Taste-buds vary from person to person and there is simply no accounting for good taste. Some people prefer gorging on some delectable non-vegetarian food while plenty others prefer eating vegan or vegetarian food. These food choices have a lot of reasons behind them and some of them could also stem out of religious beliefs.
While it’s commonly known that a diet consisting of meat and eggs pack a high protein punch, vegetarians are often mocked for supposedly consuming meals devoid of proteins. These questions are often posed to weight-lifters, fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders in particular as proteins are recognized as the building blocks of our body which are required for gaining strength, speed up recovery times and for the daily wear and tear of muscles. Proteins are especially needed before and after workouts while generally being deemed necessary for the proper growth, development, and repair of the human body.
The Vegetarian Dilemma?
One of the most common misconceptions about the vegetarian diet is that it lacks the proteins required to meet the suggested guidelines for daily protein intake. However, this couldn’t be further away from the truth and vegetarians all around the world can now rejoice. While vegetarians often feel that they have fewer choices, setting the proverbial record straight, a vegetable di contain plenty of protein, and they’re complete proteins as well. Moreover, they are more than enough to meet their daily protein quota as well.
Are meatless protein sources complete?
Here’s some food for thought, there are around 20 amino acids or complete proteins, of which 9 amino acids (essential amino acids) cannot be produced by our body on its own. However, the good news is that consuming incomplete proteins (like nuts, seeds, and grains) in conjunction with other protein rich sources help produce the complete protein which is required by your body.
Additionally, a vegetarian diet has several other advantages as well. Not only are they a cheaper and healthier alternative to eating meat, they are also low in calories and help the environment as well. Another alarming fact revealed by a study in “Diabetes Care” suggests that people on vegetarian diets generally tend to weigh lesser than those on non-vegetarian diets.
It really doesn’t matter whether you’re a vegetarian or not as there is a wide gamut of options available and several tasty, meat-free sources of protein that comes packed with a ton of additional health benefits. Though eggs, meat, and dairy products are an excellent source of protein, you can still fulfill your daily protein requirements simply by following a vegetarian meal plan containing commonly found foods used abundantly in Indian cuisine. Listed below are some protein-rich foods for your perusal.
Lentils (26 g protein per 100g)
Lentils form an integral part of an Indian’s daily diet while also providing you with sufficient daily protein intake. Lentils or Dals like arhar, urad or moong consist of a high content of micronutrients like magnesium, potassium, and iron while also being low in sodium. These can be served alongside roti or a serving of rice which is not only completely free of cholesterol but also makes it a great addition to your diet.
Seitan/ Wheat gluten (75 g protein per 100 g)
One of the richest sources of protein out there, Seitan, or wheat gluten was a popularly used in Asian cultures during the 1800-1900’s. Comprising of nearly 75% protein, vegetarians swear by this protein source as its extremely low in sodium, carbohydrates, and fats, giving it passage into several other diets as well. Furthermore, it’s rich in iron and calcium while being easy to chop, mince and grind. An ideal substitute for chicken, bacon or turkey in burgers and sandwiches, several restaurants across India have been serving this as a mock duck in their restaurants as the texture, flavor, and aroma are said to mimic that of duck meat. However, this is best avoided if you’re on a gluten-free diet.
Chickpeas (9 g protein per 100g)
Chickpeas, commonly known as Chola in Hindi are extremely high in protein and fiber while being a rich source of the amino acid, Methionine. Not only low in calories, these tiny gems are also packed with iron, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamin while providing you with all the essential amino acids your body requires on a daily basis. You can choose to either snack on them boiled, toss them into salads or puree into a tasty hummus and spread onto sandwiches.
Almonds (21 g protein per 100g)
Almonds are not only rich in protein but owing to its size and availability, you can practically snack on a handful of almonds almost anywhere. Think of almonds as a natural weight-loss pill. Whether you’re on the move, at home, or even at work, Almonds are rich in fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium while being low on calories which work perfectly well especially if you’re looking to shed some extra pounds. Additionally, its versatility enables it to be a part of many meals including salads and can also be consumed in the form of Almond butter as well.
It’s safe to say, no Indian meal is complete without the inclusion of protein-rich dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Moreover, Paneer is to India what cheese is to the west. Besides being rich in proteins, dairy products are also high in calcium while ensuring strong teeth, good bone health, glowing skin and an overall healthy immune system. Additionally, there are several other rich sources of protein such as calcium-fortified nondairy substitutes, such as soy yogurt and soy milk.
Black beans (21g protein per 100g)
Similar to black urad dhal, black beans are highly rich in proteins while also being supremely helpful for people suffering from diabetes as it helps maintain blood sugar levels. Furthermore, they are also high in fiber and low in fat, making it a perfect alternative for those looking to shed some kilos.
Peanut Butter (25g protein per 100g)
Commonly available in most grocery stores, a standard two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter provides a solid dose of healthy fats and muscle-building protein while also being high in magnesium, fiber, and potassium. Several studies have revealed that consuming peanuts can prevent heart diseases while also containing Vitamin B6 which is known to provide a host of other health benefits as well. It’s best to have this in moderation or else scour around for the unsalted, no sugar added varieties without hydrogenated oils as having too much peanut butter can widen your waist and may not be the ideal option if you’re looking to lose weight.
Sunflower seeds (21g protein per 100g)
Sunflower seeds add crunch and quite a bit of protein to your meals while also having gained immense popularity as a superfood owing to its multiple health benefits. Besides being rich in protein, it has a high content of healthy fats along with selenium (known to prevent cancer) and magnesium while also lowering cholesterol levels in your system. These are very tasty and can be added with other seeds such as sesame, pumpkin or poppy seeds to salads, cereal, raita, or homemade granola. Moreover, it can also be sprinkled on the main dish, or you can just eat them as it is.
Tempeh/ Soybeans (19 g protein per 100g)
This is lesser known protein alternative is a firmer, chewier cousin of tofu but is remarkably very rich in protein and helps in lowering cholesterol. Made from soy, tempeh is a traditional Indonesian fermented soy product and helps prevent certain cancers while also providing immense cardiovascular benefits since its fermented. It’s also a great way to get a complete dose of proteins and magnesium. Not only is it a healthier bet but also proves to be a much better source of protein than other mock meats or heavily processed tofu that are filled with poor-quality modified proteins, sodium, chemicals and starchy fillers. You could simply pop some dry roasted soybeans on the go or refer to the multitudinous recipes available online, and make this amazing meatless option a part of your diet.
Hemp Seed (23 g protein per 100g)
Although not easily available, Hemp seeds can be ordered online conveniently at reasonable prices. They have anti-inflammatory properties while being rich in fiber and omega-3s as well. Easily digestible, you can sprinkle a bunch of hemp seeds to your soups, cereals, salads, smoothies, etc. Also, don’t worry about any psychoactive effect; even though hemp seeds come from the same source as marijuana, they don’t provide any such effects and are known as marijuana’s edible, non-intoxicating cousin.