp seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds are also quite rich Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. You can use these in the powdered form – just sprinkle them on your salads or side dishes and enjoy great flavor along with high quality nutrition.
- Nuts – An important source of nutrition for thousands of years, these crunchy delights are a rich source of protein as well. You can eat them as a snack, add them to side dishes, or simply sprinkle over salads. All types of nuts including hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, almonds etc are packed with nutrition. They are rich in fiber, phytonutrients, Vitamin E and antioxidants. However, nuts are also quite calorie-dense, so go easy on them.
As per health experts, on an average each individual should consume up to 40 grams of protein per 100 pounds of body weight. The above-mentioned Vegetarian sources of Protein can easily fulfill these requirements and promote healthy muscular development in adults and children.