Every vegetarian and vegan is tired of their non-vegetarian friends mocking them about how their food options are so limited and educating them on how plant based diets are protein deficient. Which brings us to the question - Why is protein so important? What are the best sources of protein in a vegetarian diet? Can it only be found in meat and fish? Well, the answer to the last question is an emphatic NO! You would be surprised to learn that there are lots of plant based protein foods which are not only a rich source of protein to fulfill our body’s daily demand but also have many other nutritional benefits without any side effects to health which some meat based diets possess.
Why do we need proteins?
Most people are unaware of the importance of protein. Protein is the building block of muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Every cell in our body contains it. Its major function is to help form various enzymes, bodily chemicals, and hormones. It’s said to aid hair and nail growth. It helps repair cells. Formation of new cells requires a high amount of protein in the body. It's also said that protein can help in weight loss. Hence, its deficiency can lead to tissue loss and the reduction of amino acids in the body. Therefore, increasing weakness.
So, what are the plant based protein sources?
Few of the best plant based protein options are Natto (fermented soybean found in Japan), Spirulina (a super food which looks like algae), Tempeh (An Indonesian soybean) and few others but the question is can we really consume them on daily basis?
Hence it is important to find easily available and simple to make natural sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Don’t forget to see some of the easy to make plant based protein recipes which included in your daily diet.
Simplest and easiest protein for a vegetarian – Green peas. We're all very well aware of the existence of green peas but did you know that these little pods of goodness are filled with protein and carbohydrates to the core? Green peas also help in easing the digestion process.
They contain 5.4g protein per 100g and the protein to calorie ratio is 1g protein per 15 calories. Brilliant, isn’t it? Green peas are used in lots of vegetables and rice dishes, but have you ever tasted a green pea based sweet dish? Here is the Green Peas Fudge Recipe by Geeta Biswas if you want a guilt-free protein-packed sweet.
Now, don’t we all already love Avocados? As if we need a reason to hog the creamy butter fruit that tastes heavenly. Well, fun fact - avocado is the only fruit that provides healthy fatty acids. These are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. It’s also rich in antioxidants and is considered as the “wonder fruit” because eating it results in a glowing skin. It softens and hydrates dehydrated skin and is said to cure flaky patches on scalps. Its protein content is 2g per ½ avocado. Do check out the delicious Avocado Dip recipe by Meera Girdhar which you can eat with chips or just like that.
Now if Avocados are not available in your local store, don’t worry we have lined up the cheapest, oldest and easiest protein source for those who love to munch.
Peanuts are a powerhouse of energy and proteins but sadly there are a lot of myths associated to these. Let us focus on the goodness of these nuts! These are filled with Vitamin E in abundance and have a long list of minerals like phosphorous, zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese, iron, selenium and potassium and are also rich in antioxidants. Just a handful a day can lower “bad” cholesterol. The protein content is an impressive 7g per ¼-cup serving (which is same as the protein content in the egg-whites of 2 large eggs). What are you waiting for? Try this Peanut Chaat recipe by Anuja Singh.
One of the best plant based protein options is Soybean. It’s the base ingredient for Tofu (also known as bean curd). It is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It also contains Vitamin B and other minerals. It’s extremely versatile in terms of cooking and can be consumed in various forms like soy milk, tofu, soy flour, etc. It contains no trans-fats and less saturated fat. Its protein content is a massive 28.6g per cup. Here's an ideal non-vegetarian replacement and super tasty Soya Chaap Curry Recipe by Suhan Mahajan.
Many mushrooms contain healthy protein for vegetarians and are full of vitamin C and B and iron. Mushrooms are sources of antioxidants, minerals, copper, potassium and phosphorous. Fun fact – they have more protein and nutrition than oysters! Win, win for vegetarians! Isn’t it? Their protein content is 3.6g per 100g and the Protein to Calorie Ratio is 1g protein per 7.2 calories. Here’s a Mushroom Tikka Masala Recipe by Sonal Gupta that'll leave you craving for more.
One of the most commonly advised foods in a high protein diet plan for vegetarian is Broccoli. It contains vitamins K and C, folic acid and potassium. It has got fiber in abundance. It helps to form body tissue and bone and hastens the healing process. It’s filled with antioxidants and boosts the effectiveness of the immune system. It has 2.8g of protein per 100g and its protein to calorie Ratio is 1g protein per 12.1 calories. Here's a healthy protein-laden Tofu Steak Broccoli and Pinenuts Sandwich in Black Bean Sauce Recipe by Soma Pradhan.
If there was one vegetarian high protein food that gave you the benefits of all and tasted amazing at the same time, it has to be Brussel sprouts. Along with vitamins C, A, and K, these contain fiber, manganese, copper, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. These minerals and nutrients are beneficial for almost every part of the body. These contain a whopping 13.1g of protein per 100g and the Protein to Calorie Ratio is 1g protein per 9.3 calories. Here's an interesting Broccoli and Brussel Sprouts Stir Fry Recipe by Madraasi Deepa.
Spinach is a vegetable that all fitness gurus swear by. Reason? Low in fat and even lower in cholesterol! It’s rightfully called a “Superfood” as its high on protein content and is loaded with minerals and nutrients like zinc, potassium, copper, and manganese. It’s rich in fiber. It also contains vitamins A, C, E and folic acid. Some of the other minerals it contains are calcium, iron, and magnesium. Its protein content per 100g is 4.5g and the Protein to Calorie Ratio is 1g protein per 11.4 calories. Here is an exotic Spaghetti in Spinach Sauce Topped with Sunflower Seeds Recipe by Kanwaljeet Chhabra or check out the famous Palak Paneer by Chef Reetu.
Wherever you look, Kale is the new fad in food. Coming from the Spinach family, this one is another of the ‘Superfoods’ because of its high protein and fiber content. It has zero fat and has a very low-calorie count which aids smooth digestion. Fun fact - Cooked kale offers more iron per ounce than beef! It also has numerous vitamins, minerals and is full of folate. It's Protein to Calorie Ratio is 1g protein per 11.4 calories and has 4.3 g protein per 100g. Here's a Kale Guacamole Salad with Almonds Recipe by Gayathri Ramanan.
If you think of vegetarian high protein snacks, Pumpkin Seeds are the first thing that comes to mind. These tiny powerhouses of protein contain antioxidants, minerals like copper and magnesium and minerals like potassium. These are considered good for heart health and are rich in fiber. These plant-based protein carriers reduce inflammation and encourage a good night’s sleep. The protein content is 5.2 grams per ounce. Here's a Pumpkin Seed Flour Brownie Recipe by Kalai Rajesh which will satisfy your sweet tooth cravings.
Last but not least, with a protein content of 3.3g per 100g and a protein to calorie ratio of 1g per 26 calories, sweet corn has to be on your list. Also, apart from being healthy, it tastes good, too and one of the best snacking option for the kids. It has antioxidant qualities and helps with vision. Here’s an easy sweet corn salad by Charu’s Cuisine which is a guilt-free snacking option.
The above-mentioned list contains a few of the healthy foods with proteins for vegetarians which are low in cholesterol and fat and will help fight various diseases on a daily basis. Proteins are the basic need of the body as they are needed for almost every bodily function. Hence, its intake shouldn’t be overlooked. Vegans and Vegetarians have to always find the best solutions as they cannot binge on butter chicken masala for their protein needs.
About the Author - Swapan Deep Kaur is an engineer turned sociologist with a passion for criminal psychology. Her love for food, dogs and books is unparalleled. Coffee is her elixir. If there's a new eatery in town, you know where to find her.