We need to eat protein to stay healthy, fit and energised – it’s an essential macronutrient. If you decide to transition to a vegetarian diet it can take a little more planning to get enough protein; it might seem easier to throw a steak on the frying pan or build a salad around a mackerel fillet than to learn how to make a delicious lentil dhal. But it can be done! Here are our top suggestions of protein for vegetarians, including healthy recipe ideas.
Handpicked content: Healthy eating recipe ideas
Protein counts for twenty six percent of lentil’s calories, which makes them a wonderful source of energy for vegetarians. Lentils are also packed with insoluble fibre, which can improve digestion and prevent constipation. One cup of cooked lentils contains just 230 calories, which leaves plenty of room for tasty additions like coconut oil and coconut milk. Try gently simmering these – plus onions, tomatoes and turmeric – with red split lentils for a creamy dhal. It will take just 20 minutes and the leftovers can be packed in a thermos for lunch the next day.
Known as the ‘ultimate ocean protein’, this green algae packs a whopping 65 – 71 per cent complete protein compared to beef, which is only 22 per cent. If you have an issue with the slightly fishy flavour, try taking supplements or experiment with adding spirulina to energy balls or a smoothie combined with other strong flavours like cacao and maca.
Recognised as a superfood by NASA, this gluten-free grain is low in calories and high in micro and macronutrients. Quinoa is a complete protein – meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids crucial to human health. It takes just 10-12 minutes to cook on a stovetop and can be added to ‘beef’ up salads, turn into tasty meat-free burgers or use in lieu of noodles in stir fries and soups.
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4. Sprouted Foods
It may surprise you to know that the alfalfa you grew on your primary school windowsill is in fact one of the best sources of vegetarian protein. Sprouts – like mung bean sprouts, broccoli sprouts and alfalfa – contain up to 35 per cent protein to keep your energy levels humming. The process of germinating (or sprouting) a seed unlocks vital nutrients like vitamin C while removing enzyme-inhibitors like phytic acid, making the grain or seed easier to digest.
Packed with antioxidants, healthy fats and protein, eggs might be the perfect ‘fast-food’ for vegetarians. Make sure you don’t skip the yolk, where around half the protein is contained (one large whole egg contains around 6g protein – split evenly between the yolk and the white – about 12% of your average daily protein needs and it has a balanced amino acid profile). An egg or two for breakfast makes a great healthy choice of easily digested protein that will help keep you full till lunch.
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