Where do vegetarians get their protein from? And how hard is it for a vegan/vegetarian diet to meet the recommendations for this essential building block?
The question of protein or lack of it was never one of my concerns when I became a vegetarian over 25 years ago. I just knew that I didn’t want to eat meat, chicken or fish anymore. And like many other vegetarians will tell you, the desire for flesh just left me. I never felt I gave anything up – it gave up on me.
Durban is a Great City for Vegetarians
I can honestly say I have never missed eating meat. Living in Durban with its large Indian community makes my life much easier – there are plenty of vegetarian options in most restaurants, at events, civic functions etc.
One of the only times I struggle to keep my diet balanced and eat food I really like, is when I travel overseas. Sure there are great high end vegetarian restaurants in Europe and the USA but for an ordinary budget traveler like me, the options are quite limited.
But here at home, I have accessible take-away restaurants with great veg food within a few minutes drive from. home
OK, maybe it is because I truly believe that hot sauce and any edibles featuring chilies, cover all food groups – I can happily live on Beans Bunnies and Veg Briyani. My mantra is: Proteins + Carbs = Energy
Most Vegetables Contain some Protein
Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often much, protein.
Did you know that, per calorie, broccoli has more protein than beef, which about 4.5 grams per 30 calories. Broccoli is also packed with amino acids, fiber, Vitamin B6 to improve your mood and is one of the best vegetables linked to fighting cancer. But one cannot live on broccoli alone and at certain times of the year it gets quite expensive, so you need to make a plan.
Some other high protein vegetables are:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Mealies (Corn)
The reality is that you don’t need as much protein as most people think, and it’s easy to get what you do need from beans, nuts, seeds, grains, soy, and even greens.
Vegetarian Sources of Protein
A common concern about vegetarian and vegan diets is that they might lack sufficient protein.
However, many experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can provide you with all the nutrients you need.
I like the simple and inexpensive ones like Lentils, Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) and most varieties of beans (and pulses) which I know contain high amounts of protein per serving.
If you want something extra and also boost your Vit B12, Nutritional Yeast is a great source of protein. It is sold in most health stores as a yellow powder or flakes and can be sprinkled on top of pasta dishes, mashed potatoes or even enjoyed as a savory topping on popcorn. It is high in protein, fiber and is often fortified with various nutrients.
Lacto Ovo Vegetarians can get some Protein from Dairy
I guess I can be classified as a Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, whose diet includes grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), seeds, nuts, dairy products and eggs. I believe that just one cup of cooked lentils contains 18gm of protein.
My diet excludes any meat, fish, poultry and any products that contain these foods. I have to admit that I don’t eat much of the Lacto Ovo part, my diet is more on the Vegan side, so I sometimes tend to have a problem with low VitB12.
— FAB #Veggie #Vegan (@fabveggievegan) April 19, 2018
Protein in the Vegan Diet
It is easy for a vegan diet to meet recommendations for protein, as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein combining is not necessary; it is more important to eat a varied diet throughout the day
Nuts and Seeds are Good for Protein
Nuts like almonds, cashews and pistachios are also great sources of protein. They are also sources of good fat and fiber and can fill you up for longer. And peanuts too, but to be technical, they are not really nuts, they are legumes.
The best seeds to eat for protein are sunflower seeds which contain 3.3gm of protein per 100gm. Sesame seeds are also good and are great to sprinkle over salads
To get enough protein in your diet is not that hard, but it does require a bit of reading, education and a certain mindshift.
Although with the growth in the popularity of meat-free diets, there is ample amount of information on dietary supplements and plant-proteins out there to help vegans and vegetarians catch up.