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If you're worried about getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet, you may be in for a surprise. Are you sitting down? The truth is, most Americans get way too much protein, and vegetarians can easily get more than enough protein in their diet as well. Many people still believe that protein is only available from meat and animal sources and we will all fall over dead without animal protein! Unless you're pregnant or an Olympic bodybuilder, you will likely get more than enough protein without even trying. Here are the best sources of protein for vegetarians.
Quinoa and other whole grains
Whole grains are a great source of protein, but the queen of whole grains when it comes to protein content is quinoa. Unlike many sources of vegetarian protein, quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a "complete protein". Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber. Other whole grains, including whole grain bread, brown rice, barley are all healthy protein-rich foods for vegetarians and vegans as well.
Protein content: One cup of cooked quinoa provides about 18 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Whole grains are a bargain!
Beans, Lentils and Legumes
All beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent vegetarian and vegan source of protein, so eat whichever one you like! Black beans, kidney beans, Indian dhal, vegetarian chili, split pea soup and chickpea hummus - pick one and watch the protein grams add up. Soy is a bean as well, but because soy and its derivatives are such a popular source of protein for vegetarians, it merits it's own entry below.
Protein content: One cup of canned kidney beans contains about 13.4 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Beans are one of the most common protein-rich foods for vegetarians. You can find beans in the grocery store or on the menu just about everywhere you may be.
Tofu and other soy products
Soy is such a flavor chameleon that you'll never get bored! You may have tried tofu and soy milk before, but what about edamame, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy nuts or soy cheese? TVP and tempeh are also protein-rich soy foods. As an added bonus, many brands of tofu and soymilk are fortified with other nutrients that vegetarians and vegans need, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12. And yes, I did just give you permission to eat soy ice cream to get your protein.
Protein content: A half-cup of tofu contains 10 grams, and soy milk contains 7 grams of protein per cup.
Why you should eat it: You can add a bit of tofu to just about anything you cook, including stir-fries, pasta sauces, soups and salads.
Nuts, Seeds and Nut Butters
Nuts, including peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts all contain protein, as do seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Because most nuts and seeds are high in fat, you don't want to make them your primary source of protein. But they're great as a post-workout or occasional snack. Nut butters are delicious as well, and kids of course love peanut butter. Try soy nut butter or cashew nut butter for a little variety if you're bored of peanut butter.
Protein content: Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein.
Why you should eat it: Convenience! Stop into any 7-11 and pick up a snack of nuts to get a protein boost. And of course, kids love peanut butter too.
Our protein needs depend on our age, size, and activity level. The standard method used by nutritionists to estimate our minimum daily protein requirement is to multiply the body weight in kilograms by 0.8, or weight in pounds by 0.37. This is the number of grams of protein that should be the daily minimum.
According to this method, a person weighing 150 lbs. should eat 55 grams of protein per day, a 200-pound person should get 74 grams, and a 250-pound person should eat 92 grams.
I've read some reports about Soy that has got me wondering if it really is a good alternative. This was taken from http://www.nutribodyprotein.com/protein-types.php.
"Soy protein is not an effective alternative. It is high in allergens (some 28 different proteins present in soy have been found to bind to IgE antibodies). It's also worth noting that the more soy protein you eat, the more likely you are to develop allergies to it -- and the more severe those allergies are likely to become. Soy also blocks the absorption of important minerals such as calcium unless the phytates have been removed, and soy contains high levels of phytoestrogens, which although beneficial in moderate amounts, can be counter-productive in large amounts -- particularly for children.
In addition, although its biological value is not bad at 70-80, it's net protein utilization at 61 is quite low. In fact, unless it has been fermented, soy protein contains potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. This can create significant amounts of gas, in addition to promoting pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer. As a side note, soy protein was once considered a waste product of the soy oil industry and used almost exclusively as cattle feed."
Note that it excludes fermented soy, which means that Tempeh and Tofu is ok.
I use pea and rice protein. ;)
I train at the gym quite a bit so I need more protein than average. However, many people think that when you train a lot you need 2 grams of protein per day for every kilo of your body weight, example: weight 75 kilo = 150 grams of protein per day. This 2g/kg ratio is actually very under-researched, and based on anecdotal evidence (however this ratio is used by the supplement industry, I wonder why?...).
1.5g/kg – this is the range which tends to be recommended for building muscle and reaching your athletic goals. (As mentioned by Xiao Kang 0.8g/kg body weight is recommended for an average person.)
Anyway, to make sure I get enough protein I use supplements and I’m switching to rice and pea protein. From what I’ve read it seems like the best alternative, and the best thing is that you can get organic rice and pea protein. Almost all other supplements are not organic. Pea protein is also very high in L-argenine, an amino acid that is beneficial to take before you work out, and you can add pea protein supplement to soups in order to up the protein content.
On a side note I’d like to add that I don’t have to use supplements because I’m a vegetarian (I get that comment a lot from meat eaters). I use supplements because I train a lot, meat eaters who train as much as I do use supplements as well, but they tend to use whey which may cause problems (see: http://www.nutribodyprotein.com/protein-types.php) and it’s obviously not plant based. I also recommend checking out the brand Sunwarrior, they seem to have some interesting products from what I’ve read so far.