January 24, 2014 by Sim Raghunathan
“Where do you get your protein, man? You can’t live without meat!” This question and statement are the most common responses I get from my shocked male friends as I explain to them that I follow a vegetarian diet. After a while, I decided to do more research not only to show my friends that a plant-based diet is healthy, but also to remind myself of the many food options out there. I was determined to assist my fellow vegetarians in finding sources of protein through a method that would help animals rather than hurt them.
The overwhelming results showed that there are a large number of plant-based sources of protein that would pass any nutritionist’s checklist. From common foods such as black beans and chickpeas to more exciting options such as seitan and tempeh, there are lots of options for the veggie-lover. Tempeh tops this list of products with a whopping 31 grams of protein per cooked cup. Other options with high values of protein include kidney beans, pinto beans and lima beans, which all contain 15 grams of protein per cooked cup.
Another extremely large holder of protein is the soybean, with 29 grams of protein per cooked cup. You might want to order soy milk with your vanilla latte, because it contains seven grams of protein per cup. Soy yogurt happens to have six grams of protein per eight-ounce cup. Other large vegetarian sources of protein include lentils with 18 grams of protein per cup, seitan with 21 grams of protein per three-ounce serving, firm tofu with 11 grams of protein per four-ounce serving and veggie burgers with 13 grams of protein per patty. Of course, one cannot forget about more common sources of protein that we find in our meals such as almonds, peas, quinoa and peanut butter, which all contain about eight grams of protein per serving. The average adult male requires 56 grams of protein a day, which gives you an idea of how easy it is to meet one’s protein requirements. But what is all this discussion of different sources of protein leading up to? The key point is that vegetarians consume protein that is better and less acidic for our bodies.
Without realizing it, a lot of Americans consume too much animal protein. Researchers in England found that when people added five ounces of fish, which contain about 34 grams of protein, to a normal diet, the risk of forming urinary tract stones increased by 250 percent! When consuming forms of animal protein, individuals usually take in a level of protein that is too high for their bodies to effectively process, which leads to health problems such as osteoporosis, cancer, kidney disease and kidney stones. The solution is not only cheaper, but also allows your body to retain more protein on average as well. Plant-based protein is the way to go! The average price per gram of kidney beans is only 3.6 cents while the average price per gram of chicken breast is 5 cents. Consuming meat-free goods is a cheap alternative that provides your body with a higher percentage of calories from protein than from fat. For example, when you eat a hamburger, on average, 41 percent of the calories in that burger patty consist of protein while the remaining 59 percent of the calories consist of fat. There is a larger difference in such percentage comparisons when examining a serving of tofu. In a serving of tofu, 44 percent of the calories consist of protein while only 31 percent of the calories consist of fat.
So, what this all sums up to is that it’s really easy to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet! Basically, to get one’s daily dose of protein at the right amount, just eat a healthy vegetarian diet that contains plenty of nuts, seeds, fruit, grain, veggies, legumes and beans. You will actually be doing yourself a favor by consuming enough protein without reaching the level at which your body would become sick, more obese and increasingly unhealthy. Stick to plant-based proteins and you’ll find that you feel refreshed, rejuvenated and healthy!