When you think of protein, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Likely, meat. But if you are a vegetarian or vegan, or are trying to cut down on meat consumption, it’s not always easy to get in your protein requirements for the day. You see, while an average 4 oz. portion of steak will provide around 35 g of protein, other protein sources need to be eaten in higher quantities to get the same amount.
What is protein?
First, a little bit about protein and its types. Protein is one of the 3 macronutrients, the other two being fat and carbohydrates. It is needed by the body for many functions. It helps make up bones, cartilage, muscles, and more. It helps to build and repair tissues. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, protein does not actually get stored within the body.
Proteins are also classified as complete as well as incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids that our bodies need (there are 20 amino acids, but these 9 essential ones are ones that can’t be produced by the body on its own), while incomplete proteins do not contain all of these nine essential amino acids. It is therefore important to make sure you’re getting all amino acids in if you don’t eat foods from any animal sources.
Vegetarian protein sources
Complete proteins: For vegetarians, great protein sources are eggs and dairy. These are complete proteins, and complete proteins are mostly found in animal products, with a few exceptions. A large egg contains 7g of protein. Dairy choices include milk, cheeses, and yogurt. When choosing a yogurt, to get more protein, go with Greek yogurt. The straining process results in a more protein-rich yogurt. As for vegan complete proteins, some examples are quinoa, soy, some beans, and some nuts.
There are other sources of vegetarian protein as well. These include most beans, legumes such as lentils, most nuts and seeds, vegetarian/vegan protein powders and bars, and dark leafy greens. Be sure to eat a large variety of these, and make room in your diet for some complete proteins, to make sure you’re getting all the essential amino acids your body needs.
If you’re worried about getting enough protein in as a vegetarian, don’t! Follow these guidelines and food choices and you should be getting in a good amount!