High Quality Protein on a Vegetarian Diet
There are 20 different amino acids that make up our “protein”. 9 of them are considered “Essential” because our bodies don’t make them so we have to get them from our food. For vegetarians, the only amino acid that can be difficult to get is Lysine. There is a common myth that vegans and vegetarians should combine specific proteins together at meal times in order to receive all the essential amino acids. Recently, research has shown that you need to eat a variety of protein sources over a period of about 2-3 days (not all at the same meal) to ensure adequate intake of all the essential amino acids. Teenagers and adults should aim for about 40 mg of lysine per kg of body weight, which comes out to about 2000 – 3500 mg of lysine per day, depending on your body weight. Most vegetarians do well with 0.83 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
So, what foods are going to get you there? Here are the top 8 sources of lysine for vegetarians.
This cultured soy product contains about 15 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, and 754 mg of lysine.
Made from pure wheat gluten, seitan may not be for everyone (especially those with Celiac disease, or are sensitive to wheat protein). For those without a sensitivity, it can be a great source of lysine with a walloping 20 grams of protein and 656 mg of lysine per 3 oz. serving.
Just ½ cup serving contains about 8 grams of protein, and 624 mg of lysine.
4. BLACK BEANS
Black beans have about 7 grams of proteins per ½ cup serving, and 523 mg of lysine.
Quinoa is a seed that is harvested from a species of a plant called goosefoot. It is officially a seed and part of a group of pseudocereals, making it neither a cereal nor a grain, and more closely related to spinach and beets than to cereals or grainsjust one cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein and 442 mg lysine, as well as other important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
6. SOY MILK
Just 1 cup with your morning cereal or smoothie provides about 9 grams of protein and 439 mg of lysine.
These nuts have 6 grams of protein per ½ cup, containing 367 mg of lysine.
8. PUMPKIN SEEDS
¼ cup provides 8 grams of protein, and 360 mg of lysine.
For anyone interested in a vegan protein powder, make sure to look for a combination of rice and pea proteins to get the most complete amino acid profile. My favorite is Complete+ Vegan Vanilla.