When it comes to fitness and especially weight training, you always need more protein. It has been preached for so long that we need extra protein to build muscle, but that is only a little true. If we eat a round diet focused on protein at every meal, we definitely don't need to add more.
But how does it work for vegans and vegetarians, who are often asked, "Where do you get your protein?" The answer is: Everywhere. All plant-based food sources, be they cereal products, provide amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. The body actually uses 20 amino acids to make proteins, and 9 of them are indispensable – which means we need to get them from our diet. If a food source contains at least all 9 essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. Some examples are eggs, poultry, meat, dairy products and seafood. When you eat a complete protein, scientists call it "bioavailable," meaning it is a food that allows your body to easily absorb and metabolize all the proteins it needs.
Vegetable protein sources, such as legumes, lack one of the essential amino acids, so it is not considered to be of high biological value because it is not a complete protein. It simply means that you need to eat other foods that contain this missing amino acid to get the full protein. The best way to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet is to eat a "combined" diet. Below are three complete protein-rich food combinations for those who are vegan / vegetarian:
- Vegan – grains (rice, barley, pasta, quinoa) and legumes (lentils, beans, peas):
- 1 cup rice and 1 cup lentil / vegetable soup.
- Whole grains with vegetables and 1/3 cup cannellini beans
- Vegetable – grains (pasta and cereals) and milk products (milk and cheese):
- ½ cup oatmeal and ½ cup milk with a handful of fresh berries and ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 slices of cheese and a serving of whole grain or seed crackers.
- Vegan / Vegetarian – Seeds / Nuts (pumpkin, sunflower, chia, almond) + legumes (peanuts, chick peas, lentils):
- For breakfast you can make a fruit muffin and add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
- Sweet hummus – 1 jar of chickpeas, 1/3 cup almond or peanut butter, 1/3 cup coconut sugar, ¼ cup rolled oats, squirt almond milk and a pinch of salt. Stir in the food processor until dough-like consistency, and then fold in some dark chocolate chips. A couple of 3 tablespoons put it on a couple of slices of apple
Make sure to combine at least one of these combinations with each meal OR consume at least one to two servings of each plant-based category (legumes, grains, seeds, and dairy products) to ensure you have adequate protein balance (depending on your diet). Good eating!
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