A question that vegetarians are asked continually is how they manage to get enough protein in their diet when they do not consume animal products. We know that protein is something that we require, after all the amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of life. But we are now being told by doctors that we must be careful to eat a balanced diet that is not too heavy on animal protein.
The great news is that there are many fantastic alternatives on the market that provide protein alongside other nutrients for those who are strict vegetarians or meat-eaters that want to simply downsize how much animal protein their diet includes.
Many vegetarian protein sources are easier to digest than animal products. The following seven vegetarian super foods are fantastic sources of protein, and they are also packed with vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that assist the essential functions of your body in many ways.
Chia seeds are tiny powerhouses that are loaded with nutrients. “Chia” is the ancient Mayan word for “strength.” These seeds were prized for their ability to provide sustainable energy as they balance blood sugar. A single 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) serving of chia seeds contains 11 grams of fibre, 4 grams of protein and plenty of vitamins and minerals.
They are naturally gluten free, which makes them suitable for those that suffer with IBS and food intolerances.
Chia seeds are also a great source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids which are both highly beneficial to our health. They can be eaten raw, and easily added to porridge, or sprinkled onto yoghurt or over salads. But to ensure they do not hinder digestion, should ideally be soaked in plenty of clean purified water overnight.
Spirulina is a simple organism, consisting of a single celled nutrient rich algae. It is thought to be the highest form of protein found anywhere in the world, with one ounce providing 16 grams of protein.
Many consider it to be one of the most nutritious food sources as it contains vitamin, minerals, chlorophyll and antioxidants. To use this protein rich superfood, simply mix the powder into your drinking water or smoothies and enjoy daily.
This seed is an amazing source of complete protein. Many people mistake it for a grain, when really it is a pseudo-cereal rather than a true cereal and is therefore not a member of the true grass family like other true grains.
Quinoa is also gluten free and filled with nutrients. It is a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and has high concentrations of antioxidant flavonoids. Eating quinoa has also been seen to have anti-inflammatory benefits. It can be used like a grain, making a good alternative to rice or lentils, or gourd to a flour consistency and used to make some delicious gluten free cakes.
Wild Blue-Green Algae
Blue-green algae is 70% vegetable protein and has higher amounts of beta-carotene than broccoli. It is a superfood because it is full of easily absorbed vitamins, minerals, enzymes and all of the essential amino acids. It is also rich in compounds that provide antioxidants. It can be added to smoothies or simply mixed into water.
Bee pollen is literally bee food and is approximately 40% protein, richer than any animal source. It is considered to be one of the most nourishing naturally occurring foods. Bee pollen contains almost all of the nutrients required by humans to thrive.
Studies also suggest that it can help to boost the immune system, fighting allergies, and may also prevent against some cancers. A single teaspoon of pollen takes a bee, working eight hours a day an entire one month to gather!
You can reap the benefits of this superfood by eating bee pollen raw, or sprinkling onto salads or yoghurt.
Goji berries are widely agreed to be the most nutritionally dense fruit on Earth, this is because they contain all essential amino acids, and the highest concentration of protein of any fruit. In addition they are loaded with vitamin C and carotenoids and boast twenty-one trace minerals, plus plenty of fibre.
They have a jaw-dropping 15 times the amount of iron found in spinach, plus calcium, zinc, selenium and lots of other trace minerals.
They are anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, with antioxidant properties to boot. These can be munched as a snack, or added to granola for a delicious health boost.
Hemp is a great source of protein as well as essential fatty acids. It is thought to be beneficial to heart health in particular, keeping blood pressure at healthy levels amongst other benefits.
Rotate Your Vegetarian Protein Source
This is a comprehensive list of super foods that offer you many choices of vegetarian protein. In some cases the amount of protein is superior to what you would find in the same amount of animal product, and these are far easier for your body to digest.
But the best diet is one that is full of variety so be sure you rotate your vegetarian sources often to ensure you are getting in good levels of the full spectrum of nutrients we need to thrive and not just focusing on how much protein you are taking in.