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Protein And The Vegetarian

By HERWriter
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The first question most vegetarians are asked is, "How do you manage to get enough protein?" To the uninitiated, the quest for sufficient protein can seem confusing and complex. But a little knowledge will go a long way towards being able to create a healthy vegetarian diet. And it can be done without having to scrutinize lengthy charts and lists, or doing complicated mathematical equations to ensure adequate protein intake.

Proteins contain amino acids. Of the 20 amino acids, eight of them must come directly from the diet. These eight are called essential amino acids. Any protein that contains all of these essential amino acids is called complete protein.

If any of these essential amino acids are lacking, the protein will be called incomplete protein. Most plants will have incomplete protein, but as long as vegetarians are eating a wide variety of these incomplete proteins, their protein needs can be met.

Ovo-lacto vegetarians will also consume eggs and dairy products. Vegans don't eat these animal proteins.

It should be remembered that animal sources are not the only sources of protein. Most vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds will contain some protein.

Getting enough of these foods will provide necessary protein to the vegetarian. While not all of these foods contain complete protein, a good assortment of plant foods can provide the needed amino acids.

It's not necessary, as was once believed, for all eight essential amino acids to be eaten at one sitting. Research indicates that the liver can store essential amino acids longer than was previously thought.

Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are often considered to be the highest quality protein. It's true that they do contain large amounts of all the essential amino acids.

Other sources that are considered to be high quality protein are soybeans, a grain called quinoa and spinach. Grains tend to be lower in the essential amino acid lysine.

Legumes tend to be lower in the essential amino acid methionine. So grains and legumes are examples of plant foods that contain incomplete proteins.

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EmpowHER Guest

I actually find it very easy to get enough protein as a vegetarian. There are so many things you can get it from, such as dairy, legumes, soy, TVP, etc. I love having hard-boiled eggs or greek yogurt in the morning. For lunch you can just add some beans or hummus to your salad or sandwich. For dinner you can have a stir-fry with tofu or tvp. For snacks you can have a handful of nuts, some peanut butter, or a glass of soy milk. All these combined give you more than enough daily protein. Lately my schedule has changed and I've been busier, but if you plan your meals out there will be no room for screwing up. I've discovered and particularly love the ready-made brand Tasty Bite, because the meals are preservative-free, all natural, low fat/sodium/calorie, are made from simple ingredients, don't need to be refrigerated, and only take 90 seconds to cook. I'm especially in love with their Madras Lentils, which have tons of protein. I definitely recommend them for a vegetarian on the go and as a brand that really makes sure each meal is well balanced. Thanks for the great article! Cheers!

July 26, 2010 - 12:40pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I have been on a vegan diet for a little over a year now. I have lost 45 pounds, my cholesterol, BP and sugar levels are excellent. My concern is the possible effect of not eating animal or fish protein and its' possible effect on my nervous system, as I have MS. I need to make sure I am taking the absolute best care of myself possible. Also, what is "TVP"?

January 30, 2013 - 5:57pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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