About a year ago my tween daughter announced that she wanted to try a vegetarian diet. My first thought was panic. I had visions of finding her emaciated body lying on the kitchen floor, hand outstretched towards a refrigerator populated by a wilted lettuce and one lonely carrot. I soon snapped out of this over-dramatic fantasy and instead hit the recipe books. I not only discovered some great recipes but actually started challenging my own views and preconceptions towards vegetarian and vegan cookery.
WHY DO WE NEED PROTEIN?
In order to function effectively, our cells and organs need protein. Every single cell in our body needs protein from our bones to our hormones. The human body cannot make proteins by itself, we have to consume them from an outside source and this is what makes our food choices so important. Meat is a high source of protein but that doesn’t mean that there are no other options.
Want to eat more protein without tucking into a slab of red meat every other meal? Here are 10 foods packed with protein to help get you started.
Ten Protein Packed Foods For Vegetarians
The Ancient Greeks and Romans prized it as a delicacy but here’s an interesting and slightly revolting fact: asparagus makes urine smell disgusting. Chemicals contained within asparagus make everyone’s pee smell, but unless you are sensitive to the specific smell, you won’t be able to detect it. On the plus side, it’s loaded with nutrients including chromium which helps insulin to transport glucose from the blood into cells.
Lentils are part of the legume family and as such are edible pulses. Loved by the Ancient Egyptians, (believe it or not lentils have been found in ancient burial chambers), they are super protein providers and high in fiber. This soluble fiber helps to control cholesterol and blood sugar levels making lentils a high ranking superfood. They are great in stews and curries but our all-time fave has to be lentil soup.
3. Hemp Seeds
The hemp seed has something of a checkered past and because of it’s close resemblance to the marijuana plant, American farmers are not allowed to grow it. That aside, hemp seeds are an incredible source of protein, fiber and essential fats.
It’s hard to make broccoli sound sexy and alluring, especially as it’s related to cabbage, but it does have some mystery up it’s sleeve. Broccoli is not only a terrific source of protein, it’s also unbelievably high in calcium. Parents of lactose intolerant children are recommended to serve broccoli in order to help bone development and one cup of raw broccoli will also provide you with your entire daily dose of Vitamin C. Great for vegetarians and vegans.
5. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)
Quinoa broke it’s way into the trendy superfood market about 18 months ago. It’s closely related to beetroot and spinach and is an incredibly rich source of amino acids. 100g has typically 120 calories and it’s packed with minerals and B vitamins. There are over a hundred types of quinoa but you’re most likely to see the white and red varieties in your local stores and restaurants. Great in salads and as a substitute for rice, we recommend you try it if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon already.
6. Chia Seeds
Move over acai berries and quinoa .. chia seeds are coming through. These tiny seeds are the new hot superfood and have been hailed as aiding weight loss and boosting brain power. Calorie for calorie they do pack an amazing punch as they are an excellent source of protein, fiber, calcium and magnesium. The majority of the fat they contain is omega-3 and they are stuffed full of anti-oxidants. Wow!
7. (and 8.) Peas and Beans
Peas and beans are classified as legumes and as such have a lot of the same benefits as lentils. They are high in protein and fiber but they are also wonderful sources of iron and are particularly good combatants of anaemia. Peas and beans do carry a warning, however. They can cause flatulence, so maybe go easy on the portions – or at least open a window!
9. Sunflower Seeds
One tablespoon of sunflower seeds contains around 45 calories. Unsalted, roasted sunflower seeds are high in phosphorous, manganese and selenium so they are a great antioxidant and help bone health. Great on salads or as a lunch box snack, choose them instead of fatty chips for a healthy kick start.
Forget the facial, try adding a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds to your salad and see the benefits to your skin. A good source of vitamin E, these wonder seeds can also aid a good night’s sleep as they contain tryptophan and have reportedly been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as packing a protein punch.