If you are a vegetarian, then chances are that people tell you about the lack of nutritional value in plant sources that animal sources have in abundance. You must have heard about plants not having the same level of carbohydrates, fat, omega 3, and most importantly proteins, as animal sources.
“Where do you get your energy from?” must be the common question asked to you at your office party. If you have watched the Aamir Khan Starrer bollywood film Dangal, you might remember the scene where Aamir Khan makes his daughters eat chicken to build their stamina in order to participate in wrestling competitions.
Snapshot of nutrients found in animal sources but not in plant sources:
Most athletes are advised to eat boiled chicken to increase the protein levels in their body. It is true that Plant sources do lack few nutrients in comparison to animal sources as shown in the below table.
|Plant source||Animal source|
Fish, meat, dairy products
Oily fish, eggs and dairy products
Beef, pork, lamb
However, it will be entirely wrong to say that plant sources do not provide energy
Plant sources may not provide macronutrients such as carbohydrates and fat the way animal sources do, but they are rich in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. There are iron rich foods and plant based protein food that you can consume to balance your diet and maintain your energy levels.
Iron rich food and plant based protein food to be included in your diet
Iron rich food
Iron is very vital for your body. It produces haemoglobin, which helps in carrying oxygen to the body’s cells. Lack of adequate haemoglobin levels could make a person anaemic and might, in turn, make them weak, fatigued and irritable. Anaemia is one of the most common conditions among men and women alike. Hence, it is important that you consume iron enriched food regularly. Thankfully, unlike other nutrients, vegetarians have plenty of options to choose from to get their dose of iron.
Here are few plant foods high in iron:
Spinach: Eating spinach may not make you Popeye, but it will definitely protect you from becoming anaemic. Spinach and other leafy vegetables are known to be good sources of iron. Here is a simple and tasty recipe that you can follow to add spinach to your diet in its healthiest form.
Banana Spinach Smoothie Recipe
Weird as it might sound, this banana spinach smoothie is supposed to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways of consuming spinach. The banana and milk together nullify the raw taste of spinach.
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup of soya milk
- 1 cup of cut spinach
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
- Wash the spinach well to remove mud
- Chop the banana
- Pour soya milk in the blender, add spinach and banana to it and blend them together
- Add ice cubes to the smoothie and have it cold
There cannot be a better way to beat the summer heat. You can also add variations such as mint leaves and berries to make it tastier.
Myths on Plant Based Protein Foods
Before we talk about the best sources of plant-based protein, let us first debunk the myths that people have about plant based protein food.
Myth # 1 – Proteins are available only in meat
Reality – Lentils, tofu and nuts like almonds are known to be an equally good source of proteins as meat.
Myth # 2 – Plant-based proteins are not complete
Reality – While it is true that plant-based food does not have all essential amino acids as animal sources are believed to have, there are plant source food such as Hemp seeds and Quinoa that have complete protein. You can consume them to get a complete dose of proteins.
Myth # 3 – You need to combine different plant source food to get full advantage of plant proteins
Reality – As stated above, plant-based proteins may not have all the essential amino acids. Few sources might be rich in certain amino acids, while some may lack them. However, as per a 2009 study published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you need not combine different plant-based foods to get all the essential amino acids.
You can eat a variety of plant foods over the course of the day to get your dose of nine essential amino acids. For example, you can have soya milk in the morning and then have a cup of almonds for snacks.
Now that we have debunked few myths behind plant based protein food, let us look at some of the richest sources of plant-based protein.
Rich Sources of Plant Based Protein
Source # 1 – Lentils
Undoubtedly one of the best sources of getting proteins, Lentils are a staple for every Indian. Besides proteins, lentils are also a good source of carbohydrates and fiber. Indians usually add split pigeon peas and split green gram in their daily food. Dal is one of the staple foods consumed by Indians. It is considered as one of the easiest and tastiest gravies that can be eaten with anything such as rice and Indian bread.
Source # 2 – Nuts
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios are known to be a filling and rich source of proteins. Besides proteins, nuts are rich in minerals, vitamin E and healthy fats.
Source # 3 – Soya Milk
Soya milk is the vegetarian version of animal milk, which is known to be high in protein content. Soya beans are soaked, dried and grinded in water. 100 gms of soya milk is believed to be 3.3 gms of protein.
Source # 4 – Chia Seeds
People often tell you that plant-based food does not have Omega 3. Here is another myth that can be debunked. Chia seeds are known to be rich in Omega 3 besides boosting fiber and protein in your body. Chia seeds have a unique property of absorbing water through their soluble fiber content.
Soya milk, nuts and Chia seeds can be eaten in their raw form. However, lentils are usually consumed in cooked form. Here is a simple dish that you can prepare using lentils. It is called Lentil soup. Lentil soup can easily be called soul food as it can be eaten on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you are in no mood to cook a lavish dish or when you are unwell.
Two Best Recipes for High Source of Protein
Recipe # 1 – Lentil soup
- 2 cups of well rinsed red lentils
- 1 chopped pepper
- 1 large chopped tomato
- 1 to 1 1/2-inch piece peeled and grated ginger
- 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped coriander leaves
- 1/4 cup yogurt
Preparation Time: 35 minutes
- Combine the lentils and few cups of warm water in a pot to soften the lentils
- Cover the lid and bring to a boil
- Add the pepper, tomato, ginger, garlic to the boiling lentil
- Add turmeric and salt as per your requirement
- Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 18 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened
- Once thickened, garnish the soup with coriander leaves and yogurt.
Recipe # 2 – Chia seeds Porridge
You can bring variation to the otherwise boring Chia seeds with this easy and tasty Chia seed porridge.
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 1 banana
- 2 seedless dates
- 1 cup of almond milk
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- Salt to taste
Preparation time: 25 minutes
- Add chia seeds in a bowl
- Add banana and dates in a blender and mix it with almond milk, powdered cinnamon, and salt
- Blend the mixture until smooth and pour it over chia seeds, stirring it well
- Allow the mixture to thicken. It should take around 15 minutes to set
- Your Chia porridge is ready! Do not forget to add your favourite fruit over the porridge to make it interesting.
Besides iron and plant-based protein food, plant sources are also rich in macronutrients. In fact, there are foods that are rich sources of energy. Let us now look at some of the foods you must include in your diet.
Plant-based foods that is rich in macronutrients
Like animal based foods, plant-based foods have also been graded to help you determine the frequency at which you must consume them.
|1||Safe starches: potatoes, white rice, taro, tapioca, sago, sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash|
|2||Healthful sugary plants such as beets, carrots, onions, fruits, berries|
|3||Low omega-6 nuts such as macadamia, coconut|
|4||Moderate-omega-6 nuts such as avocados|
|6||High-omega-6 nuts and seeds|
|7||Beans; rye, oats; quinoa|
|8||Wheat, corn, and other grains; peanuts|
- Food that comes under level 1 to 3 should be the staple part of your diet, as they mainly comprise of safe starches, which essentially contain no fructose or certain sugary plants that contain some fructose. It should be eaten at least 5 days per week. What distinguishes level 1 to level 3-food source from level 4 and 5 is the fact that they contain omega 6 and have natural toxins.
- Food that comes under level 4 and 5 can be eaten occasionally for variety, while food that comes under level 6 should be eaten rarely. Foods that come under level 7 and 8 are generally rich in natural toxins and should be avoided completely.
3 Recipes to help you reach from Level 1 to Level 3 foods in your diet
Recipe# 1 – Sweet Potato Fries
- 6 large sweet peeled potatoes cut into steak fries
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- Garlic powder
- Olive oil for coating
- Preheat the oven up to 425 degrees
- Add cut fries into a large zip lock bag with olive oil and add salt, garlic and cinnamon
- Shake the zip lock for uniform coating
- Place the fries in the baking sheet. Leave some space between the fries
- Put it in the oven for 10 minutes and then flip them over
- Place them back for another 10 minutes
- They should be soft on the inside and browned on the outside.
- Cool it for 5 minutes and serve them with tomato ketchup!
Recipe# 2 – Carrot Halwa
There cannot be a better way to end a lavish dinner without having a bowl of carrot halwa. While carrot halwa is a much sought after dessert eaten in winter, it can be eaten throughout the year if sweet carrots are available in the market.
- 1 1/2 kg carrots
- 10 whole green cardamoms
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 500 gms sugar
- 250 gms clarified butter
- 400 gms condensed milk, you may also use mawa or khoya
- 50 gms almonds
- 50 gms pistachios
Preparation time: 40 minutes
- Grate the carrot and put it in a pot to heat
- Stir fry continuously till all the water has evaporated
- Add some green cardamom, cinnamon and sugar and cook for a while
- Add clarified butter and cook for another 5-7 minutes
- At last, add condensed milk or mawa/khoya to solidify the carrot and make it into halwa
- Present it on a plate and garnish it with pistachios and almonds
Recipe # 3 – Mango and Coconut Pannacotta
It is summer and there is no better time to indulge in everybody’s favourite fruit – the mango. While eating mango in its purest form is the most enjoyable experience of a sultry summer, a slight variation can make the experience even more fun.
- 1 cup of ripe mango pulp
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- 1 cup of fresh cream
- 1 1/2 Tbsp of vegetarian gelatine
- 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp of castor sugar
- Few drops of vanilla essence
- 1 peeled ripe mango
- Fresh mint leaves for garnishing
Preparation Time: 1 hour
- Take vegetarian gelatine in a bowl
- Add 1 tbsp of hot water to mix it well and dissolve completely
- Heat cream in a deep non-stick pan
- Add castor sugar and vanilla essence and mix it well
- Bring the mixture to a boil
- Add half the gelatine to mango pulp and remaining to the coconut milk and mix it well
- Add half the cooked cream to mango pulp and remaining to coconut milk and mix it well
- Spread a layer of mango cream into a short glass and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or till it sets
- Spread a layer of coconut cream over the mango cream layer and refrigerate for 1/2 hour or till it sets
- Repeat it until each layer sets properly
- Once ready, cut mango into small dices
- Top the pannacotta with mango dices and garnish it with mint leaves
- Refrigerate it and serve chilled.
We hope this information helped you understanding the important of plant-based proteins. Kindly leave your comment to let us know if we missed anything important in this article!