People are increasingly interested in vegetarian or vegan diets or in reducing their consumption of animal products. With more fortified and nutritious plant-based foods available, shifting away from animal products is becoming easier.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported in 2016 that the vegetarian or vegan diet could meet the nutritional needs of adults, children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. However, people who do not consume meat or animal products may have difficulty getting enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals.
The following are some of the best plant-based foods for protein.
Choosing the right plant-based foods can provide excellent protein and other nutrients, often with fewer calories than animal products.
Soybeans and quinoa are examples of plant products that are complete proteins, which means that they contain all nine of the essential amino acids that humans need. Healthy, plant-based foods with high protein content per serving include:
Among plant-based foods, soy products rank among the richest sources of protein. However, the protein content varies depending on how they are prepared. Tofu can be used as a meat substitute in a favourite sandwich or soup. In some dishes, such as kung pao chicken and sweet and sour chicken, tofu is also a popular meat substitute. These soy products also contain good levels of calcium and iron, which makes them an excellent dairy substitute.
Red and green lentils are packed with protein, fibre, and essential nutrients, such as iron and potassium. Add lentils to a lunch or dinner routine for a great source of protein. You can add them to stews, curries, salads, or rice to add protein.
Cooked chickpeas are packed with protein. They can, for example, be added to salads and curries, eaten boiled or steamed, or spiced with chilli powder and roasted in the oven as a snack.
Hummus, a famous side/dip is made from chickpea and it can be added to sandwiches or rotis for a healthful, protein-rich alternative to butter.
Peanuts are high in protein and fat and may improve heart health. A tablespoon of peanut butter has 3.6 grams of protein, making peanut butter sandwiches a healthy complete protein snack.
Almonds offer a good amount of vitamin E, which is good for the skin and eyes.
Spirulina is blue or green algae that offer around 8 g of protein per 2 tablespoons. It is also rich in essential nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins and manganese.
Although, Spirulina is not a common food in the Indian diet chart. It is easily available online, as a powder or a supplement. It can be mixed with water, smoothies, or fruit juice. Adding it to salads or snacks can increase their protein content.
A very common food of the Indian diet chart, Quinoa contains high levels of protein and is loaded with complete protein. Magnesium, iron, fibre, and manganese are also found in this grain. Quinoa can be a good alternative to pasta. It can be cooked as a main course or breakfast too.
8. Green peas
Cooked green peas have nearly 9 grams of protein per cup (160 grams), about as much as a cup of dairy milk (237 mL). The daily required amounts of fibre, thiamine, folate, manganese, and vitamins A, C, and K are met by a serving of green peas. The green pea is also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and other B vitamins.
9. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds provide heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and fibre with low calories. Chia seeds contain 2 grams of protein per tablespoon and are a complete protein source. Try adding chia seeds to fruit juices, smoothies, sprinkle them on fruit yoghurt, or soak them in water and consume. Chia seeds are readily available in some supermarkets or easy to buy online.
10. Hemp seeds
Similar to chia seeds, hemp seeds also offer complete protein. Hemp seeds contain 5 g of protein per tablespoon. They can be used in the same way as chia seeds. Hemp seeds are easily available online.
11. Beans with rice
Rice and beans are incomplete protein sources when consumed separately. When combined, these beans and rice can provide 7 g of protein per cup.
A large potato offers 8 g of protein and this amazing root vegetable is also high in other nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. Potatoes are a very common vegetable found in the Indian kitchen. They can be used in many forms like baked, boiled, saluted and a variety of recipes can be made. It is a favourite and healthy dish for all age groups. However, the elderly and people with diabetes should watch the consumption.
13. Protein-rich vegetables
Protein is found in many dark-coloured leafy greens and vegetables. When eaten separately, these foods are not sufficient to meet daily protein requirements, but some vegetables can increase protein, particularly when combined with other protein-rich foods. Broccoli is very high in protein. A single, medium stalk of broccoli offers about 4 g of protein. 5 medium mushrooms provide 3 g of protein
14. Oats and Oatmeal
Dry oats provide a good amount of protein and fibre and it also contains magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, and folate. Even though oats do not contain a complete protein, they have a higher quality protein than other common grains like rice and wheat.
The nuts, seeds, and other products derived from them are a good source of protein.
Depending on the variety of the nut, they also offer fibre and healthy fats, paired with iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin E, and certain B vitamins. They are also highly rich in antioxidants. Keep in mind that roasting may deplete the nutrients in nuts. Therefore, it’s best to choose raw, unroasted versions of nuts.
Vegetarians and vegans rarely suffer from protein deficiencies, especially if they follow a healthy, well-planned diet. However, some people may want to increase their plant protein intake for various reasons. Incorporating more plant-based proteins into their diet would be a choice that can never be regretted.