People choose a vegetarian lifestyle for a number of reasons. Some individuals have an aversion to eating meat because they're concerned about animal welfare, while others find that a low-calorie, vegetarian diet promotes long-term health.
Vegetarianism can certainly be a healthy option, but those who eschew meat and sometimes eggs often have to find alternative sources of protein to meet dietary needs. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes, the average sedentary man should have 56 grams of protein per day, while an average sedentary woman should consume 46 grams per day. The amount of protein needed will increase if a person is more active, advises Healthline.
Protein helps a person feel fuller, longer, and it is crucial for all cells in the body. Protein is used to build and maintain bones, muscles, skin, and much more. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also states that protein is very important as one ages because aging men and women don't absorb or metabolize amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, as well as they did when they were younger.
Those adhering to vegetarian diets will find there are plenty of non-meat protein sources. Meatless protein sources that offer the biggest health bang for one's buck are "complete proteins," which have the essential amino acids the body requires. Some complete proteins include:
Some other great protein sources may not have all of the amino acids, but they can be paired with other foods to get a fuller nutrient package.
- seitan: This is a meat alternative made from wheat gluten.
- lentils: Lentils pack 18 grams of protein per cooked cup.
- beans: Many forms of beans contain a high amount of protein per serving.
- nutritional yeast: This is a strain of yeast that has a cheesy flavor. It can be sprinkled on foods to add a protein punch.
- ancient grains: Ancient grains include spelt, teff, barley, sorghum, farro, and einkorn. These ancient grains are higher in protein than common grains.
In addition to these foods, peanuts and other legumes, almonds, peas, oatmeal, spirulina, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and sweet corn also are good protein sources for vegetarians.
Even though it may seem like skipping meat products would leave vegetarians lacking for protein, there really are quite a number of alternative protein sources out there.