Proteins are the building blocks of enzymes, muscles tissue, hormones, bone cartilage even blood. Protein is undoubtedly essential and is an important part of a good diet. There is a misconception that the only source of protein is meat and milk. Vegetarian food and vegan diets have no meat, eggs or milk products.
The dilemma is where a vegetarian gets the protein that the body needs. As mentioned the idea that protein is only found in meat is a misconception. A vegetarian diet has all the protein one would need in the fruits and nuts that are consumed.
Here are a few sources of protein that can be incorporated in a vegetarian diet:
- The most popular source of protein in the world is probably the kidney bean. Just a cup of red kidney beans provides 15 grams of protein. You can eat them any way, alone as a side dish or in salads and soups. Other varieties of beans that are good sources of protein include black beans, broad beans, chickpeas, etc.
- Lentils – Are common sources of protein. Just two cups of lentils provide the amount of protein that is needed for healthy muscle development in children. Lentils can be found throughout the world. They are often incorporated into soups and stews and make them meatier. Some people drain the water and keep it aside to drink so that the minerals in the lentils aren’t wasted during the cooking process.
- Soy – is a source of protein that can be found in different foods like peanut butter and soy milk. It can be bought on its own and comes as beans. A cup of soy beans has the same amount of protein as chicken. Soy beans also conserve calcium in the body and reduce the cholesterol on the blood.
- Tofu – a derivative of Soy contains essential amino acids. It is a very versatile foodstuff that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Tofu can be sautéed, pureed and marinated. It is a source of calcium and it good for vegans and people who are allergic to milk. They are often used as meat substitutes in Asian dishes. Some people don’t really like the taste of tofu but it can be made to taste great when cooked properly.
- Seeds – Seeds like Sunflower seeds are sources of protein that vegans can consume. Some seeds pack more than others like hemps seeds which contain almost 34.6 grams of protein and over 20 amino acids. Seeds like flax seeds and sunflower seeds are also rich in minerals, vitamins omega 3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants. They can be crushed into powder and sprinkled onto soups and salads to enhance flavor and nutritious value of the meal.
- Nuts – These aren’t just a good source of protein but are rich in fiber, antioxidants and some little components called phytonutrients. There are a variety of nuts that can be consumed on their own or sprinkled over salads or baked into breads and cakes like hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, almonds and a whole lot more. They can be worked into a paste to enjoy with breads.
- Organic cheese – made from goat’s milk will appeal to vegetarians who can’t eat dairy products. It can be eaten raw or as part of salads or in the form of cottage or ricotta cheese. It does pack a lot of protein, like 28 grams in a single cup. Be careful though if you are on a diet.
- Organic Yogurt – this is sometimes a wonder food because of all the nutrients it has. Apart from being a source of protein, it is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D. It is good for your digestive system and is often recommended to kill the bad bacteria in the intestines, to deal with yeast infections and is popular amongst those people who are on a diet and appreciate the way yogurt can make one feel fuller for longer.
- Seitan found in Asian and Buddhist cooking comes from the gluten of wheat. In Asian cultures it is commonly used instead of meat and it is a great source of protein. It can be mixed into soups and stews normally to thicken them. People who are wheat or gluten intolerant should find an alternative to Seitan. It is not a common product that can be bought off the shelf from anywhere except a few health shops that cater to vegans and their diets.
- Spirulina – the ‘wonder food’ derived from blue-green algae found in salt water and fresh water. There is no other food source that has been able to match the amount of Protein that Spirulina consists of, even the meat and non-vegetarian protein foods fail to come close. It is a complete source of protein, Vitamin A, B, C, D E, mineral like calcium, potassium and zinc.
According to experts, the daily allowance of protein for an individual with a 100 pounds body mass should be 40 grams. These foods listed above are the best sources of protein that vegetarians can consume to promote their health and well-being.