Possibly the biggest questions posed to vegetarians, “where do you get your protein from?” Well the same place vegetarians animals do (like gorilla and elephants), from plants, duh!
Just like vegetarian animals, human vegetarians can also thrive from a plant based diet and even get enough protein to support their daily needs. Read on and find out just how easy it is to get protein in your vegetarian diet.
Types of vegetarians
A vegetarian is someone who chooses (for a variety of reasons) not to consume meat, instead they live on a primarily plant based diet including vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, legumes, yeasts, fungi and some eat not meat animal products. There are a few types of vegetarians all who need to gain protein from a variety of sources:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians include both dairy and eggs in their diets. This is the most common type of vegetarian.
- Lacto-vegetarians include dairy products but do not eat eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarians will eat eggs but no dairy.
- Vegans are the strictest of vegetarians and do not consume any animal products including dairy and eggs.
As most of us know now protein is the building blocks of muscle and tissue within the body and without sufficient protein we will not grow, we can’t gain muscle and we can end up very sick and frail.
While both animal products and plants all contain protein, it’s important to know not sources of protein are created equal. As humans we require 9 different essential amino acids to fully function day to day. The 9 amino acids are found in protein and when they all come from one source this is called a complete protein. Animal products are complete proteins so meat eaters have no problems with reaching their daily protein goals. Vegetarians are a little different most plant products do not contain all 9 amino acids and they need to be combined to achieve a complete protein profile. That being said if you are vegetarian or vegan it is actually quite easy to get all your 9 essential amino acids in a day.
The minimum required protein per day for an adult female is 46g and for an adult man its 56g, this changes though with our activity levels, age, muscle mass, physique goals and health status.
If you are looking to lose weight you should aim for 30% of your calories to be protein, this will allow for sufficient protein needs and boost weight loss. If on the other hand you’re looking to gain muscle then you should be eating 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight per day.
Complete sources of protein for vegetarians
Here are some ideas to get a complete protein into your diet, they are actually surprisingly easy:
- Quinoa- 1 cooked cup contains 9grams of complete protein, plus a whole lot of other goodies.
- Peanut butter on toast- 11g protein
- Lentil soup and bread
- Spinach and salad
- Pita bread and Hommus
Incomplete proteins that you can mix and match with each other to create a healthy vegetarian diet include:
- Seeds, nuts, legumes and nut butters
- Whole grain breads
- Green leafy vegies like broccoli (1 cup= 6.8g) and spinach (1 cup= 13g)
- Hemp, pea and rice protein powders
- Yeast (4.9g in 1TBS)
- Spirulina (4g in 1TBS)
If you are consuming dairy and eggs then you have even more choices, as eggs and dairy are another good protein source. Eggs contain 13g of protein per egg, 8g in a cup of milk and 7g in a slice of cheese.
So as you can see vegetarians can eat a range of nutritious foods to get their protein needs and as a bonus they actually receive more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants then the average meat eater due to the high amount of fruits, vegies and wholefoods!
So there you have it, vegetarians need no longer fear, it’s easy to get all your protein and eat delicious healthy foods while you’re at it!
Meat eaters beware, the vegos have got this!