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Why We Should Have More Vegetarian Protein and Where Can We Get It

Tell someone that you are a vegetarian and it is quite likely that the first thing you will be asked is, “But where do you get your protein?” A vegan friend of mine used to say that she felt as though she spent a significant part of her life explaining vegetarian protein[1] to people.

Consuming the right amount of protein is important but how does plant-based protein compare to proteins derived from meat?

Animal Protein vs. Vegetarian Protein

When digested, protein is broken down into amino acids which are required for most metabolic processes. The main difference between animal protein and vegetarian protein is the types of amino acids that they contain.

Animal proteins are regarded as “complete” since they contain all of the essential amino acids. Vegetarian protein are sometimes viewed as being “incomplete” as some may lack one or more amino acid.[2]

However, there are various plants that are “complete” such as hemp seeds, quinoa, chlorella, and bee pollen. Furthermore, it is easy to combine different plant foods to have complete protein in your meals.

What are the Health Benefits of Vegetarian Protein

The good news is that you do not necessarily have to be a vegetarian to benefit from a plant-based diet! You can simply incorporate more vegetarian meals into your lifestyle. In fact, according to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately-planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” [3]

These are 5 health benefits of vegetarian protein:

  • You will lower your intake of cholesterol and unhealthy saturated fat which will lower the chances of heart disease.[4]
  • More plant-rich meals decrease the risk of some cancers.[5]
  • Animal proteins have little to no fiber. A vegetarian meal provides a good source of fiber which will lower blood cholesterol and minimize the risks of diabetes.
  • Plant-based foods are more alkalizing since they have a higher pH, thereby helping your kidneys to be healthier as well as preventing kidney stones.[6]
  • Vegetarian foods decrease your chance of developing a stroke or becoming obese.[7]

10 Great Sources of Vegetarian Protein[8]

Tofu

These days there are many options of foods made from soy, which is a well-known source of protein. Tofu has about 20 grams in half a cup!

Beans

Beans come in a range of options that are rich in nutrients that nourish your brain, heart, and muscles. There are roughly 26 grams of protein in two cups of kidney beans.

Lentils

Just one cup has 18 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the protein in three eggs but with less than one gram of fat!

Quinoa

Quinoa has more than 8 grams per cup. This includes all the 9 essential amino acids your body requires for growth and repair. Let’s not forget it is also an excellent source of unsaturated fats and fiber!

Edamame

Everyone loves having a nibble on these whilst waiting for their sushi, but they are also packed with 8.4 grams of protein in half a cup.

Peas

One cup of peas contains 7.9 grams of protein. On top of that, one cup has almost 100% of your daily requirement of vitamin C.

Chickpeas

There are so many ways chickpeas could be eaten – from hummus to salads. Not only do they have around 7.3 grams of protein in half a cup, but they are also high in fiber while being low in calories.

Vegan Protein Powder

This should be one that the bodybuilders will love. At 15-20 grams of vegan protein per scoop, it is one of the best fat burners.

Greek yogurt

Probiotics are essential to the health of your digestive system.[9] Eating 7 oz of Greek yogurt will not only give you 20 grams of protein but also help your gut!

Nuts

Most nuts can be eaten as a snack. Almonds contain 12 grams of vegan protein in a quarter cup, while cashews contain 10 grams!

Even Though Protein Is Good for You, You Should Not Consume Too Much of It

In years gone by, people were taught to believe that there was no such thing as “too much protein”. In fact, Americans used to be told in the early 1900s that they needed to eat over 100 grams daily! Today’s recommended daily intake is almost half of this amount[10].

Athletes and those who do strength training are also encouraged to eat high quantities of protein. Yet, the reality is that they require just slightly more protein.

Consumption of too much protein has been linked to health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease (including kidney stones), osteoporosis, and some cancers.

You can increase your health and decrease the risk of health problems by incorporating more vegetarian or vegan meals into your life. After all, the biggest animals in the world (elephants, giraffes, horses, cows, and dinosaurs) are/were vegan. There is a lot of protein in plants!

Reference

[1] One Green planet: 25 Delicious Vegan Sources of Protein (The Ultimate Guide!)
[2] Eat This, Not That!: 26 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein
[3] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets
[4] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Could a vegetarian diet reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress? A review of the literature
[5] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population
[6] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Optimum nutrition for kidney stone disease
[7] National Center for Biotechnology Information: Clinical practice: vegetarian infant and child nutrition
[8] Health: 14 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources
[9] Lifehack: 6 Ways Probiotics Heal More Than Your Gut
[10] WebMD: How Much Protein Do You Need?

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