The benefits of protein are endless -- it sculpts muscles, assists with weight loss and improves satiety -- however, there is a longstanding misconception that plant-based protein isn’t a sufficient source, and that boiled eggs, meat and protein powders are the only options.
While animal-based sources of protein contain the full range of essential amino acids, plant-based protein only has some which means unfortunately, diving into a bowl of greens on the regular won’t win you any protein points.
Instead, you need to combine a few different sources of plant foods to get a range of amino acids.
Dietitian Susie Burrell told The Huffington Post Australia it was not difficult for vegetarians to get sufficient protein as long as they chose a combination of dairy, nuts, legumes and whole grains.
“However, once you eliminate certain food groups like soy and dairy, it becomes harder to achieve nutritional adequacy -- not just in terms of protein but healthy fats, too,” Burrell told HuffPost Australia.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, the recommended daily intake for protein for a female aged 19-70 years is 0.75 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight. So, for a female weighing 65 kilograms, that’s a total of almost 50 grams of protein daily.
“Whole grains alone won’t give you enough good-quality protein, neither will nuts, so it is important to incorporate soy and legumes to give you the full range of amino acids,” Burrell said.
Burrell also said while legumes were a good source of protein, consuming them alone as the main source of protein was a massive load on the gut due to their high fibre count.
“Each day you should be looking to combine lentils and grains together, incorporate nuts and dairy, as well as a couple of different types of plant protein at each meal,” Burrell said.
Personal trainer Catherine Demertze agreed.
“If you are smart with your food combining and consume protein from an array of vegetarian-friendly sources you can achieve a nutritionally dense, truly healthy way of eating,” Demertze, who is also protein shake maker IsoWhey's nutritionist told HuffPost Australia.
“A truly balanced meal considers all macronutrients, healthy fats, protein and quality carbohydrates.
For example, one cup of cooked quinoa with 30 grams of almonds is equivalent to 75 grams of red meat.
Alternatively, two poached eggs (13 grams protein), one cup of broccoli (five grams protein) and three tablespoons of hummus (three grams protein) is equivalent to 100 grams of red meat.
Demertze said vegetarian foods such as lentils, almonds, brazil nuts, greek yoghurt and ricotta cheese were a completely legitimate source of protein.
If you follow a vegan diet, Demertze recommended including spirulina, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, pepitas and edamame to meet daily protein requirements.