Getting Protein in A Vegetarian Diet

Kale and Mushroom Quinoa from Sweet On Veg. Click to get this recipe.

There is a common misconception that vegetarians do not consume enough protein in their diets. The meat and dairy industries’ relentless marketing campaigns equate meat with protein and calcium with dairy. But while protein is an essential nutrient, we do not need that much of it. According to the RDA, about 10% of our calories should come from protein. This site also notes that most American adults consume too much protein. In fact, diets that are too high in protein can cause kidney disease and osteoporosis.The Vegetarian Resource Group uses several example vegetarian menus to show how easy it is for vegans and vegetarians to consume enough protein.

It was once thought that incomplete proteins had to be eaten together at the same time to constitute a complete protein. Complete proteins possess all nine essential amino acids our bodies need to take in from food, while incomplete proteins contain only some of these. But recent research proves this notion false; our bodies are able to synthesize complementary proteins (two or more incomplete proteins which make up a complete one) eaten within the same day.

One plant-based complete protein is quinoa, known as the “mother grain.” It has about 8 grams of protein per cup, a little more than a large egg. The same amount of protein can be found in two tablespoons on almond butter. Not only does almond butter have its own unique taste and texture, but it also contains less fat and more nutritional value than peanut butter. Tempeh, a patty made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans, has a protein content comparable to that of chicken (18 grams per serving) and tastes about as good as a burger can taste without actually being a burger. Tempeh is one of most nutrient-dense and appetizing meat substitutes, and it is much less processed than tofu or seitan. Another of my all-time favorite protein sources is avocado. These tasty green fruits are packed with 10 grams of protein and can be used in about 60% of the dishes I make. Avocado sandwiches, avocado ice cream (which is life-changing), and especially guacamole all have delicious protein-ingestion potential. Some more complete lists can be found here and here.

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