Vegetarian Protein Sources

Good vegetarian protein sources and vegan protein and nutrition explained. This page will help you make sense of the different nutrients and vitamins and how to incorporate them into your daily diet.

Did you know that plant foods contain the same eight amino acids as animal foods but in different amounts? This page will help you make sense of the different nutrients and vitamins and how to incorporate vegetarian protein sources into your daily diet.

"Scientific data suggest positive relationships between a vegetarian diet and reduced risk for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer... Vegetarians often have lower morbidity and mortality rates from several chronic degenerative diseases than do non-vegetarians...Vegetarian diets offer disease protection benefits because of their lower saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein content and often higher concentration of folate, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotinoids and phytochemicals... vegetarian diets have also been successful in arresting coronary artery disease.” American Dietetic Association Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets, 1997 (182).

I firmly believe that vegetarian diet is good and good for you. The health benefits are proven and varied. However, that said, it is extremely essential that each individual ensure healthy intake of vegetarian food from vegetarian protein sources. Some "junk food" can be considered vegetarian but at the same time empty, nutrition-less calories.

We are responsible for what we consume and how we fuel our bodies. We are responsible for our own health and well being. We need to educate ourselves on proper nutrition and healthy vegetarian protein sources.

The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are impressive: "The vast majority of all cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and other forms of degenerative illness can be prevented simply by adopting a plant-based diet." … Dr. T. Colin Campbell, nutritional researcher at Cornell University and director of the largest epidemiological study in history.

The American Dietetic Association, the largest organization of nutrition professionals in the U.S., states that vegetarians have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and other health problems.

Hey, it all sounds super – but how do you become veggie without messing up your health and metabolism? Where do you get all your nutrients and vitamins from? What are your vegetarian protein sources? I know. I've been there. People ask these questions all the time! Your Mom, Grandma, Best Friend, Spouse – they're all questioning your sanity and concerned for your health

Well, you should be concerned for your health as well… and now we're going to talk a bit about that…

A healthy, balanced vegetarian or vegan diet rich in beans, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables —along with a bit of vitamins B12 and D— will give you everything that your body needs.

But if you often eat on the run or go out to eat and don't always have time to plan nutritious meals, you may wish to consider taking a daily multivitamin. I truly believe that if you plan your meals and eat right, you will not need additives. All your needs can be found in vegan and/or vegetarian protein sources.

This is an interesting article submitted by Alesha Wilson at - it is an interesting read. Going Green and Meatless

So what are nutrients and where do you get them from?

What are good Vegetarian Protein Sources?

Keep reading... the answers are here...

Protein: Beans, vegetables, and grains provide great vegetarian protein sources, even if you not intentionally combine them in any particular way (see the Complete Proteins page for more vegetarian protein sources and information). Some especially protein-rich foods are beans, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, and soy products.

Bean Sprouts have even been acclaimed as the “most enzyme-rich food on the planet". Bean Sprouts are an excellent source of protein. (check out my "Sprouting Ideas" page). And they are practically calorie-free!

So what sprouts are good vegetarian protein sources?
• the classic mung seed – easy to sprout and readily available anywhere
• wheat berries – yummy - slightly sweet sprouts
• Flaxseeds (golden or brown) - can be sprouted in spite of their waxy appearance. Beneficial fats, protein, and delicious.
• Sunflower seeds – deliciously fresh, slightly sweet. Great in salads.
• Broccoli seeds - difficult to find and reputedly harder to sprout, but they are delicious!
• Alfalfa seeds - mellow fresh green taste that might be described as slightly sweet, slightly bitter.
• Lentils of all sorts – really easy to spout.

Sprouts can be:
• Tossed into salads.
• Blended into fruit or vegetable juices
• Added to wraps and roll-ups (alfalfa, sunflower, radish)
• Added to any classic Asian stir-fry recipes with other vegetables (alfalfa, mung bean, lentil)
• Mixed with soft cheeses for a dip
• Stirred into soups or stews when serving
• Eaten fresh and uncooked as a snack
• Used in sandwiches instead of lettuce

Combining protein rich foods increases the protein absorption by about 30%, and so it is important to combine grains, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds and greens in a vegetarian diet. Below are some classic vegetarian high protein combinations, but of course, you can come up with many more options just by using a little creativity:

Great Vegetarian Protein Sources:
• Corn and beans
• Brown rice and beans
• Oat bran and soy milk
• Buckwheat and millet
• Brown rice and green peas
• Tofu or Tempeh on whole wheat bread
• Whole grain bread and peanut butter
• Yogurt with walnuts
• Tofu with tahini (sesame seed paste)
• Brown rice with almonds, cashews or pecans
• Avocado, sprouts & almond butter on whole wheat bread
• Chickpea hummus (made with sesame seed paste) on whole-wheat pita

Iron: Iron can be found in green leafy vegetables and in beans and other legumes such as green peas, lentils, chickpeas, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, and beans of all kinds (kidney, lima, aduki, navy beans, soy beans and products made from them; e.g., tofu, textured vegetable protein, tempeh, soy milks), peanuts, etc...

Calcium: Calcium is found in green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, or collards, as well as in beans. Try black, white, kidney, pinto, or any other variety. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, and others are loaded with highly absorbable calcium and a whole lot of other nutrients.

One cup of cooked kale, for example, has the same amount of absorbable calcium (100 milligrams) as one cup of cow’s milk with less than half the calories and none of the saturated fat or cholesterol that come from dairy products. Plant sources of calcium are better than dairy products for bones because they provide calcium and avoid animal proteins, to help you reduce bone loss.

Calcium–fortified orange and apple juices, as well as soy and rice milks, contain 300 milligrams or more of calcium per cup. You only need two–thirds of a cup of fortified orange juice, one cup of fortified soymilk to get the same amount of absorbable calcium as an 8–ounce glass of cow’s milk.

Calcium Rich Foods include :
Orange Juice
Soy Milk
Sesame Seeds (Tahina for example)
Firm Tofu
Green Veggies – kale, broccoli, spinach (best raw in salads), turnips, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok-choy, beans, whole meals like grains and flour.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is needed for cell division and blood formation. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, fortified soy milk, vitamin B12 fortified meat substitutes such as Tofu and Seitan
and other products as well as vitamin B12 supplements.

Did you know.....? There was a time when vegetarians could get plenty of vitamin B12 from bacteria in drinking water. Since drinking water is now treated with chemicals that kill the bacteria, it's important to make sure that you get enough vitamin B12 from fortified foods or supplements.

Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can't make them -- you have to get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils.

Research shows that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.

Omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, garlic, as well as moderate wine consumption. Flaxseed oil, ground flaxseeds, walnuts, rapeseed oil, dark green vegetables like seaweed, broccoli, spinach and kale are reasonable sources of Omega-3 essential if eaten regularly. Other green vegetables, like spring greens, dark salad leaves, cabbage, brussel sprouts and parsley are also good sources of Omega-3.

Clinical evidence for the need for Omega-3 Fatty Acids is strongest for heart disease and problems that contribute to heart disease, but Omega 3 may also be used for:

High cholesterol, High blood pressure, Heart disease, Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), Osteoporosis, Depression, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Skin disorders, Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Asthma, Macular Degeneration (a serious age-related eye condition that can progress to blindness), Menstrual pain, Colon cancer, Breast cancer.

I'm no doctor, but I wonder if many of the common, modern ailments that have grown so rampant in recent decades can be improved by proper nutrition and more vegetarian protein sources.

I read that according to experts, our current consumption of Omega-3 fatty acid has shrunk to one sixth of 1850 levels and by comparison, our intake of Omega-6 fatty acids has doubled since 1940. Excess intake of Omega-6 can cause increased water retention, raised blood pressure and raised blood clotting. Hmmmmm…… Food for thought.

Iron Absorption Enhancers: These foods assist your body in absorbing the iron you consume :
Fruits: Orange, Orange Juice, Cantaloupe, Strawberries, Grapefruit etc.
Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Tomato, Tomato juice, Potato, Green and Red Pepper
White wine (White wine is gooood!)

Iron Absorption Inhibitors : These foods inhibit proper absorption of iron in foods you consume :
Vegetables: Chard, Beet greens , Rhubarb
Red wine, coffee and tea (boo-hoo. I LOVE red wine!)

A study by scientists from King's College London has found that relatively small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from algae can lower blood pressure and could ultimately reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. This form of omega-3, unlike fish oil, has the advantage of being both sustainable and acceptable to vegetarians. Science Daily (Mar. 31, 2007)

Now, here are some interesting facts.

1. The anatomical equipment of humans, such as teeth, jaws, and digestive system, is built to support a meatless diet. The American Dietetic Association notes that "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets."

2. Swedish scientist Karl von Linne states, "Man's structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food."

3. If you compare herbivores and humans, it appears that humans are much more closely related to herbivores than to meat eating animals. Our systems are not designed to digest and ingest meat.

4. The ADA (American Dietetic Association) says that "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on a vegetarian or Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet."

Did you know….? More interesting facts about human anatomy that support the belief that we humans were not built to consume and digest meat.

Meat-eaters: have claws
Herbivores: no claws
Humans: no claws

Meat-eaters: have no skin pores and perspire through the tongue
Herbivores: perspire through skin pores
Humans: perspire through skin pores

Meat-eaters: have sharp front teeth for tearing, with no flat molar teeth for grinding
Herbivores: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding
Humans: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding

Meat-eaters: have intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly
Herbivores: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.
Humans: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.

Meat-eaters: have strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest meat
Herbivores: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Humans: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater

Meat-eaters: salivary glands in mouth not needed to pre-digest grains and fruits.
Herbivores: well-developed salivary glands which are necessary to pre-digest grains and fruits.
Humans: well-developed salivary glands, which are necessary to pre-digest, grains and fruits

Meat-eaters: have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Herbivores: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Humans: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains

*Based on a chart by A.D. Andrews, Fit Food for Men, (Chicago: American Hygiene Society, 1970)

Now, that's food for thought!

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Mimi Avishai

I'm Mimi (that's me on the Nile River!) and this is my recipe collection. I love to be creative, love to cook and love to entertain. I'm also veggie which means that all of the above gets a bit more complicated – and a lot more fun!

On I share some of my family's favourite recipes, from soups and starters to holiday main dishes and desserts as well as some really good tips and suggestions for healthy eating!

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