Sources of Protein in the Vegetarian Diet
No one can deny that it is crucial to have a varied diet throughout the day. Still, what to do if you’re a vegetarian? What is your main source of protein? We all agree that protein is indeed an essential element when it comes to the way our body functions. However, recommendations sustain that we only need 0.8 to 1 gram for every kilogram that we weigh due to the fact that plant proteins are digested differently from the animal ones.
The role protein plays in our body is extremely important as it builds up, maintains, and replaces the tissues. Imagine protein as a long necklace made from amino acids. Well, in order to stay healthy we need 22 amino acids out of which our body can make only 13. We can get the other nine from our diet. But what are the best sources of protein in the vegetarian diet?
If there is one special food that can almost equal meat as for its amount of protein, that is soy. Soy beans are a source of complete protein as they contain all the essential amino acids and are therefore a healthy choice for vegetarians and vegans. Not to mention that soy products can be really delicious. Think soy milk, sauce, tofu, miso, breads, cereals, soy burgers and hot dogs that use soy as a successful meat substitute. Soy is a great source of other important nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts are amazing sources of protein and healthy fats. Moreover, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts are all rich in vitamins and minerals, contain no cholesterol and protect against heart diseases. In addition to protein, almonds and hazelnuts contain the antioxidant vitamin E, walnuts have essential omega-3 fatty acids, while cashews contain magnesium and iron.
Avocado is a great fruit high in mono-unsaturated ‘good’ fats and loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. What’s even more important is that avocado contains all nine essential amino acids required by the human body. Therefore, it is a smart choice for people who are looking for sources of protein in their vegetarian diet.
Lentils and beans
Lentils and beans represent valuable additions to the vegetarian diet. They are rich in complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, starch, and are good sources of protein. Nevertheless, they must be combined with a complementary protein like nuts, seeds, rice or grains in order to become a complete protein containing all the nine essential amino acids.
Quinoa is a supergrain that has a high total protein level and a good balance of amino acids. Called also the ‘gold of the Incas’, quinoa contains dietary fiber, magnesium, copper, manganese, iron and phosphorus. Among its health benefits we should mention that quinoa is extremely helpful when it comes to fight headaches, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Milk, cheese and eggs
For lacto-ovo-vegetarians, foods like milk, cheese and eggs represent excellent sources of protein. Besides, dairy products and eggs are also rich in calcium and vitamins. Eggs are one of the best sources of protein and the egg yolk contains 90% of calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, vitamins B6 and B12.
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