Where do I get vegetable protein from?

It is commonly thought that vegetarian food is low in protein and high in carbohydrates and that meat is the only or main food to get protein from.

This is not necessarily true.  Yes meat and animal products do contain what is called a complete protein in that it will provide all the necessary amino acids.  Plant foods are considered incomplete proteins as on their own they may only contain some of the essential amino acids.

But never fear, protein combining will in fact give you a complete protein from plant based foods.  Legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas etc), nuts and seeds and grains (eg rice, quinoa, wheat) are all plant based foods that on their own have some of the essential amino acids.  To get a complete protein all you need to do is combine at least 2 of these foods at the same time.  Eg have a meal with chick peas and rice and you then have a complete protein similar to meat/animal products!!  Its that simple.  Some people find it difficult to digest grains and legumes at the same time, so ensuring both are eaten over the course of the same day will still ensure their essential amino acid profile is met. And don’t forget nuts and seeds.

I find it alarming the number of vegetarians I have spoken to that are not aware of protein combining.  Most actually are protein combining but not consciously making this choice.  It is extremely important for vegetarians and in particular vegans to protein combine at meals or by eating these higher protein vegetable foods throughout the course of their day every day.

Here are the sources of the most concentrated plant proteins:

  1. Soy products eg tofu/tempeh/miso;
  2. Grains have more protein than most people realise and in particular quinoa and amaranth have the highest amount of protein.  Although they are technically seeds, they are often considered grains;
  3. Legumes eg lentils, chick peas, beans;
  4. Nuts and seeds.  Making nut or seed butter/spreads are a great way to eat these foods eg tahini is made with sesame seeds, or try almond spread instead of peanut butter.
  5. Seaweed and micro algae contain quite a fair bit of protein.  Micoalgae eg chlorella and spirulina have very concentrated amounts of protein.  Spirulina on its own is a complete protein and being a single celled structure we can diegest and absorb up to 85% of the protein!!  We can only digest up to 20% of the protein from meat!  Unfortunately micoalgae is only available in powder or tablet form, but still a great way to get enough protein into the diet, and better still they actually cleanse and purify the body at the same time.


Don’t forget protein powders can come in handy too if you don’t think you are getting enough protein.  Good vegetable choices are pea, rice and carob protein powders.

Eating too much protein can impact on calcium levels though.  The daily protein intake should be 75g a day.  Going beyond this can mean you are losing more calcium in your urine than you are absorbing from your food.

Its all about balance!

Concerned about whether you are getting enough protein or too much?  Contact Megan for a consult!



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