Protein is essential for a healthy diet, but it may be challenging to get it from food if you don’t eat meat or fish.
The good news is that there are plenty of vegetarian protein sources, and we have included the most relevant ones in this article.
What is protein, and why do we need it?
Protein is a macronutrient made from more than twenty basic building blocks called amino acids. Nine are called “essential amino acids“, and our body cannot produce them on its own, so we need to take them from food.
Protein counts for around 17% of the body’s weight, plays a central role in repairing damaged cells and building new ones and helps the immune system to fight infections.
Protein regulates blood sugar and metabolism and contributes to building tissues, bones and muscles.
What amount of protein should you consume per day?
The daily needed amount of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
What are the sources of protein for vegetarians?
1. Dairy products
Dairy products contain fair amounts of protein and other nutrients like calcium.
You can get 3 grams of protein from 100 grams of cow milk served as a healthy snack and 25 grams of protein from 100 grams of cheddar cheese fixed into a nutritious sandwich.
Cottage Cheese provides a refreshing vibe to foods like salads, and 100 grams of this dairy gives you 11 grams of protein.
Yoghurt is another vegetarian protein source that flavours various dishes or that you can eat plain to ensure your body receives around 9 grams of protein per 100 grams.
2. Grains and pulses
Lentils, beans and pulses are full of protein:
- 100 grams of boiled lentils contains around 9 grams of protein and make a delicious addition to soups, salads, casseroles, stews, curries or rice. Moreover, red or green lentils contain iron, potassium and fibre;
- Black and kidney beans can help power up your protein intake, as do chickpeas;
- Chickpeas, also known as Garbanzo beans or Egyptian peas, contain around 7.25 grams per half a cup, and they include all the essential amino acids. You can add this vegetarian protein source to dishes like curries and stews or turn it into healthy hummus for a protein-rich snack.
Spirulina, blue or green algae, contain around 8 grams of protein per two tablespoons. It provides iron, manganese and main B vitamins. It is available as a supplement or powder. You can add it to smoothies, water and fruit juice or sprinkle it over salads or snacks.
Grains are a great way to provide recipes with a boost of protein. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making this grain a favourite of all vegetarians.
Oats are low in carbohydrates and provide 12 grams of protein per 100 grams serving. You can enjoy oats in an energy-boosting breakfast, turn them into flour, and bake delicious recipes.
Buckwheat is a grain-like seed and a complete vegetarian protein source with 13.2 grams of protein per 100 grams serving.
5. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds also called “super-foods”, are full of protein and essential fats. Consumed raw, they make a healthy and handy snack, while added to meals, they provide flavour and extra-crunchiness.
Although not equal in terms of protein content, most nuts and seeds provide a good amount of this nutrient:
- 30 grams of almonds deliver 6 grams of protein;
- 6 Brazil nuts contain 4 grams of protein;
- 10 cashew nuts will give you 3 grams of protein.
Many vegetables can increase your protein intake if you combine them with other protein-rich foods.
Spinach, for example, found in three different varieties, contains 2 grams of protein per 80 grams serving. You can increase protein by combining spinach with eggs for an easy and nourishing breakfast.
Other vegetables that help you get the protein you need are:
- broccoli – delivers 4 grams of protein per medium stalk;
- asparagus – provides around 2 grams of protein per six spears;
- Brussels Sprouts – offers 3.5 grams of protein per 100 grams serving;
- kale – contains 2 grams of protein per cup.
Eggs are a handy and cheap source of nutrients. They provide 7 grams of protein per hard-boiled egg, are low in calories and are easy to digest.
The list of meals containing eggs is endless, so all you need to do to ensure you get the protein they include is to find your favourite recipes online.
8. Ezekiel bread
Ezekiel bread is an easy-to-digest alternative to traditional bread, made from barley, wheat, millet, lentils and spelt. Each slice of this bread provides 4 grams of protein, which makes it perfect for those who like toast and sandwiches. Peanut butter or almond butter helps you create a quick and healthy snack you can enjoy at home or in your lunch box.
9. Soy products
Soy products are one of the richest vegetarian protein sources and contain other healthy nutrients like iron and calcium.
The soy can be served or prepared in multiple ways, resulting in different products like:
- When consumed plain, soya beans contain around 15 grams of protein per 100 grams serving, while edamame beans (immature beans) provide about 8.5 grams of protein per same serving;
- Tofu holds a special place in the vegetarian diet, being a reliable meat substitute that takes the flavour of the dishes is added to. It is a popular ingredient for salads or vegetable stir-fries and unmistakable in dishes like sweet and sour chicken and Kung Pao chicken.
Soy takes the form of miso, tempeh or soy milk, which provide fair amounts of protein.
If you need more information about vegetarian protein sources, call, email or stop by the shop, and I will be happy to assist you!