Balancing the Protein Intake in Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

Getting the required amount of protein in your everyday diet without consuming too much meat can seem tough, maybe even impossible. It can appear especially difficult if you are vegan or vegetarian and are looking to consume vegetarian protein or plant protein. Getting all the required nutrients and minerals is just a matter of following a healthy, wholesome diet. Protein-rich meats can be substituted by simple, everyday ingredients to get all the protein your body requires.

Listed below are some of the most easy-to-source, simple-to-cook sources of vegetarian protein:

  •  Legumes
    Legumes

Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, green peas, soybeans, kidney beans, etc. are some of the most common ingredients used in vegetarian, Indian dishes. Legumes are a powerhouse of nutrients as they are rich in fibre, iron, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins apart from protein. For instance, half a cup of cooked chickpeas contains about 7 grams of dietary protein. Dishes such as lentil curries and hummus are a great source of vegetarian protein and make a perfect substitute for meats. Legumes are often classified as incomplete proteins. However, when paired with rice, it makes a complete protein and can provide all the essential amino acids your body requires on a daily basis. Including dishes such as dal tadka, dal makhani, toor dal fry, channa masala, etc., are a simple, quick and delicious protein-fix.

  •  Tofu

    Vegetarian ProteinTofu, or bean curd, is a plant-based protein. It makes an excellent addition to several Indian dishes and is immensely popular as a vegan alternative for paneer (cottage cheese). Half a cup of tofu contains about 10 grams of dietary proteins. It is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids including omega-3 fats, making it a heart-healthier alternative for high-fat meats that contain saturated fat. Curries, salads, noodles, etc. are some of the dishes that tofu can be incorporated into.

  • Heart-healthy Nuts

    Healthy Nuts

Including nuts such as cashews and almonds is a great way to incorporate plant-based protein into vegetarian and vegan diets. Furthermore, nuts are excellent sources of heart-healthy fats, dietary fibre and vitamin E besides being a vegetarian protein mine. About 23 whole almonds provide about 6 grams of protein, while around 17 cashews contain just over 4 grams of dietary protein.

  • Dairy Foods and Their Alternatives

Apart from the above, dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are also great sources of vegetarian protein. Paneer, a fresh cheese used widely in Indian cuisine, contains about 17 grams of protein per cup. Calcium-fortified non-dairy substitutes, such as soy milk and soy yoghurt, are also excellent sources of protein. A cup of milk or soy milk provides about 8 grams, and 1 cup of low-fat yoghurt contains about 13 grams of dietary protein.

These ingredients work great with Indian dishes and are easily available in almost all local stores. If you lack the time to prepare your own food, then you can choose to get a meal subscription plan that includes some or all of the above-mentioned vegetarian goodness in their meal plan. That way, you can still get that vegetarian protein and keep your protein game strong!

5 Food Additives You Should Avoid

Food additives are nothing but chemicals that are added to food products to ease the processing, enhance the flavours and improve their shelf life. However, unlike the term suggests, these chemicals don’t really “add” any value to the food. Some of these additives are said to be cancer-causing and have been linked to triggering several ailments.

Listed below are some of the most common additives to stay clear from:

Food Additives

  • Artificial sweeteners

Aspartame (E951) is a chemical compound that is most commonly used in “diet” and “sugar-free” foods. A neurotoxin and a carcinogenic, this compound is said to have drastic effects on intelligence and short-term memory. Brain tumour, diseases like lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, emotional disorders like depression and anxiety attacks, dizziness, headaches, nausea, mental confusion, migraines and seizures are some of the ailments that artificial sweeteners are said to trigger. Some of the most commonly consumed food products that contain aspartame include sugar-free sodas, diet coke, coke zero, jello (and other gelatins), desserts, sugar-free gum, drink mixes, baking goods, tabletop sweeteners, cereal, breath mints, pudding, ice tea, chewable vitamins, toothpaste.

  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is widely used as a flavour enhancer in soups, salad dressings, chips, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods. MSG is known as an excitotoxin – a substance that causes cells to get overexcited to the point of damage or death. Increased consumption of MSG can result in adverse side effects including depression, disorientation, eye damage, fatigue, headaches, and obesity. MSG is used as an additive in Chinese food, many snacks, chips, cookies, seasonings, frozen dinners and lunch meats.

  • Trans Fat

Trans fat is on the extreme end of the dangerous additives chart. It finds application in increasing the shelf-life of food products. Several studies show that trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels while decreasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increases the risk of heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes, and contributes to increased inflammation, diabetes, and other health problems. Deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, baked goods, fast foods, chips and crackers are some examples of trans fat-containing foods.

  • Sodium Nitrate/Sodium Nitrite

Sodium nitrate (or sodium nitrite) is often used as a preservative, colouring, and flavouring in processed meats. This compound is highly carcinogenic once it enters the human digestive system. Once inside the digestive system, it forms a variety of nitrosamine compounds that enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc with a number of internal organs, the liver and pancreas in particular. Sodium nitrate is found commonly in food items such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, lunch meats, corned beef, smoked fish and other processed meats.

  • Soy Lecithin

Soy lecithin is used to give products a smooth, uniform appearance. Some of the more commonly recognized side effects associated are like bloating, diarrhoea, mild skin rashes, nausea and stomach pain. Used primarily as an emulsifier, you can find this compound in anything from salad dressing to tea bags, especially chocolates.