There probably isn’t a vegetarian on the planet who hasn’t been asked “Are you getting enough protein?” While the amount is important ¡ª women need| on average| about 45 to 65 grams of protein a day ¡ª so is the type.
If you take a trip back to your old science class| you might remember that protein is made up of smaller components called amino acids| 12 of which are manufactured by the human body. Another nine| called essential amino acids| must be obtained from food. A complete protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. Animal proteins are complete| including red meat| poultry| seafood| eggs| and dairy| so what’s a vegetarian or vegan to do? There are a few nonanimal sources that offer complete proteins| so it’s important to get your fill of soybeans| blue green algae| hempseed| buckwheat| and quinoa if you’re diet is meat-| milk-| or egg-free.
Then there are foods known as incomplete proteins| including beans| whole grains| nuts| seeds| peas| and corn. Combine two or more incomplete proteins and boom you’ve got a complete protein. Enjoy them together in one meal or the combination can be consumed over the same day| such as black bean soup for lunch and brown rice with dinner. Here are some other food combinations that work:
Beans with whole grains: hummus (contains chickpeas and tahini| which is made from sesame seeds) and pita bread| red beans and rice| chickpea and quinoa veggie burgers on a whole-wheat bun| split pea soup with whole-grain bread| lentil barley soup| black beans and polenta| and tortillas with refried beansNuts or seeds with whole grains: sunflower seed butter on crackers| almond butter on toast| peanut noodlesBeans with seeds or nuts: hummus| salad topped with sunflower seeds and chickpeas
Note that having a varied vegetarian or vegan diet is key to getting enough protein. As long as you focus on eating enough calories and consuming a variety of plant-based foods| like legumes| whole grains| vegetables| fruits| nuts| and seeds throughout the day| chances are you’ll be getting the nutrients you need.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar