As plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, the NZ Vegetarian Society wants to make sure that vegetarians and vegans are confident that they are consuming a protein-rich diet.
NZ Vegetarian Society spokesperson, Charlotte Besant, says that despite what some people might think, there are many ways to get enough protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Protein is essential for growth and can also be an energy source. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, responsible for repairing cells and making new ones. While your body can make some of them, others have to be obtained through your diet, which is why it is vital to consume foods that are protein-rich.
If you’re eating enough calories on a reasonably varied diet, it would be hard to be protein-deficient. However, the following eight foods will help you reach your daily protein goals.
Legumes include beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas, and are a great source of protein. They are not only filling, nutrient-dense and low in calories, but are inexpensive and easy to use. Kidney beans are a great option, with 17g of protein per cup protein, and also contain potassium and complex carbohydrates. Green peas are another excellent choice, with 9g of protein per serving when cooked, as well as 50% of your daily fibre, including vitamin A, C and K.
- Seeds and nuts
Nuts, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts and cashews nuts, are listed among the highest source of protein. They are also a great source of iron, calcium, and vitamins A and B. A handful of mixed nuts, especially on an empty stomach, will give you a great start to the day. Natural nut butters, such as peanut butter, are also a great source of protein. Hemp seeds are often sold as hemp hearts and are incredibly nutritious. In addition to being a source of complete protein, providing 10g of protein in 3 tablespoons, they’re a great source of essential fatty acids, potassium, iron and several other essential minerals.
Seitan is very popular among the veg community. Made from gluten, the main protein of wheat, it contains 25g of protein per 100g, making it the richest plant protein source. It can be used in a variety of recipes and as a meat replacement.
- Soybean products
This can include tofu, tempeh and edamame, all which originate from soybeans. They are considered a complete source of protein, providing the body with all the essential amino acids. Edamame are immature soybeans that are rich in folate, vitamin K and fibre. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and has a texture similar to meat. It contains probiotics, B vitamins and minerals and can be used for various dishes.
- Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a superfood, with 35g of chia seeds containing 6g of protein and 13g of fibre. If you soak the chia seeds in water, their nutritional value will be even higher. They contain a good amount of amino acids, so your body absorbs the protein well. Their unique feature is that they can absorb liquid and form a gel-like substance. As a result, they can be used to make puddings and as an egg substitute in vegan baking.
Quinoa is a grain that is naturally gluten-free, with a nutty flavour. 185g of cooked quinoa provides approximately 8g of protein. In addition to being a complete source protein, quinoa provides more magnesium, fibre, zinc, and iron than other common grains, so it makes an excellent addition to a plant-based, protein-rich diet.
- Soy Milk
Milk product alternatives such as soy milk, contain as much protein as cow’s milk, yet is lower in carbs and saturated fat. Soy milk is made from soybeans and filtered water, with one cup of containing 7g of protein.
- Nutritional yeast
Nutritional yeast (nicknamed ‘nooch’ in the veg community) is grown specifically to be a food product. It is sold as yellow flakes and has an umami flavour. It’s commonly used to add a cheese-like flavour to dishes such as pasta and mashed potatoes. A 15g serving of nutritional yeast provides 8g of complete protein. Nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of all the B vitamins, including B12, and magnesium, copper, and zinc.
While proteins should get a higher share of consumption in your diet, make sure you don’t overdo it. Nutritional experts recommend not to exceed the daily recommended amount of protein, Besant says.
For advice on health and nutrition, as well as support during your veg~n journey, visit NZVS website: http://www.vegetarian.org.nz/health-and-nutrition/protein/