It is wide spread myth that to get your daily dose of protein intake, you need to rely on animal products like chicken, lamb, beef, fish, pork, poultry or dairy. It is like underestimating the proteinaceous power of a complete vegetarian meal, especially from the plant-based products. Although animal products are good sources of complete protein, but they also come with their own share of fats. So, keeping everything in mind- we bring you a guide on vegetarian sources of complete protein that can be incorporated by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians or even vegans to get their recommended daily dose of proteins.
What is a complete protein?
Protein is made up of various amino acids, which are called the building blocks of protein. There are more than 40,000 different proteins in the body and surprisingly only twenty amino acids are required to build all. Out of these twenty amino acids, your body can synthesize eleven and requires nine from external dietary sources and hence they are called “essential” amino acids. A complete protein or whole protein is a food source that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. The nine essential amino acids are- histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Let’s find out some amazing sources of complete protein-
- Quinoa – Quinoa comes from the seeds of spinach like green leafy plant and contains about eight grams of protein per serving. You can use quinoa in place of rice, you can make porridge out of it or you can grind it to a flour to be added with your regular flour. Quinoa is low in glycaemic index and is free of gluten and thus is an excellent dietary source with people suffering from Diabetes or Coeliac Disease. That’s not all, because of quinoa’s nutritional properties NASA scientists have been looking at it as a suitable crop to be grown in outer space.
- Buckwheat – Buckwheat is known as “kuttu” in India and is a favourite amongst people who observe fasting especially during the navratras. But not just during the fasting phase, the humble buckwheat can be incorporated in your diet in variety of ways all year round pertaining to its complete protein attribute. Cooked buckwheat provides around 5.7 grams of protein per serving. It is also a rich source of Iron, Vitamin B, Zinc, Manganese, and Potassium. They also contain a plant pigment known as Rutin that can specifically protect against varicose veins. You can make buckwheat porridge by soaking buckwheat groats overnight and cooking them the next morning. You can use “kuttu ka aata” to make chapatis. You can also top your soups or salads with buckwheat or make baked buckwheat veg cutlets.
- Soy – Half cup of soybean in the form of Tofu provides ten grams of complete protein. Soy foods are naturally cholesterol free and are low in saturated fatty acids. They are also excellent sources of calcium and iron. Calcium helps in maintaining bone and joint health, also regulation of blood pressure. Iron helps in carrying oxygen to various body tissues. Soy also contains isoflavones which can help fighting osteoporosis, and lower the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). However, women suffering from hormonal issues like Thyroid disorders or PCOD/PCOS need to keep a check on their soy intake because isoflavones can mimic the activity of female hormone estrogen. You can make soy curry and have it with rice, or you can consume soy in the form of tofu, tempeh or homemade soy milk.
- Rice with beans / pulses- Rice and Dal both are good sources of protein, but are also incomplete in terms of essential amino acids. Legumes generally lack methionine and cysteine while rice lacks lysine. Hence combining rice with legumes makes a perfect combination of a complete protein meal. A combination of approximately 20 percent lentils to 80 percent rice has all the essential amino acids. This humble combination also provides fibre to aid digestive health, Vitamin B for maintenance of glucose metabolism and nerve function, and magnesium that is essential for calcium absorption and heart health. Consume your rice with a variety of legumes like red/ green lentils or red/black kidney beans to obtain the maximum benefits of a complementary protein meal.
Over to You:
A healthy diet is all about knowing how to balance various nutrients. When in doubt, do consult a nutritionist who’d be best able to guide you on your protein requirement. Do not forget to share this article with your dear ones.