The Importance of Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in increasing muscle mass and muscle repair. Not only does protein boost your body’s metabolism, helping you burn fat, but it also provides numerous other benefits. Adequate protein intake can lead to glowing skin, strong hair, and a lower risk of arthritis. While eggs are often seen as a popular protein source, there are other vegetarian options that are even better. In this blog, we will explore five amazing vegetarian protein foods that outshine eggs in terms of nutrition and health benefits.
#5 Urad Dal
Urad dal, also known as black lentils, is a protein-packed food that offers numerous health benefits. Just one katori (bowl) of urad dal contains 15 grams of protein, making it an excellent choice for vegetarians. Additionally, urad dal is rich in three vital micronutrients: magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Magnesium helps relax the muscles, manganese provides body strength, and zinc boosts testosterone levels. In Ayurveda, black urad dal is referred to as “Maash,” which means “muscle-building.” To aid digestion, it is recommended to add hing (asafoetida) and tej patta (bay leaf) while cooking urad dal. Another alternative is green moong dal, which also contains 14 grams of protein and is easily digestible. Whether consumed as a regular dal, sprouts, cheela, or halwa, incorporating urad dal or green moong dal into your diet can provide more protein than three eggs. Furthermore, studies have shown that consuming more than one egg per day increases the risk of diabetes by 23%, while lentils like urad dal reduce the risk of diabetes by 20%.
#4 Bhuna Chana
Bhuna chana, or roasted chickpeas, is another vegetarian protein powerhouse. Just 100 grams of bhuna chana contains a whopping 22 grams of protein. The roasting process eliminates anti-nutrients that hinder protein absorption, making it an excellent choice for maximizing protein intake. Modern studies have recognized the superior quality of protein found in bhuna chana compared to other plant proteins. Indian wrestlers swear by this superfood and often opt for bhuna chana as a healthier alternative to popular snacks like potato chips. Bhuna chana can be enjoyed as a snack or made into a chat (savory snack). It is important to consume bhuna chana with the skin to maximize fiber intake. Additionally, powdered bhuna chana, known as sattu, is a famous drink in India known for its easy protein absorption. One scoop of sattu contains 7 grams of protein and is a natural alternative to whey protein, which often contains artificial sweeteners and flavors. Chana sattu can be used as a filling for paranthas, to make cheelas, or simply enjoyed as a refreshing drink. With its low glycemic index and natural composition, chana sattu is the ideal protein powder choice.
Milk is a classic and versatile protein source that provides numerous health benefits. Just one glass of milk contains 10 grams of quality protein. In addition to protein, milk is rich in vitamin D, B12, CLA, and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a viable vegetarian alternative to non-vegetarian foods. Combining milk with chana sattu and sweetening it with a banana can create a desi post-workout shake. Studies have shown that consuming milk after a workout can decrease muscle damage, promote muscle repair, increase strength, and reduce muscle soreness. Milk can also be used to create other protein-rich products. For example, squeezing lemon into milk produces paneer, a cheese that contains around 20 grams of protein per 100 grams. Making dahi (yogurt) from milk provides 7 grams of protein in just one katori (bowl). Ethically sourced milk and milk products not only provide protein but also contain protein enablers that help build lean muscle mass and reduce body fat.
#2 Green Peas
Green peas are not only high in protein but are also considered a complete source of protein. Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, making them ideal for vegetarians and vegans. Green peas are a popular choice for vegan protein powders and have been scientifically proven to be on par with whey protein. A study conducted in 2015 divided 161 males into three groups: pea protein, whey protein, and placebo. The study concluded that the muscle growth in the pea protein group was equal to that in the whey protein group. One cup of green peas provides 9 grams of quality protein and offers an opportunity to reduce blood sugar levels. Green peas are versatile and can be incorporated into various dishes such as aloo (potato), gobhi (cauliflower), gajar (carrot), or pulao (rice dish). For example, a serving of matar paneer (green peas and cottage cheese) easily provides 25 grams of protein. Ayurveda suggests consuming green peas for lunch due to their gassy nature, but they can also be enjoyed during dinner. Green peas offer a tasty and nutritious way to meet your protein needs.
When it comes to vegetarian protein sources, peanuts reign supreme. Comparing them to almonds, cashews, or walnuts, peanuts contain the highest amount of protein. Just one handful of peanuts contains 7 grams of protein. While peanuts are primarily known for their healthy fats, studies have recognized their protein content and its benefits. In fact, a study found that peanut powder increased muscle mass and strength while decreasing body fat. Regular consumption of peanuts has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease by 13%. However, it is essential not to consume excessive amounts of peanuts. Approximately 15-20 peanuts or 2 spoons of peanut butter per day are sufficient to enjoy their protein benefits without overindulging.
How Much Protein Do We Really Need?
Determining the ideal daily protein intake can be challenging, as different studies and approaches exist. Ayurveda focuses on food digestibility rather than macronutrients in isolation. Since protein is relatively hard to digest, excessive protein intake can potentially harm the body. On the other hand, modern studies like the China Study, which spanned approximately 22 years, recommend that 5-10% of daily calorie intake should come from protein, depending on activity level. Fortunately, a regular Indian diet can easily meet these protein requirements. For example, a simple 1800-calorie diet consisting of 2 paranthas with curd for breakfast, aloo matar with 3 chapatis for lunch, dal rice for dinner, and half a glass of milk at night can supply approximately 43 grams of protein, which meets the recommended intake. Of course, if your fitness goals demand more protein, you can always rely on the five protein-rich vegetarian foods mentioned above.
Protein is an essential component of a balanced diet and plays a vital role in muscle growth and repair. While eggs have long been considered a popular protein source, there are several vegetarian alternatives that offer even greater nutritional value. Urad dal, bhuna chana, milk, green peas, and peanuts are all excellent protein-rich foods that provide a wide range of health benefits. By incorporating these vegetarian protein sources into your diet, you can enjoy the benefits of muscle-building, improved skin health, and reduced risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Remember, protein intake should be balanced and align with your specific dietary and fitness goals.