Protein is used to be the obsession of body-builders and gym fanatics alone, but now lots of us are keen to ensure we are eating enough.
Why do we need protein?
Forget the protein shakes, powders and supplements, let’s get back to basics. Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids and is essential for repairing damaged cells and building new ones. It’s essential in the building of tissues, muscles and bones, so it’s important to make sure your body has what it needs. Some can be produced by the body but some need to be consumed. That’s easy enough, except that there are a variety of amino acids that the body needs.
It can be tricky to get your daily quota as a vegetarian if you’re not sure what your best veggie sources of protein-rich foods are. Discover our best protein-rich recipes bursting with fresh veggie flavours that are key to a healthy diet.
How much protein do we need a day?
On average, guidelines suggest men should aim to eat around 55g of protein a day and women should aim for around 45g of protein daily.
The current daily value (%DV) for protein is set at 50 grams per ,day and is meant as a general target for most people. People should eat 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight, and more if they are active.
The good news is there are many tasty ways to enjoy Plant-based sources of protein.
Soy is a complete protein that has blood-pressure-lowering and LDL-cholesterol oxidising benefits. You can get your soy servings of the day through tofu, edamame, soy milk or atta. Edamame beans are a superb, healthy snack when lightly steamed and tossed with salt. And soya atta can easily be popped into your regular chapati atta.
I love tofu myself, but for those with an aversion to its taste, try cooking it as a bhurji, with lots of aromatic herbs.
Protein %DV per cup: Medium soft tofu 40%, Soft tofu 36%, tempeh (fermented tofu) 67%.
Also read: The Good & The Bad Soy
2.Lentils and Pulses
We in India, are no strangers to lentils, considering the wealth of dals we consume. Lentils are available dried and vary in colour and size. There are many types of lentils ranging from brown, green, red, yellow and black and they all have different textures and tastes. Coming a close second is pulses which include beans, chickpeas etc. They are an excellent source of fiber and are low in fat. Each bean has its health-boosting elements.
Protein %DV per cup: White Beans (35%), Split Peas (33%), Pinto (31%), Kidney Beans (31%), Black Beans (30%), Navy Beans (30%), Chickpeas (Garbanzo) (29%), and Lima beans (29%).
Here are interesting ways to use chickpeas
Nuts get a bad rep because they are considered relatively fatty, but they are a powerhouse of unsaturated fat (the good kind) and protein. This means that they fill you up faster and for longer, leading you down the road to low BMI, higher life expectancy and even help to stabilise blood sugar. Cashews, almonds, pistachios and peanuts harbour higher amounts of proteins than other nuts like hazelnuts. Blend them into nut butter and spread on bread, or toss them into your bowl of porridge or muesli.
Protein %DV per cup : Peanuts (14%), Almonds (12%), Pistachios (12%), Sunflower Seeds (11%), Flax Seeds (10%) and Cashews (9%).
Check out our irresistible healthy nut butter deserts
Grains, like oats, wheat, ragi and bajra (millets), are packed with protein. Your breakfast oatmeal and ragi chilla are excellent ways to up the protein in your diet.
The Whole Grains Council says that “at about 13-14%, it easily trumps the protein content of most other grains. Making your chapatis from a blend of attas will substantially raise their nutritional value.
Protein %DV per cup: Whole Wheat (18%), Buckwheat (11%), Brown Rice (11%), and Barley (7%).
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Pea protein, especially in powder form has become commonplace to add as a vegan and vegetarian source. You will often find it in protein powders. Eaten fresh, frozen, or canned, peas also have additional benefits as the nutrients and fibers are retained in the whole plant. They are easy to add to soups, stews, rice dishes and more!
Protein %DV per cup: 11%
Chia Seeds are low-calorie foods that are rich in fiber and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are a complete source of protein. Try adding chia seeds to a smoothie, sprinkling them on top of plant-based yoghurt, or soaking them in water or almond milk to make a pudding.
Protein %DV per cup:9%
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I hope that you found this guide to plant protein sources helpful! As you can see, there are a lot of ways to incorporate a variety of plant-based vegan foods into your diet each day. If there is a protein source that you think should be added to the list, or you have a question about, please leave a comment below!
Also Read: Why we shouldn’t all be Vegan – Possible Side Effects of Going Vegan
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar