Perhaps one of the most neglected meal components -Protein is the reason behind muscle regeneration, performance, and upkeep. Without it, you will find it impossible to get fitter. Animal protein helps maintain a well-balanced diet for most non-vegetarians. But what about the vegetarians? Does one really need to switch meal preferences to gain the maximum protein punch? Not at all. Today we bring you the best vegetarian sources of protein that will help you gain muscle tone and maintain good nutrition. Read on…
Although a fine line between carbs, cereal and protein – whole grains like quinoa and barley are excellent sources of protein. At approximately 18gms of protein per cup of cooked quinoa, this wonder grain is one of the best vegetarian sources of protein. Unfortunately, quinoa isn’t easily available in India, since it’s a South American crop. However, some premium stores do stock it. Failing that, barley or jowar and other whole grains are also sufficient vegetarian sources of protein.
A wonderfully versatile ingredient, soy in all its shapes and forms is a great protein source for vegetarians. Drink soy milk, stir in tofu with your salads, or simply munch on soy nuts. You’ll find that soy products can be roped in with just about any meal or snack – from vegetarian biryanis to light noon-time salads…Even mid-evening beverages. One cup of tofu contains approx. 18-20gms of protein. Most packaged tofu and soy milk is fortified with even more nutrients that would serve a vegetarian well.
Nuts and seeds
These are protein sources that even non-vegetarians can’t ignore. Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts and seeds like flax, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin are protein and energy powerhouses. However, nuts are also high in fat, so munch on the side of caution. You can even make your own homemade nut butters by simply grinding the nuts of your choice with a dash of olive oil and some more flavourers.
Although technically, sprouts come under the beans, legumes and lentils category in vegetarian protein sources, they deserve a special mention. You can sprout already healthy ingredients like alfalfa, mung beans, chickpeas, peas, and soyabeans. These sprouts are highly nutritious and rich in protein. Eat them raw with salads, or mix them in with a spicy, hearty dish – either way, your day’s protein requirements can be sufficiently met with these wonder sprouts. Do remember that for people with acidity, sprouts aren’t the best protein sources.
Beans and lentils
Chalk one up for Indian cuisines, because our diets are already rich in these hearty vegetarian protein sources. Whether it’s the ever-loved Rajma Chawal or the various East coast beans and lentil curries with kokam and tamarind, beans and lentils are an intrinsic part of our food culture. And rightly so. One cup of beans (kidney, black, red) contains approximately 15gms of protein. These do not, however, perform as optimally as dairy and soy sources of protein. Therefore, vegetarians must still take care to include all the other protein sources mentioned here.
Dairy has recieved some bad press recently (Re: Lactose intolerance being more common than we think). However, if you do not have any digestion problems or adverse reactions to natural whey protein and simple plain yogurt, we say give it a try. Whey protein is simply the leftover residue from the cheese-making, paneer-making process. Resort to artificial (closest to natural state) whey protein only if you aren’t getting enough protein in your daily diet.
Yogurt is easier to digest than milk, and is a great protein source for vegetarians.