A vegetarian can have a healthy lifestyle when it comes to food habits. A balanced diet for them is easily possible but most vegetarians don’t take care to consume an important nutrient of a balanced diet — the proteins.
The richest sources of protein are usually not consumed by vegetarians — meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Being the building blocks of a human body, proteins are essential for the proper functioning of all the organ in our bodies. Therefore vegetarians have to work a little harder than non-vegetarians to find and consume sources of this important nutrient.
As far as bodily functions go, proteins help in exercising, performing athletics and in body building. Hence these days, protein shakes and supplements have become quite a trend. Most supplements contain a vegetarian source of protein called whey. It is still not an option for vegans as it is a dairy product — whey is the water left after milk is curdled to form cheese. This water can help build muscles, lose fat, provide energy and in the overall development of the body. It also helps to control diabetes and high cholesterol. We can get whey protein from the big boxes of flavoured supplements that are available in any store, or naturally from the water that is left behind after making paneer.
On an average, women require 46 grams of protein per day and men require 56 grams. This quota is easily attained with a meat-based diet, but vegetarians and vegans need to be able to take a higher quantity of protein rich food to maintain a balance in the body and avoid malnourishment. A great vegetarian source of protein is the soybean. This works for vegans as well as it is not an animal product. Soy or soya is a source of pure protein and comes in various forms — tofu, soy milk, powder and edamame (fresh soybean still in its pods). With 36 grams of protein in 100 grams of soybeans, this is an easy way to keep your protein levels to the optimum. You can find these little white beans in any grocery store or organic store and soya milk is now commercially available at all general stores.
The legumes that form a part of our daily diet in India luckily have high levels of protein in them. Chole, rajma, daal, peas and gram are very versatile and can be prepared as main courses, appetisers or desserts. With about 10 grams of protein per cup, if eaten in the right quantity, legumes can provide you with the energy required for proper functioning of the body as well as help you fight against infections. Another staple in an Indian’s diet is curd or yoghurt. A powerhouse in the protein department with about 15 grams in a small bowl, yoghurt can be enjoyed with meals and can be converted to a condiment or a side dish like raita. It can also be mixed with sugar to form a sweet and sour dessert.