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How to Get Enough Protein on a Vegetarian Diet

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Quinoa can be an excellent source of protein and great addition to a vegeterian diet.

Protein is an essential nutrient that everyone, including vegetarian and vegans, need in order to thrive and grow. Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is a source of energy as well as a provider of amino acids. Amino acids are what create and build parts of our bodies such as skin, cartilage, muscles, bones, blood and hormones. Our bodies can create 16 out of the 23 amino acids required in the body, leaving eight that must come from our diets alone.

Food that comes from animal sources, such as meat, is considered a complete protein source meaning that it contains all 23 amino acids. As a vegetarian, you will need to combine “incomplete proteins” which come from plant sources to provide your body with all 23. It is important to note that it is not necessary to combine all these proteins at each meal. Your body has a sophisticated storage system where amino acids are deposited until they are ready to be used. With this in mind, eating a variety of different protein sources throughout a day will provide you with all 23 amino acids when needed.

There are three general categories that the majority of plant based protein is derived from: legumes, grains, and nuts & seeds. That doesn’t mean that fruits and vegetables don’t have protein on their own; it’s just that they contain them in smaller amounts. By combining legumes, grains, and nuts & seeds daily, you will be able to store a balanced amount of amino acids.

Here are a few different sources of plant based protein that you can add or base your meals around:

  • Quinoa: Quinoa is a whole grain product that contains all the essential amino acids in one serving. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein as well as 9 grams of dietary fiber. Quinoa is a great base for many of your vegetarian meals.
  • Legumes: Including beans, lentil and peas are a fantastic way to incorporate flavor, dietary fiber and weight to a dish. One cup of beans can equate nearly 15 grams of protein and are commonplace in everyday grocery stores.
  • Tofu: The most versatile of non-animal proteins, tofu can be added to nearly any dish as it simply takes on the flavor of whatever you are cooking it with. Half a cup of tofu can add about 10 grams of protein to your meal without changing its flavor.
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters: Items like peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and almonds are rich in proteins, but however, are high in fat. Using them as accompanying flavors or for snacks is a great idea. Two tbsp of peanut butter can back in 8 grams of protein but nearly 16 grams of fat.
  • Meat substitutes: These products are often made from seitan or soy protein but can be a great way to diversify your meals. Each serving can provide anywhere from 10 to 20 grams of protein.
 


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