With more and more people turning towards vegetarianism, it has become all the more imperative to debate the veg vs. non-veg nutritional content. The main component here which is the basic concern of people shifting to a vegetarian diet is the PROTEIN content. People following a low calorie, vegetarian diet are said to be at a higher risk of missing out on important amino acids that animal protein contains.
Before going into detail, let’s have a little science recap on protein.
What is protein and what does it do for your body?
Chemically, protein is composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulphur. Amino acids are building blocks of proteins, and proteins are building blocks of muscle mass. Therefore, protein is critical for building muscle mass, maintaining neurological functions, helping to balance hormones naturally and keeping our metabolism running. In other word, proteins are used every single day by our body to develop, grow and maintain every single part of our body.
Exactly how much protein you need, changes with age:
- Babies need about 10 gms a day
- School kids need 20 to 34 gms a day
- Teenagers need around 46 to 52 gms a day
- Adults need 46 gms (women) to 56 gms (men) per day (75 gms for pregnant women)
According to Health Experts, Indian women are not getting sufficient protein which is hindering their muscle mass, their metabolism and hormone levels.
Veg protein vs Non-Veg protein:
- The main difference between plant and animal protein is their amino acid profiles. Animal based proteins, of course, are much more similar to our proteins, thus are used more rapidly than plant proteins.
- Plant proteins are somewhat compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids. But when we restore the relatively deficient amino acid in a plant protein, we get a response rate equivalent to animal proteins.
- Proteins like soy and quinoa are classified as complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids, much like the proteins from animal based foods.
- Getting your protein from plant-based foods means you’re likely to have a lower intake of dietary cholesterol and unhealthy saturated fat. A review by ‘Nutrition in Clinical Practice’ reports that individuals following a vegetarian diet have lower body mass index, lower blood cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians.
Now, Go Vegetarian with the same Power of Protein.
It’s indeed certain that you can meet your needs for protein in a vegetarian diet without protein supplements. But it is important for you to understand not only which foods will meet your protein needs but also how many servings you should eat, and finally how to select and prepare these protein rich foods so as not to lose out on its benefit. Other than the known dairy items, let’s take a look at some of the principal sources of protein that you can derive from a vegetarian diet:
Protein: 21 gm per 1/3 cup
This one’s for all the meat lovers now turned vegetarians, thanks to its chewy very meat like a final product. It is made from wheat gluten seasoned with flavours and loaded with protein.
Protein: 7 gm per 2 tbsp
Peanut butter provides muscle-building protein and healthy fats. According to a 2014 study, consuming peanuts can prevent both cardiovascular and coronary artery disease. Make sure to have unsalted ones to reap maximum benefit.
Almonds and Cashews
Protein: 5-6 gm per oz
Almonds and cashews are great protein sources, while almonds make for a quick go to snack, cashews can be added in a rotation. These are a good source of magnesium which not only relieves you from constipation but also boost the immune system.
Protein: 20 gm per cup
Soy is a complete protein and the strongest substitute for the meat-free. Tempeh and natto are made by fermenting the beans, but tofu is probably the best-known soy product, harder the tofu, higher the protein content.
Protein: 3.3 gm per tbsp
Other than being a great protein source, hemp seeds can fight heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome as they’re rich in fibre and omega-3s
Rice & Beans
Protein: 21 gms per serving
This most commonly eaten food is also one of the best sources of protein around. These meals are a great way to load up on protein and carbohydrates after an intense workout.
Protein: 2 gm per tbsp
Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids. These are the greatest source of plant based omega-3 fatty acids, and also contain ample fibre, iron, calcium, zinc and antioxidants. They go fantastic with smoothies, puddings as they form a gel when combined with water or milk.
Protein: 8 gms per cup
Fibre rich, full of iron, magnesium and manganese, Quinoa is packed with nutrition. It contains all the nine essential amino acids that the body needs for its growth and repair. It can be added to soups or tossed with veggies to make a refreshing salad.
Protein: 8 gm per cup
One cup of peas contains the same amount of protein as one cup of milk. Try blending them into a pesto if you are not too fond of peas as a side dish but make sure to include it in your diet.
Spinach & other Leafy Greens
Protein: 5 gm per cup
Leafy greens contain lots of antioxidants and heart-healthy fibre. One cup of spinach has almost as much protein as a hard-boiled egg and that too for half the calories! To retain vitamins and help facilitate calcium absorption, spinach should be steamed instead of eating it raw.
Protein: 4.2 gm per cup
Along with being a known source of vitamin C, Guava packs more than 4gms of protein per cup along with 9gms of fibre and only 112 calories.
Protein and Calorie Chart
So if you are still in the process of turning vegetarian, here’s a complete calorie and protein chart for your last doubts. If you are looking for a complete list of protein rich diet, check out here.
If you have any specific goal in mind, let our diet coach help you.