Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Getting Enough Protein on a Vegetarian Diet


Getting Enough Protein on a Vegetarian Diet

One of the most common questions that vegetarians get asked is, “How do you get enough protein?” It’s an understandable question – our bodies do need protein. Proteins are what builds muscle, and the slow digestion of protein makes it an important factor in avoiding blood sugar swings.

The amino acids that make up proteins are essential for healthy skin, hair, nails, and certain body functions, such as hormone production and tissue repair. However, some experts say that we over-emphasize protein as a dietary necessity, and that most omnivorous people actually consume more protein than they need.

The concept of the “complete protein” has been challenged in recent years. In the past, nearly all the experts agreed that vegetarians needed to take care to combine proteins at their meals in order to get the proper amount of protein – beans with rice, for instance, or potatoes with milk.

These days, though, the emphasis tends to be more on variety rather than specific food combinations. It is said that “incomplete” proteins actually combine with existing amino acids in the body, and therefore need not be combined on the plate.

Then vegetarians, perhaps, do need to be more aware of meeting their protein needs than omnivores. There are multiple ways to do that, and here are some suggestions.

Food Combinations

Some experts still maintain that combining foods to make complete proteins is important. If you are in this camp, consider planning your meals around these complete protein food combinations:

* Potatoes and dairy
* Beans and brown rice
* Legumes and whole grain pasta
* Legumes and nuts
* Corn, beans and rice


Soy is a complete plant-based protein. Soy products like tofu and soy-based meat substitutes are complete proteins.

High-Protein Vegetables and Fruits

Some plants are naturally high in protein by themselves. Avocado is one such plant food, as are lentils and beans.


If you are new to vegetarianism or just want some new menu ideas, it’s helpful to plan out some meals to make sure you are getting the balance and variety necessary for good health. Here are some menu ideas built around plant-based proteins.

1. Breakfast: Scrambled tofu, fresh orange, whole grain bread spread with tahini

2. Lunch: Corn tortilla with refried beans and flavored rice, apple

3. Dinner: Cooked kale, lentil soup, whole grain bread or muffin, nuts (on the side or sprinkled on the lentil soup)

These are just some ideas to help get you started. Make your weekly shopping list and menu accordingly, and you may soon find that a balanced diet comes naturally.


One farmer says to me, ‘You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make the bones with;‘ and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying himself with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.
Henry David Thoreau

Behold I have given you herb yielding seed. To you it shall be for food.
Genesis 1:29

Be not among the winebibbers nor the riotous eaters of animal flesh.
Proverbs 20:23

Nothing more strongly arouses our disgust than cannibalism, yet we make the same impression on Buddhists and vegetarians, for we feed on babies, though not our own.
Robert Louis Stevenson

My situation is a solemn one. Life is offered to me on condition of eating beefsteaks. But death is better than cannibalism. My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed not by mourning coaches, but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small traveling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarfs in honor of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures.
George Bernard Shaw

I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other….
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thou shalt not kill” does not apply to murder of one’s own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai.
Leo Tolstoy

To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body.
Mahatma Gandhi

It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals…The unnatural eating of flesh meats is as polluting as the heathen worship of devils, with its sacrifices and its impure feasts, through participation in it a man becomes a fellow eater with devils…Those who use the most frugal fare are the strongest, the healthiest and the noblest…
“If any righteous man does not burden his soul by the eating of flesh, he has the advantage of a rational motive.

Clement of Alexandria, Saint. AD ?150-?215

The vegetarian movement ought to fill with gladness the souls of those who have at heart the realization of God’s kingdom upon earth, not because vegetarianism itself is such an important step towards the realization of this kingdom (all real steps are equally important or unimportant), but because it serves as a criterion by which we know that the pursuit of moral perfection on the part of man is genuine and sincere.
“[For] [i]f a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.

Leo Tolstoy


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