How much protein do vegetarians actually need?
What is protein and why do we need it?
Protein is important, without it we wouldn’t be able to build, maintain and repair the body’s tissues. Protein exists in virtually every tissue in your body, at least 10,000 different proteins make you who you are. Of the 20 amino acids that are used to make protein, there are nine that cannot be produced within the body and those are the nine essential amino acids that we obtain from the food we eat.
How much protein do we need?
Well, it might not be as much as you thought. Tell someone you're a vegetarian (or - gasp - a vegan) and their first concern is that you can't possibly be hitting the exorbitant daily quota of protein the human body requires to function. But in reality, if you actually look at the recommendations, it's not that high at all. The recommended amount of protein an adult needs is 42g. And on average, we are consuming nearly twice that amount in our everyday diets - over the recommended intake.
What's wrong with following a high-protein diet?
Protein is one of three equally essential macronutrients that our nutritional needs are broken up into. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, however, protein is never branded as the 'reason' you're gaining weight nor are we ever urged to follow low-protein diets. As a result, there's a general misconception that a high-protein, low carb and low fat diet is the most effective way to stay slim and trim.
But overeating protein may come at a price. People who have problems processing excess protein may be at risk for kidney and liver issues and osteoperosis. And in terms of weight loss, a new study suggests any weight loss experienced wouldn't be worth the associated health risks.
What are vegetarian sources of protein?
Vegetarian sources of protein include the spectrum of plant-based proteins (covered below) as well as animal products like eggs, cheese, milk and yoghurt.
What are vegan sources of protein?
When it comes to plants, only quinoa and soy beans (which you may know better as edamame, tofu or tempeh) contain all amino acids and can be considered 'complete' proteins. But vegans can pair protein sources up to create complete proteins. One cup of beans, for example, contains about 16 grams of protein per serving, while a cup of brown rice contains 5 grams. Eaten together, the amino acids in these foods form a complete protein. Also, plant-based proteins don’t have any saturated fat, and are usually lower in calories.
So there you have it. By ensuring you follow a healthy and varied diet filled with everything a vegetarian can eat - the chances are, you're getting enough protein anyway.Sumati Menda
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