We all know that protein is needed to help the body build strong muscles, repair tissues and maintain an effective immune and hormonal system.
But when one decides not to eat fish, poultry or meat, it becomes slightly more difficult to make sure that your body receives enough protein everyday. Still a variety of menu-planning approaches can provide vegetarians with adequate nutrition.
The following foods should help you in meeting the daily protein requirement:
1. Legumes– Introducing legumes into menus offers a chance to explore different ethnic cuisines. Use legumes as main dish items rather than side dishes. A good way to introduce beans to the diet is to decrease meat in favourite dishes, like casseroles and chili, and replace it with beans. Because of their many health benefits, beans should be eaten often. Example are chickpeas, split peas, haricot, lentils (red, green or brown), kidney beans, flagelot etc.
2. Nuts & seeds– An important source of nutrition for thousands of years the world over, nuts and seeds are still staple foods and an important protein source in many cultures. Many nuts and seeds are available both in and out of the shell, whole, halved, sliced, chopped, raw, or roasted example are cashew, peanuts, walnuts, almonds.
3. Vegetable– When buying vegetables, choose those that are firm and bright, with a fresh, light scent. Don’t buy older vegetables, those that are dried out, shriveled, moldy, cracked, or with an overly strong aroma. Both taste and nutrient value will be compromised. Vegetarians have lower blood pressure than do people who eat meat. This occurs partly because fruits and vegetables contain potassium—a known blood pressure-lowering mineral. Textured vegetable protein is also a good substitute for ground beef in dishes such as tacos, chilli, and stews.
4. Fruits-Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of essential amino acids if a variety of plant foods are consumed and energy needs are met. A diet high in fruits appears protective against heart disease. Fruits are often the most nutritious part of the plant and, unlike vegetables, their high water content allows most to be eaten without cooking. Because they are usually sweet, fruits are often eaten as a dessert, for breakfast, or as a refreshing snack e.g. dried figs. Most fruits can be stored well, canned, frozen, or dried, and today’s transportation and refrigeration allow us to enjoy a wide variety of fresh fruit year-round.
5. Dairy products– Choose nonfat or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese for daily consumption. Save high-fat cheeses and ice cream for occasional treats. Experiment with lower fat cheeses to find products you enjoy. Options include soft uncured cheeses such as hoop cheese, lower fat (dry curd) cottage cheese, kwark (quark), and nonfat ricotta, all of which meet the U.S. dietary goal of 30% calories from fat. Read the fine print to learn the actual level of saturated fat in dairy products.
6. Cereals & food grains-Grains are the seeds or fruit of cereal plants, used as food by humans and animals. Choose whole grain flours, cereals, wheat & rye breads, buckwheat pancakes, muffins & scones, noodles and pasta. Check the nutritional facts panel on the label for fat, sugar, and additives. Eat grain with complementary protein. Experiment with high quality grains, such as amaranth and quinoa.
7. Algae-Blue-green algae, of which spirulina is a well-known example, is a group of 1,500 species of microscopic aquatic plants. Spirulina is particularly rich in protein and also contains carotenoids, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids, one though its vitamin B12 content does not appear to be readily usable by people and second most health benefits to humans claimed for spirulina and other blue-green algae supplementation come from anecdotes and not scientific research.
8. Soyabean-A versatile bean use extensively in cooking, the soybean also serves as the basis for a wide variety of soya foods consumed. Soybeans are the richest plant source of high-quality protein.
Soya protein can help to conserve calcium in the body and enhance bone health when it replaces animal protein in the diet. Soya protein also helps to lower blood cholesterol in people who have high blood cholesterol levels.
9. Seitan- Seitan can be sliced for sautés or stir-fries, diced into stews, soups, or casseroles, or formed into roasts. People who are allergic to wheat or wheat gluten should avoid seitan. Do not use if you are gluten-sensitive. A good source of protein delivering 23g/30 gms of Seitan.
10. Egg– Brown or white? Either and both is a source of complete protein. The colour of the egg’s shell is simply an indicator of the breed of hen that laid the egg. Eggs yolks are among the few foods that contain vitamin D. Eggs are the centerpiece of a range of foods.