A common concern for vegan and vegetarian diets is the possibility of lacking sufficient protein.
Proteins are important for everyday body functions. They also promote weight loss, muscle strength and provide satiety.
While experts approve that a well planned diet can supply the body with all essential proteins, it is important to know which foods to incorporate in the diet to avoid depriving the body of essential nutrients. It is also important to note that different foods have varied protein content than others. Also, not all plant proteins have the nine essential amino acids, with many missing one or more of these. While the body can make some amino acids, the nine have to be obtained via diet. These include histidine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, methionine and phenylalanine.
To get enough of each essential amino acid throughout the day, it is advisable to eat a varied diet and combine complementary plant proteins.
These smart foods are great sources of proteins for the body that you can easily incorporate into your diet.
Available in tablets, capsules and powder, this is a blue-green alga that is popular as a supplement especially among vegans. It has a high-protein content with just a tablespoon providing 4 grams of protein. The protein is also highly usable, with a 50-61% net protein utilization rate. It is versatile and can be incorporated into foods such as smoothies, soups, granola bars, salads and beverages.
According to vegan times, spirulina is not only rich in proteins but also antioxidants, Vitamin B, iron and copper, magnesium, chromium and iron.
Other nuts and seeds are also convenient sources of protein. One of the most popular ways to consume nuts is through nut butter – it’s highly versatile, and can be eaten as a snack on its own or added to smoothies, shakes and oatmeal. 100% almond butters with no added oil, sugar and salt is a great complement to chia seeds.
Despite their tiny nature, chia seeds are excellent sources of proteins, with two tablespoons providing 4 grams of proteins. Often black or white, these seeds form a gel-like substance by absorbing liquid.
They are versatile and can be used in various ways such as making puddings and as a vegan substitute in baking. They can also be added to smoothies, salads, oatmeal and mixed into baked goods. Due to the high protein content, chia seeds aids in weight loss as they increase fullness after meals, hence reducing food intake.
They also contain all the nine essential amino acids, making them a high-quality plant-based protein.
They are also a great source of other vital nutrients including fiber, iron, Omega-3, selenium, magnesium and calcium.
This protein house boasts an impressive nutrient resume. Amaranth contains all nine essential amino acids and is close to double the amount of protein like that in corn or rice. Research has classified this superfood as one of the most nutritious plant-based foods, with a cup of cooked amaranth providing 9 grams of protein.
While it is a staple food in Mayan, Incan and Aztec cultures, it is readily available and is easy to incorporate into your diet. It’s also versatile and can be boiled for porridge or a side dish, added to salads. The ground version can also be used in baking or adding to smoothies.
It’s also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, phosphorus and manganese.
Often overlooked, lentils are an inexpensive way of nourishing the body with vital nutrients. This superfood is high in protein, with 25% protein content, making it a great alternative for vegetarians.
They are readily available globally, and you can get them in subscription boxes in the U.K. They are also packed with magnesium, potassium, iron, B vitamins, zinc, Thiamine, Folate, Copper and Niacin among others.
Lentils can be prepared in a variety of ways including stews, soups, taco or salad toppers or in Indian purees.
Apart from being an excellent source of proteins, lentils may protect against the risk of heart disease, stop the growth of cancer cells and improve blood sugar levels.
Classified as a pseudo-cereal alongside amaranth and quinoa, buckwheat is a type of cereal that does not grow on grasses but is consumed as a cereal. Contrary to its name, it is related to wheat. As such, it is gluten-free and has become a popular health food given high protein content with 100 grams providing 13.3 grams of protein. It is particularly rich in arginine and lysine amino acids.
Buckwheat is also high in antioxidants, fiber minerals including manganese, copper, iron, magnesium and phosphorus and is processed into noodles, groats and flour.