To maintain or build adequate lean mass, it is always recommended to consume sufficient amount of proteins, as per dietary needs. There is a myth which commonly prevails among fitness enthusiasts that it is difficult to build muscles for people who are vegetarians. In this article, we will talk about some of the healthy plant-based proteins, packed with nutrients and easy to include in the diet.
- Peas - Green peas are one of the healthiest and nutritious source of proteins for vegetarians and vegans. Along with proteins, fresh peas also come with the benefits of nutrients like dietary fibre, folic acid, vitamin C, biotin, niacin, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. To enjoy the benefits of fresh peas, include them in recipes like soups, salads, sautéed veggies, whole-wheat pasta, cutlets, etc.
- Nuts - Nuts like almonds, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, cashew nuts, pine nuts, etc. contain proteins. Along with protein, nuts are also rich in dietary fibre, magnesium, calcium iron, zinc, selenium and various other vitamins and minerals. Nuts are perfect to opt as a healthy in-between meals snack. They can also be added in smoothies, shakes and salads. These days nut butter is also popularly consumed by athletes to complete daily dosage of proteins.
- Tofu - Tofu is made from soybean and often referred to as soy paneer. Soybeans are a rich source of proteins and one of the plant source containing all essential amino acids. As per ICMR, 100 grams of soybean provides 37 grams of proteins. Tofu is also enriched with nutrients like iron, calcium, folic acid, vitamin K, magnesium and phosphorus. Hence it is one of the best foods to enhance the protein content of the diet. Tofu is fondly consumed by vegans as well.
- Lentils - Lentils are another great plant-based protein-rich foods. 100 grams of lentils provide approx. 22 grams of proteins. Being rich in soluble dietary fibre, lentils promote gut health, helps maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels. They are also rich in antioxidants which helps reduce oxidative stress.
- Spirulina - Spirulina is another superfood which is rich in proteins. It is blue-green algae and commonly available in the form of nutritional supplements as tablets or powders. Spirulina is also rich in omega 3 fats acids containing all the three forms - ALA, EPA and DHA. It contains a pigment called phycocyanin which has been shown to possess anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some studies also indicate that spirulina might also help in improving blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
- Quinoa - Quinoa is a grain which is gluten-free and falls under the category of pseudo-cereals. People aiming to meet their daily protein intake can opt for quinoa. It is another plant-based protein source which contains all essential amino acids. The nutritional profile of quinoa also includes magnesium, dietary fibre, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and antioxidants. Quinoa prepared with lots of veggies along with spices tastes delicious.
- Soy Milk - Soy milk is another protein-rich food which vegetarians and vegans can opt for. Soy milk being rich in calcium also helps in keeping our bones healthy. It is also rich in magnesium which is linked with serotonin and aids in reducing our stress and anxiety levels. Soy milk is an excellent option especially for active people, in terms of speeding up the rate of muscle recovery.
- Oatmeal - Oatmeal is highly nutritious and rich in a soluble dietary fibre called beta-glucan. They come with the benefit of avenanthramides which are powerful antioxidants having anti-inflammatory properties. Oatmeal has a higher protein content as compared to other grains. They can easily be used in porridges, smoothies, pancakes, shakes, cereal bars, protein bars, breakfast cereals, etc. Oats are naturally gluten-free hence can be consumed by gluten intolerants. They keep our blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check and promote digestive health.
- Seeds - Seeds like hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame, flax and chia seeds contain a fairly good amount of proteins. Seeds are often used as a popular ingredient in salads, granola bars, cereal bars, smoothies, shakes and healthy cookies and desserts. Seeds are rich in heart-healthy omega 3 fats which take care of our joints and brain as well. Seeds are also effective in reducing post-exercise muscle soreness and inflammation.
- Seitan - Seitan is made from gluten and contains nutrients like selenium, calcium, iron and phosphorus. It is also fondly called as mock meat because of its appearance and texture. Though it is not suitable for people having a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, it is one of the popular plant-based protein-rich choices of many vegans and vegetarians.
To summarise, we can say that apart from eggs, chicken, seafood, meat; there are various other foods available which are nutrient-dense and rich in proteins. Diet should include a variety of foods to enjoy the benefits of all. They are necessary to prevent any protein deficiencies, especially among vegans and vegetarians.