9th June 2011 by SevenSeasLife | 8 Comments
It is highly unlikely that anyone with a varied diet in the Western world, vegetarian or not will have an actual dietary deficiency of protein1, the average UK diet contains approximately 14-15% protein2. Most people, especially those who are meat eaters, are likely to be eating proteins that are also contributing high levels of saturated fats into their diet. Protein repairs body cells, builds and repairs muscles and bones, and provides energy and eating protein in our foods gives us a feeling of satiation that can help when we are ‘weight watching’. It is for these reasons that exploring alternative, vegetarian sources of protein can help you to make positive steps towards a healthier diet.
So here are some great options of high protein vegetarian foods:
Tofu is essentially processed soybean curd and it is a staple in Asian cooking. People are often put off by tofu and don’t know what to do with it. Tofu comes in several different forms:
Tofu is a really healthy food, rich in hormone like substances that have proven health benefits called soy isoflavones check out our article on food for menopause. It is also a great source of B vitamins, Calcium, Iron and it is low in sodium and so therefore heart healthy, low in saturated fat and a great source of protein3. So go for it –try it.
Beans are already widely eaten as baked beans in delicious sugary and salty tomato sauce by many British consumers. For most, their love of beans stops there! If you take the time to browse the other beans that are canned next to the baked beans you may be pleasantly surprised. Beans can change a salad from something that will not last you the rest of the day before supper – into a substantial meal. Equally a shop bought fresh soup without bread can be changed into a hearty feast with a small can of butter beans thrown in! Of course, beans are also a great substitute for meat options of chilli, casseroles, curries, burgers, sandwich fillers, used as a base for dips…the list is endless!
Look out for butter beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, mixed bean salads….the list is endless. And for some great recipes try out:
That should keep you going for a while!
Lentils are a staple for all sorts of soups, curries and salads. Unlike beans they do not need to be soaked and so easily stored dried and ready to go after a maximum of half an hour cooking. They are so handy! If you are using them in a salad they are delicious boiled in a stock and added to raw vegetables or leaves. Of course lentils are the basis of dhal an excellent, cheap crowd pleaser! Delia does a good one: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/asian/indian/dhal-curry.html .
Chickpeas are another brilliant protein rich option, these are of course the base of houmous – have ago at making your own and then experiment with different flavours and toppers. Chickpeas are also great stirfried, mixed straight into salads and added for any soups or casseroles. Tinned or dried – buy as you wish but tinned are great as they are ‘good to go’.
These include wheat, barley, rice, oats etc. They are essentially seeds for new plants and so if they are not processed or changed to ‘white’ bread, pasta, rice etc they are packed with loads of nutrients and also fibre plus protein. So……make sure that you are getting a good variety of these in your meals but please please please buy the brown, wholegrain versions! Refined grain products are nutritionally depleted and devoid of the goodness that they contain in a natural state.
Keep pots and pots of them, add these to everything. But hang on…..not the roasted salted versions! Not only are nuts and seeds – when fresh and not processed- filled with protein but they also contain a fantastic supply of health promoting fats. Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, linseeds are readily for sale in mixes and individually. They add goodness, protein and texture to salads, soups, yoghurt, cereals, they are a great snack with fresh or dried fruit. Eat these protein packed gems EVERYDAY instead of crisps, biscuits, cakes and sweets!
Low fat dairy products are a vital source of protein and essential minerals including potassium and calcium. They make up a staple in our western diets and we can have an over reliance on them as protein sources- especially for some vegetarians. Low fat natural live yoghurt is such a valuable standby – use as the basis of a salad dressing, a dip, curry accompaniment, with cereal, as a snack with seeds and honey….it is so delicious and when ‘live’full of health promoting bacteria essential for good gut health What are probiotics? Dairy products can contain higher levels of saturated fats and some people find that they struggle to tolerate them Food Intolerances. Low fat cream cheese and cottage cheese are excellent choices.
Eggs are a great, protein packed fast food. Look out for Omega 3 rich eggs and buy organic or free range whenever possible. A boiled egg in your bag provides an excellent on the go snack that should stave off any cravings for a chocolate bar. Eggs are also an excellent breakfast option – aim to sit down and eat an egg at least a couple of times a week for breakfast – this will decrease the chances that you will reach for a biscuit or cake at 11am!
The RDA for protein is 55.5g for men aged 19-50 and 53.3g for men aged over 50. For women the RDA is 45g for those aged 19-50 and 46.5g for over-50s.
As a guide, the table* below shows how much food contains approximately 20g of protein:
|A small chicken breast||6oz (approx) peas|
|Small can of tuna||1 small packet tofu|
|A small piece of cod or salmon||1 cup quinoa|
|2 medium eggs||2/3 cup chickpeas|
|1 cup (approx 120g) sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds||Small cup of lentils or bean with brown rice (dry weight)|
*This guide is based on the information given in McCance & Widdowson’s Composition of Food but as all brands of food can alter please refer to the pack purchased.
If you are struggling for recipes and good ideas for some of the foods described above, it is really worth investing in a couple of the excellent vegetarian recipe books out there.
Alternatively check out:
2. Webb G, 2002, Nutrition. A Health Promotion Approach. 2nd Edition. Arnold, London
3. Gregory, J, Foster, K, Tyler, H, Wiseman M, 1990, The Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults, London, HMSO cited by Webb G, 2002, Nutrition. A Health Promotion Approach. 2nd Edition. Arnold, London
4. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 200 4. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 17. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp, and from product analysis
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