Protein is an essential ingredient of nutrition required by the human body. Scientifically speaking, protein provides your body with essential amino acids that are the building blocks of life. It initiates enzyme production and constitutes the most important of physiological processes in the body, protein synthesis. Now it is common knowledge that non vegetarian products are commonly regarded as the richest sources of protein but as a vegetarian, it doesn’t mean that you should lack the food resources of protein in your diet. You’ll be surprised to find out that there are several rich vegetarian sources of protein that also contribute to health.
1 Protein synthesis and why protein is important
Protein synthesis is a metabolic process that breaks down into macronutrients which nourishes our muscles. Without protein synthesis our bodies would lack muscle development and energy which is also produced in the process. Protein intake helps us recover from the loss in muscle cells and tissue during physical activity. Sportsmen especially need a constant supply of protein for muscle recovery and soreness from strenuous physical activity or workouts.
Protein helps us repair damaged muscle tissue and contributes to building as well as repairing cartilage, muscle, cells, tissue, bones and blood. It is also needed for several bodily functions and general health. In simple terms, your body needs protein.
2 How much Protein do you need?
This brings us to the all important question what do vegetarians do for protein. The answer is simple. While a vegetarian diet devoid of red meat can be excellent for health, it can also provide you your daily dose of protein providing you know what to eat. According to Harvard medical school health watch, the recommended dietary intake of protein for the average man should be 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. The average sedentary man should get 56 gms of protein per day and women 46 gms. To determine your RDA of protein you should multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. Alternately you can refer to this protein calculator recommended by the US Food and Nutritional Information center dept of agriculture
12 vegetarian sources of protein
1 Chickpeas and lentils
A 100ms serving of protein contains 19gms protein which is an impressive amount. A cup of garbanzo beans will yield 12 Gms of protein per serving. Chickepeas are rich in fiber, essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamin B-6, iron, calcium and magnesium. Lentils too are rich in protein providing 18 gms per cup.
2 Organic Edamame
Just one cup of edamame will give you a protein punch of 18gms. 100 gms of edamame yields 11 gms of protein besides being incredibly rich in iron and potassium a major electrolyte required by the body.
100 grams of tofu will yield 8 gms of protein. Tofu is also rich in leucine a major BCAA (branch chain amino acid) essential for muscle development and protein synthesis. Tofu is also rich in magnesium, calcium and iron.
4 Mung beans and mung bean sprouts
Mung beans or green gram are native to India, China and Southeast Asia. 1 cup of cooked Mung beans (202) gms contains 14.2 gms of protein. In addition it is a rich source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Mung beans are packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as lecithin, folate, vitamin c, magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, phosphorus, selenium and calcium. An added benefit of mung bean sprouts is its ability to reduce cholesterol.
Broccoli is one of nature’s superfoods where 1 serving of 280 gms broccoli will provide you 6.8 grams of protein on its own. Broccoli is also rich in omega 3 fatty acid essential for muscle repair. It is also rich in folate, calcium, vitamin C, E and K. Glucoraphanin, an ingredient unique to broccoli and cauliflower rejuvenates and repairs skin damaged by sunlight. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234922/
Quinoa is one of the best vegetarian sources of protein on earth. 1 cup (185) gms of coked quinoa will yield 8.1 or 16% of your dietary value of protein. The largest factor for quinoa being a complete source of protein is that it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids required by the body for normal function and health. These nine amino acids are not synthesized by our human bodies and are thus required from food.
Just two tablespoons of spirulina is enough to give you a protein substitute for your meal. Consider this fact that 1 cup of dried spirulina (128) gms contains a whopping 64 gms of protein and 924 mg of omega 3 fatty acids.. Like Quinoa it contains all essential amino acids and 2800% more beta carotene than carrots and 3900% more iron than spinach. The health benefits of Spirulina are endless which is why it is one of the superfoods on the planet.
Almonds are a good vegetarian source of protein which can be enjoyed as a snack. A handful of almonds will contain about 6 to 8 gms of protein. The advantage of almond butter over peanut butter is the risk free factor of allergies. Almonds are also a healthy source of good fats and are rich in vitamin E which is a super antioxidant that rejuvenates skin. Almonds also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol in the body.
1 cup of cooked spinach without salt will give you approximately 5.3gms of protein. Spinach is loaded with nutritional benefits that can promote good health in your body. Spinach is a super source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium besides other essential nutrients. It is zero cholesterol and has a low calorie value.
Milk contains two important proteins, casein (80%) and whey (20%). Both proteins contain all nine essential amino acids required for normal function of human physiology. 100 grams of milk contains 3.4 gms of protein so you can well calculate how much you get from one glass of milk. For those who are lactose intolerant, you could resort to casein based milk only. However consult your doctor first if you are lactose intolerant.
11 Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is rich in essential nutrients besides being a good vegetarian source of protein, 100 gms of cottage cheese yields about 11 gms of protein. Cottage cheese is a good source of calcium and is an active component of weight loss diets.
1 cup of plain whole milk yoghurt contains 8.5 gms of protein. If you consume Greek yoghurt you get an added benefit of 10 Gms of protein as well as all nine essential amino acids. Yoghurt is packed with essential nutrients besides being rich in probiotics which introduce good bacteria in the body and promote a healthy gut.