There are many great reasons to become vegetarian.
Setting aside the ethical considerations generally at the forefront of such a decision, shunning animal products and going ‘green’ usually means reducing your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
Adopting a vegetarian (or vegan) diet also means you’re much more likely to favour fibre-rich vegetables that help alkalise our blood and supply a plentiful array of essential minerals, vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants.
But what about protein? Granted, vegetarian protein sources are not as abundant as we’d like: but you can easily meet your daily targets if you know what to look out for.
Wondering how to get protein as a vegetarian? Then read on to learn which sources are best.
How to Get Protein as a Vegetarian
It’s difficult to know how much protein we should aim to get daily; energy and nutrient requirements vary from person to person and depend largely on exercise levels and lifestyle.
UK guidelines suggest we should consume 45-55g per day, though many believe the number should be higher – particularly if you’re a strength athlete or even lifting the odd weight in the gym.
Protein is essential for tissue repair and muscle growth and is the second most abundant compound in the body, after water.
Obviously protein-rich foods like meat and fish are off limits for vegetarians and vegans, which in some sense is a shame given they contain the full range of essential amino acids required in an adult’s diet.
However, there’s no shortage of high protein foods for vegetarian diets. These include nuts and pulses, so-called green superfoods, tofu, seeds, grains, mycoprotein and legumes such as soya.
The very best are listed below. Work these into your diet and you’ll never again bemoan a lack of vegetarian protein sources!
The Top 5 Vegetarian Protein Sources
Never heard of seitan? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you all you need to know about this pure vegetarian protein.
Made from wheat gluten, it’s sometimes referred to as “wheat meat” owing to its crazy high protein content: 21 grams per ounce, to be precise.
Iron-rich and low in fat, seitan is a popular vegetarian meat substitute due to its chewy texture and savoury flavour. Popular throughout Asia, it’s highly adaptable and can be employed in a number of vegetarian dishes.
Like steak and chicken, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the few vegetarian protein sources that qualifies as a ‘complete protein’.
Yielding 8g of the good stuff per cooked cup, quinoa is also brimming with iron and magnesium and can stand in for rice in vegetarian curries.
Almonds easily make the grade, beating other meat-free protein sources to enter the top five. Containing 21.2g of protein per 100g, almonds are also rich sources of monounsaturated fats which have been shown in several studies to reduce heart disease.
Spread almond butter on your toast, crush a handful into your salad or crunch them as a snack. You can also make delicious smoothies using almond milk.
Your bowl of lentil soup is healthier than you think: a single cup of lentils provides a staggering 18g of vegetarian protein, making the pulse a true protein powerhouse.
While it’s not a complete protein source like quinoa or soybeans, it’s a doddle to work lentils into your diet: they crop up in dahls and soups and can be incorporated in pasta sauces, veggie burgers, dips and salads.
Soybeans pack more protein than any other bean. Boil a cup of soybeans and you can look forward to 28g of protein, the same amount as you’d get from scarfing 150g of chicken.
As stated, soybeans are also one of very few meat-free protein sources classed as ‘complete’. Moreover, soybeans are excellent sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, as well as being packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. If you’re not eating them already, you should be.
Other Great Vegetarian Protein Sources
If you eat a diet rich in the aforementioned foods, you won’t have to worry about hitting your daily protein targets – and you certainly won’t contemplate returning to meat.
Some days though, you might struggle to find the time to prepare home-made lentil soup or a soybean salad. At such times, a plant-based protein supplement can come in handy.
Step forward, Maximum Vibrance. Widely regarded as the most comprehensive all-in-one supplement on the planet, this superfood powder is fairly packed with nature’s most alkalising fruits and vegetables.
Its 20g of plant protein per serving certainly makes it one of the best non-meat protein sources available, and it's also teeming with 25 billion probiotics from 12 different strains.
Bottom line: vegetarians and vegans needn’t sacrifice protein (or any other nutrient) just because they’re averse to meat. Vegetarian-friendly protein sources are plentiful, generally rich in vitamins and minerals and the perfect complement to a healthy lifestyle.