Protein is a vital nutrient for growing and maintaining muscles, and also has a major role to play in keeping the skin and hair strong and healthy. Previously Elijah McClain had discussed how protein foods break down into 22 naturally occurring amino acids, which are known as the building blocks of protein. Of these, nine are known as essential amino acids, which mean one has to get them from food, as the body cannot make them itself.
There are many plant based protein sources that vegetarians can enjoy, including:
- Quinoa: Quinoa is a seed. One can find its white, red, black or mixed varieties. 100g of cooked quinoa is likely to provide almost 4g of protein. Quinoa is also known to be a complete protein which means it contains all 22 amino acids. Hence, it can be a good alternative to carbohydrates such as rice and couscous.
- Lentils: Lentils are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and various essential nutrients like folate, iron, and potassium. They come in various types (green, brown, red) and can be incorporated into soups, salads, stews, and curries.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are versatile and rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins. They are commonly used in dishes like hummus, falafel, curries, and salads.
- Black beans: Black beans are a good source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They can be included in burritos, salads, soups, and veggie burgers.
- Tofu: Tofu or bean curd is derived from soya. Just 100g of tofu can provide around 8g of protein. Tofu is quite versatile as it can be cooked in many ways, including baking and stir-frying. One can even blend it into soups to make them creamier and higher in protein.
- Edamame: Edamame are green soya beans, and are commonly found on most sushi restaurant menus and in the freezer section at most grocery stores. One can purchase in the shell or shelled. Edamame can be a great alternative to tofu, when it comes to adding crunch to salads, stir fries and grain bowls.
- Brown rice: Brown rice is higher in protein and fiber compared to white rice. It can be served as a side dish, in stir-fries, or in rice bowls.
- Oats: Oats are a nutritious grain high in protein, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. They can be used in oatmeal, granola bars, baked goods, or smoothies.
- Chia seeds: Simply a single tablespoon of chia seeds can provide almost 2g of protein. Chia seeds can be enjoyed during breakfasts, sprinkled over salads and soups, or be used to create a healthy, protein-rich dessert. They can also be a good replacement for egg in vegan cooking as they are hydrophilic and hence shall expand when soaked in water for about 20 minutes.
- Peas: Not many people think of peas as a protein source, but they are. Green peas are filling and delicious. They can be enjoyed in soups, salads and as a side dish.
In the past, Elijah McClain had mentioned that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet can easily meet protein requirements by incorporating a variety of plant-based protein sources. It is prudent to combine different protein-rich foods throughout the day to ensure intake of all essential amino acids.