Top six sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans

Date

Kesava Commerford

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids.

Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids.

Much like Beyonce the (sometimes) vegan, the main question I, a vegetarian, am asked is "where do you get your protein from?"

It's made me realise that most people aren't aware exactly how much protein is needed each day, and how many different sources of protein there are that are vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Depending on your goals, you need anywhere between 0.8 and 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. So, if you are 70 kilograms, you need only around 70 grams of protein each day.

Proteins are known as the building blocks of the body. They break down into amino acids that promote cell growth and repair muscle. Proteins take longer to digest than carbohydrates, helping you feel fuller for longer and on fewer calories – a plus for anyone trying to lose weight.

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Having been a vegetarian all my life, and in the fitness industry for eight years, I can say with confidence that using the above formula, the following proteins as supply me with enough protein and also give me enough energy to train with.

Legumes

Foods in the legume family are good sources of vegetarian protein. Peas are a good example. One cup contains 10 grams – about the same as a cup of milk.

Quinoa  

Most grains contain a small amount of protein, but quinoa, technically a seed, is unique in that it contains more than 8 grams per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own (because of that, it's often referred to as a "perfect protein"). Plus, it is amazingly versatile. Quinoa can be added to soup or vegetarian chili during winter months, served with brown sugar and fruit as a hot breakfast cereal, or tossed with vegetables and vinaigrette to make a refreshing summer salad.

Tofu and Tempeh  

Foods made from soybeans are some of the highest vegetarian sources of protein. Tempeh and tofu, for example, contain about 15 and 20 grams per half cup, respectively. They're highly nutritious, and they can really take on the taste and texture of whatever type of food you're looking for.

Dairy

My favourite source of protein from dairy by far is cottage cheese. 1 cup cottage cheese equals 10 grams of protein, 1 cup yoghurt is 13 grams, 1 ounce of cheddar cheese is 7.1 grams and, 1 whole egg is 6 grams of protein.

Hempseed

You're not going to get stoned eating hemp seeds. They do, however, contain all nine essential amino acids, magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium. They're also a source of essential fatty acids, such as omega-3s, which is hard to come by if you're a vegan or vegetarian who doesn't eat fish or eggs (like myself ). Protein content: 10 grams per 2-tablespoon serving

Chia

Don't underestimate the nutritional value of these little bad boys. Chia seeds are the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and also contain iron, calcium zinc and antioxidants. They also contain lots of fibre so add them to a smoothie or use them as an egg replacement to thicken up a dish. Protein content: 4 grams per 2-tablespoon serving.