Protein is an important macronutrient required by the body for growth, maintenance, and normal functioning. In other words, proteins are the building block of the body.
Non-vegetarians get adequate good quality protein from animal foods. A substantial proportion of Indian population does not consume non-veg. Thus, they have to focus more on plant foods to get their dose of protein. Getting protein from a plant-based diet is not difficult.
As plant-based foods are not a complete source of protein, you need to club the right kind of foods to get good quality protein.
Indians just cannot do without lentils. Most of the Indian preparations have ‘lentils’ as their major ingredient. They are the main source of plant protein for Indian vegetarians.
Besides being rich in protein, lentils are a good source of B-complex vitamins, iron, potassium, phosphorus and dietary fiber.
100 grams of cooked lentils contain 9 grams of protein.
However, lentils are classified as an incomplete protein. Combining them with a cereal such as rice or chapati forms a complete protein and provides all the essential amino acids required by the body daily.
Different types of lentils commonly eaten in India include:
- Masoor dal or split red lentil
- Tur dal or split red gram
- Chana dal or split Bengal gram
- Urad dal or split black gram
- Mung dal or split green gram
- Whole mung
- Kabuli chana or chickpeas
- Rajma or red kidney beans
- Chawli or black-eyed beans (1)
MILK AND MILK PRODUCTS
Milk is labeled as nature’s perfect food because it is an important source of essential nutrients required by the body for good health.
Casein and whey are two vital milk proteins present in it. A tall glass (200 ml) of milk contains:
- Cow’s milk- 7 grams of protein
- Buffalo’s milk- 9 grams of protein
Proteins present in dairy milk provide satiety, suppress appetite and delay hunger pangs. Thus, drinking milk can be beneficial for those who want to lose weight, if taken in the correct quantity.
Curd and its products such as buttermilk and lassi are widely consumed in India. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein for vegetarians.
An interesting research has revealed that protein present in curd is more bio-available than protein present in milk.
Healthy bacteria present in curd improves protein digestibility. Hence, more protein from curd is absorbed and used in the body.
One bowl of curd (200 grams) contains 8 grams of protein. (4)
Paneer is a valuable source of protein in Indian vegetarian context. It is a great source of good quality protein, calcium, and phosphorus.
Presence of essential amino acids in paneer makes it an ideal food for growing children, pregnant women, infants, adolescents, and adults.
The utilization of protein in the body from buffalo milk paneer is greater than cow milk paneer.
Soybean is one of the few vegetarian sources of complete protein. It contains all essential amino acids which our body cannot produce and must be obtained from foods, for growth and maintenance of the body.
A protein present in soybean is regarded as equal to protein in animal foods. You can increase your daily protein intake by incorporating roasted soybean as a mid-meal snack or by adding soy flour to your regular wheat flour chapatis.
One serving or 30 grams of soybean contains 11 grams of protein. (7)
People always think that nuts are a high source of fat and their high protein content always goes unnoticed.
It is a good source of L-arginine, an amino acid that helps in lowering high blood pressure and improves heart health. (Also Read: Ayurvedic Medicine for High Blood Pressure)
Nuts are an incomplete source of protein, so don’t completely rely on them for your protein intake. Along with legumes and dairy products you can add a few nuts to your daily diet to boost overall protein intake.
15 grams of nuts contain 3 grams of protein. Here are some commonly consumed nuts in India:
- Cashew nuts
Do not consume nuts that are sugar-coated or the ones which have added salt in them. Enjoy nuts in their natural form. (8)
Adding one serving of oats (30-35 grams) to your daily diet is a good way to get some protein.
Oats are different and unique as compared to other cereals because of its high protein content and a special protein composition.
Germination of oats further increases the content of amino acids and improves its nutritional value.
The protein content of oats can further be improved by combining it with milk or lentils.
35 grams or one serving of oats contains 6 grams of protein. (9)
Mung sprouts have been a common food in India. It is usually consumed in the form of salad or subzi.
Germination is thought to improve the overall protein content of mung. The main storage proteins present in mung sprouts are albumin and globulin. Sprouting significantly increases essential amino acid content. The protein digestibility and bio-availability of mung or any other legume are improved after germination.
30 grams or 1/3 cup of raw mung beans yields 100 grams sprouts. 7 grams of protein is present in 30 grams raw mung beans. (10)
These tiny seeds have a unique protein profile and other essential nutrients. 15 grams or 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds contain 4.5 grams of protein.
Sprinkling some pumpkin seeds on fruit and vegetable salad or smoothies and milkshakes can be a good way to enhance your overall protein intake.
Though pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein they are also high in calories and fat. Therefore, it is best to limit the overall intake of pumpkin seeds to 15-20 grams.
As compared to sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds yield more protein. (11)