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Protein plays a fundamental role in nearly all bodily processes. Hence, sufficient protein intake, through amino acids, is vital for any healthy diet. To get their amino acids, vegans rely on plant proteins, lacto-ovo-vegetarians include milk and eggs in their diet and lacto vegetarians add milk and its products to their meals.

Most lacto vegetarians and lacto-ovo –vegetarians can plan a healthy diet as milk and eggs are rich sources of high quality protein. On the other hand, vegans need to plan their diet well as one fruit, a vegetable or one grain in itself does not contain the complete protein found in meat, milk or eggs.

However, beans, nuts, peas among other vegetarian foods, must be consumed in combinations with other plant protein to equal a complete protein. For instance, beans and rice supply a complete protein when combined together, but not when they are eaten separately.  

In fact the best known vegetarian foods rich in protein include:

Nuts – known for millennium, these crispy rich sources of plant protein can be eaten as snacks, side dishes or just sprinkled over salads and desserts and are available either whole, halved, sliced, chopped or shelled in roasted or raw forms  which include almonds, cashew, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts or brazil nuts. High calorie, filled with nutrients, nuts are also rich in Vitamin E, fiber and antioxidants.

Seeds – contained in fruits of plants, though small, seeds are packed with nutrients and make excellent sources of proteins for vegetarians. Eaten powdered, sprinkled over salads, or as side dishes, seeds of flax, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, are not only rich in protein, but contain vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants as well. For example, 34.6 grams of proteins, together with all the 22 amino acids are found in hemp seeds.

Legumes– out of thirteen thousand legumes grown in the world, only forty varieties are usually consumed. These inexpensive, packed with protein, edible seeds have been the key diets to various national cuisines worldwide for thousands of years. Used as main or side dishes, legumes also known as dried beans, are found in mainly chickpeas, split peas, haricot, navy beans, Lima beans among others, including pulses like:

Lentils – red, brown, black or green, lentils provide a rich source of protein, as well as minerals. Cooked alone, or added to soups and stews, this cheap legume provides sufficient protein for muscle development if two cups are consumed daily.

Kidney beans – whether red or black, this versatile type of beans adds variety to dishes whether consumed as main or side dishes and are filled with protein and other nutrients.

Grains – the seeds or fruits of cereal plants can be consumed as whole or as flours  which include barley, brown rice, oatmeal, Quinoa, rye, wheat germ, millet, maize, sweet corn and amaranth to make delicious wheat pancakes, muffins and scones, as well as wheat and rye breads, noodles or pasta. In fact the quinoa grain is known as the queen of whole grains as it is filled with protein and all the important amino acids. It is known that 18 grams of proteins are loaded in one cup of cooked quinoa.

Soy – also known as soybeans, this versatile plant food is nearly equal to meat and is the richest plant source of high grade protein as it contains nearly all the vital amino acids.  Available in many forms and products like tofu, fermented soy like miso, tempeh, natto, as well as, soy “hot dogs” , soy “burgers”, even ice cream and soy milk to suit all tastes. One cup of soybean is equivalent to one cup of chicken (non-vegetarian source of protein) and it contains about 29 grams of protein.

Tofu – derived from soy, also known as “soy curd”, tofu is an excellent protein source as it contains nine of the fundamental amino acids. Sautéed, pureed or marinated tofu also provides the necessary calcium to growing children. 

Spirulina  – it is a type of blue-green algae which are microscopic aquatic plants found in both fresh waters and the sea. Known as “wonder food” as it is a complete plant protein with all the essential amino acids and it surpasses even the richest non-vegetarian protein food sources.  Apart from protein, spirulina contains various vitamins like A, B, C, D and E, minerals like potassium, calcium and zinc as well as the essential fatty acids.

Seitan – is a rich source of protein and meat substitute, found in Asian and Buddhist cooking. Known as “Wheat Meat”, Seitan is derived from gluten of wheat and it can be sliced or diced to be used in sautés, stir-fry, stews, casseroles, soups or even into roasts.

Vegetables – fresh and firm vegetables like, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, watercress, yams, kale, and green peas, among others, are loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals essential for fighting against various illnesses and are a good substitute for meat in dishes like soups, stews, chilli, tacos and so on.

Fruits – are the nutritious part of the plant containing ample amounts of the essential amino acids and are mostly found in apple, banana, grape, orange, papaya, pear, pineapple, tangerine and watermelon among others. Eaten either as dessert, for breakfast or as a snack fruits can also be frozen, canned or dried in order to enjoy them the whole year round.

Cheese – raw or organic, whether ricotta, cottage, or goat, cheese is a rich source of protein for the lacto-vegetarians. Used as salads, toppings, sprinkled between sandwiches or in pastas and lasagna, cheese supplies up to 28 grams of protein for one cup.

Yogurt – this excellent meat-free protein source, provides also calcium and vitamin D to the body and is suitable to the lacto- vegetarians. A bowl of yogurt with meals is said to build up the muscles and strengthen the bones and fights against infections.

Eggs – contain over 6 gram of protein each, eggs are nutritious and full of energy and are normally consumed at breakfast. They contribute largely to the healthy diet plan of the lacto-ovo-vegetarians in terms of protein sources.

References:

http://www.bewellbuzz.com/nutrition/good-sources-of-protein-for-vegetarians/

http://www.vegetarian-diet.info/vegetarian-diet-protein.htm

http://www.womenfitness.net/protien-option.htm

Image Credit

Source:

  1. Vegetarianism
  2. Vegeterian – definition of Vegeterian by The Free Dictionary