Protein is one of the most important nutrients that are known as building blocks of life, which plays a crucial role in building and repairing tissues, supporting the immune system, and maintaining overall health. Excluding water and fat, the human body is made up almost entirely of protein. Protein is the main component of muscles, bones, organs, skin, and nails.
We usually associate proteins with animal meat, and eggs only, But there are plenty of excellent vegetarian sources of protein available for those who follow a plant-based diet. In this article, we will explore the top 10 vegetarian sources of protein, that you can add to your as well your children's diet.
Top 10 Vegetarian Sources of Protein for All Ages
- Lentils(Dal and pulses)
Lentils are a protein powerhouse and consist of approximately 18 grams of protein per cup when cooked. They are also rich in fibre, iron, and various vitamins and minerals. Lentils can be used in soups, chillas/ pancakes, salads, and even veggie burgers. Lentils should be added to your diet if you follow a plant-based diet. Lentils come in various forms like masoor dal (red lentils), moong dal (split green gram), and toor dal (pigeon peas).
Chickpeas are a staple in many vegetarian diets and contain around 15 grams of protein per cup when cooked. You can eat them in hummus, a perfect healthy dip for you and your family; and can also be used in curries, salads, and roasted chickpeas/Chane as your crunchy snack. You can either use Chickpea Flour (Besan) for your protein-rich chapati and chillas.
- Soybean Products: Soybean products like soy chunks, tofu, and soy milk are excellent sources of plant-based protein that contain approximately 36 grams of protein per 100 grams of soybeans. Soy chunks can be used in rice, vegetable pulao, and curries or you can make cutlets or fritters from soybean granules. Soybeans and tofu are often used as a protein-rich alternative to meat in vegetarian and vegan diets.
- Paneer (Cottage Cheese): Paneer is a dairy product with a high protein content. It's used in dishes like paneer tikka, palak paneer, and paneer butter masala. On average, paneer contains about 18-20 grams of protein per 100 grams of paneer. Paneer is a dairy product and is relatively high in calories and saturated fat. If you are watching your calorie or fat intake, be mindful of portion sizes when enjoying paneer dishes.
- Yogurt (Curd): Yogurt is a common source of protein in India and can be eaten plain, in raita, or as a base for smoothies and lassi. On average, curd typically contains about 3 to 4 grams of protein per 100 grams of serving, which is comparatively less, but it is still a valuable source of nutrients, including calcium, probiotics and various vitamins and minerals. Additionally, curd is often consumed for its digestive benefits due to the presence of probiotics, which can promote gut health.
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are examples of nuts and seeds that are rich in protein. They provide a convenient source of protein and healthy fats. A quarter cup of almonds, for instance, contains about 7 grams of protein. While nuts are a good source of protein, they are calorie-dense. If you're watching your sodium intake or calorie intake, opt for unsalted or lightly salted varieties, and be cautious with heavily seasoned nuts.
- Spinach: It is known for having one of the highest protein contents among other green vegetables. Although the protein content in vegetables is generally lower compared to other food groups like legumes, grains, and animal products, spinach stands out for its protein content relative to other leafy greens. Spinach contains approximately 2.9 grams of protein per 100 grams of raw spinach.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is becoming more accessible in India and is a complete protein source. The protein content of cooked quinoa is approximately 4.1 grams of protein per 100 grams. This makes quinoa a relatively high-protein plant-based food. It is also rich in iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium and low in fat. It can be used as a rice substitute in various dishes.
- Beans: The bean family is a rich source of protein. Most beans are also packed full of other essential nutrients like iron, folates and vitamins. Kidney beans (rajma), black-eyed peas (lobhia) and mung beans (moong and sabut moong), black beans are commonly used in Indian diets and can be eaten for around 8-9 gm of protein per 100 grams.
- Green Peas(Matar): Peas are a super versatile vegetable that is surprisingly packed with protein. It is also a good source of fibre. Add peas to your favourite pasta, rice, curries, and soup for a nutrition and protein boost. Cooked green peas typically contain about 5-6 grams of protein per 1 cup (160-170 grams) serving.
A well-balanced vegetarian diet involves combining various protein sources to ensure you get a wide range of nutrients. Additionally, it's essential to consume a variety of foods to meet all your nutritional needs while enjoying a diverse and tasty diet.
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