Does a Vegan and Vegetarian Diet Lack Protein?

The good, bad and healthy: Everything you need to know about plant-based protein!

When it comes to following a vegetarian, vegan or plant-based diet, there is always a question about whether you are able to meet your dietary protein requirements.

For a long time, and even now, dietary protein is usually associated with meat and eggs. However, contrary to popular belief, eating the right foods together in the right combinations is important to complete the individual protein daily needs.

Certified clinical dietician and meat technologist Dt. Lakshita Jain, founder of NUTR agrees. She says, "We get our protein from two sources- animal and plant protein. Plant protein includes pulses, lentils, cereals, vegetables, nuts, and seeds whereas animal protein includes milk, milk products- paneer and curd, pork, chicken, beef and fish. Like a house is made up of bricks joined together, all proteins are made up of amino acids."

animal vs plant protein

Lakshita explains that there are 20 amino acids of which 9 are essential for our health because they cannot be made by the body and must come from food. The amino acid profile varies between plant and animal proteins. Animal protein is referred to as A class protein and tends to contain all essential amino acids in a good balance.

 Although plant proteins form a large part of the human diet, most are deficient in one or more essential amino acids and therefore regarded as incomplete protein or are low in protein as compared to animal protein. 

"As long as you consume a diverse range of plant protein sources, your body will complete the protein for you. Many people are apprehensive of eating a healthy, pure vegetarian diet because they are concerned about “incomplete proteins” derived from plants," she says.

So, if you are looking to up your protein levels with plant-based options, Lakshita answers some of your burning questions:  

How to increase plant-based protein?

"Except for vitamin B12, a vegetarian diet based on any one or a combination of these unprocessed starches (e.g., rice, corn, potatoes, beans) plus vegetables and fruits provides all the protein, amino acids, essential fats, minerals, and vitamins (except vitamin B12) required for good health. So, advising people to eat animal-based food or supplements to increase their protein intake will only make them consume foods that are known to contribute to heart disease, diabetes and obesity."  

What are some plant-based protein sources? 

Amaranth, bajra, barley, quinoa, oats, foxtail, muesli, barnyard, vermicelli, green gram dal, black gram dal, rajma, peas, moth, soya, tofu, brussel sprouts, almonds, walnuts, etc.

How can you have a high protein plant-based meal? 

● Grain salads like Quinoa, amaranth, millets such as proso, Kodo, buckwheat, and barnyard
● Nut Milk like soya milk 
● Sprouted Moong, Kala chana, rajma, and chickpeas made into salads, cheelas, chaat, etc.
● Curries with dals, drumsticks, amaranth seeds, peas, soya combined with chapati or rice 
● Porridges and smoothie combinations such as muesli and oats
● Curd and rice
● Khichri (Combination of moong dal and rice)
● Snacks such as Roasted chana, roasted dals, roasted soy, and foxnuts
● Besan cheela and sattu drinks
● Nuts and seeds like almonds and chia seeds

What are some plant-based protein drinks?

Sattu Drink (Protein/30gm: 9gms)
Ingredients:
   ● 1.5 litres chilled water or water at room temperature
   ● 6 tablespoon sattu (roasted black chickpea flour)
   ● ¼ teaspoon black salt or 2 to 3 pinches of black salt (optional)

Method:

   ● Take chilled water in individual glasses. You can also take all of the chilled water in a mug and then mix.
   ● Add 2 tbsp sattu to each glass.
   ● Add sugar or jaggery as per taste. I usually add 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar or jaggery powder per serving.
   ● Add a pinch of black salt to each glass. For some tang, you can also add lemon or lime juice.
   ● Stir and mix everything very well.