A Vegetarian’s Guide to a Protein-Rich Diet
Proteins are essential for your body’s growth and maintenance. However, a protein-rich diet is often considered to be a diet loaded with animal proteins like eggs, meat, and fish. Fortunately, this is a misconception. Vegetarian food sources can easily be competitive if not better sources of protein for your daily requirements. Here we talk about 6 protein-rich foods that can help you fulfil your daily protein requirements even if you’re a vegetarian. Read on!
How are plant proteins different from animal proteins?
Animal proteins are complete whereas most plant proteins are not. Plant protein sources are considered to be incomplete because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to function effectively. Moreover, not all vegetarian foods contain significant amounts of proteins. Therefore, one needs to be more aware of his/her body’s protein requirements when depending solely on plant-based diets.
Additionally, some ailments such as gout prohibit the consumption of animal proteins as they are rich in purines which form uric acid in the body and in turn causes the painful symptoms associated with gout.
Although there isn’t a clear winner in the plant vs. animal protein battle, a significant fraction of the Indian population is vegetarian who depends on plant-based proteins for their daily protein intake.
An average Indian male requires around 56g of proteins/day whereas an average Indian female requires around 46g of proteins/day. Thus, whether you are a sworn vegetarian or just looking for alternative non-animal sources of protein, here we talk about some high protein foods that you can add to your diet.
Spinach – the popular high protein food!
Apart from containing proteins, spinach is also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Spinach is one of the most popular protein-rich foods for vegetarians. It plays an important role in inflammation, metabolism, proliferation and antioxidant defence.
100 grams of spinach (raw) contains 2.86 grams of protein. Some popular spinach recipes are palak paneer, aloo palak, corn palak, spinach soup and much more.
Broccoli provides wholesome nutrition!!
Broccoli provides more protein per calorie than steak. It is rich in proteins, antioxidant vitamins (vitamins E, vitamin C, and vitamin K) and dietary minerals. It is often termed as a “superfood” that provides wholesome nutrition.
100 grams of broccoli (raw) contains 2.82 grams of protein. Some food preparations using broccoli are steamed broccoli, broccoli soup, broccoli stir fry etc.
Paneer (Cottage Cheese) – vegetarian’s favourite protein-rich food!
Paneer is an animal origin protein-rich food for vegetarians. However, it is prepared from milk and thus, can be consumed by vegetarians. Paneer is a staple for vegetarians in India. It is high in proteins, fats, minerals (phosphorus and calcium) and vitamins (vitamin A and vitamin D). It also contains whey protein, which is an excellent source of essential amino acids. For lactose intolerant people, tofu can be a good substitute for paneer as it is prepared from soy milk.
100 grams of paneer (raw) contains 10-15 grams of protein depending upon the process of preparation, type and quality of milk used. Some popular paneer dishes are palak paneer, matar paneer, kadhai paneer, chilly cheese and many more.
Chickpeas – the hidden gem!
Apart from being an excellent source of proteins, chickpeas play a beneficial role in weight management, glucose, and insulin regulation. Hummus is a popular dish made using chickpeas. Substituting common dips and spreads with hummus can also improve your diet quality.
Additionally, eating chickpeas or hummus may help prevent the development and progression of several chronic diseases (CVD, type-2 diabetes, etc.). The glycemic index of chickpeas is 28, which falls into the range for low-glycemic index foods. Foods with lower glycemic index scores have less of an effect on postprandial (after-meal) blood glucose levels compared to foods with a high glycemic index, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes and CVD.
100 grams of chickpeas (raw) contain 20.47 grams of protein. Some common Indian recipes using chickpeas are chana masala, pindi chana, chole puri and chole bhature.
Nuts: your high-protein snack!
Undoubtedly, the best high protein snacks are nuts. Adding nuts like almonds, peanuts and cashews to a vegetarian diet, do not only enrich it with proteins but also brings several other health benefits to the table. Nut consumption can help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors. Nuts are a good source of dietary fiber, proteins, minerals, as well as antioxidant vitamins.
100 grams of almonds, peanuts and cashews contain 21.3, 25.8 and 18.2 grams of protein respectively. Nuts can be easily added to your favourite desserts and meals or simply eaten as a snack between the meals.
Mushrooms – your meat substitute!
Mushrooms are often used in recipes as a substitute to meat. They are not only delicious but also nutritious in all aspects. Mushrooms are rich in nutrients like niacin, vitamin D, proteins, potassium, and fiber. Additionally, they are low in calories, fat, carbohydrates and sodium. They are cholesterol-free and hence are quite popular as a health food. The different health benefits of mushrooms include lowering blood sugar levels, regulating blood pressure, improving immunity as well as aiding weight loss.
100 grams of mushrooms (raw oyster mushroom) contains 3.31 grams of proteins. Different types of mushrooms (like shiitake, button, white mushrooms etc.) have different protein content. Mushrooms can be prepared in any Indian gravy or curry base.
Thus, you can see being a vegetarian does not in any way deprive you of a protein-rich diet! So understand your body’s true protein requirements and include the above-mentioned dishes in your protein-rich diet or use a little creativity in creating dishes from these ingredients. Then your diet will be as (if not more) healthy and fulfilling than a typical non-vegetarian diet.
These are only a few of the protein-rich food for vegetarians. Other vegetarian sources of proteins are dairy products (like milk and yoghurt), soy products, lentils, peas, a variety of leafy vegetables and beans. The list is truly endless. Let us know your favourite high protein foods in the comments below!