The Indian diet is generally heavy on carbohydrates- particularly the vegetarian Indian diet. We should ideally be getting 25-30% of our calories from protein, which most of us aren’t. Protein is a vital nutrient and the main building block in the body. They are needed to make everything from muscle to enzymes to organs. Most of us know about animal-based protein sources, but today let’s tackle the myth that plant-based food isn’t rich in protein
Here are my top 5 plant-based protein sources that you can incorporate into your diet if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply trying to eat less meat.
Tofu and Tempeh
These two are byproducts of soybeans- both made in completely different ways.
Tofu is made by curdling soy milk and separating the proteins- in a process similar to the way paneer is made. Tofu has about 11-14g of protein per 100g and has all the essential amino acids our body needs. It is additionally also a good source of micronutrients like calcium, manganese, and copper. Tofu can be used in many recipes as a replacement for paneer, making it super versatile and easy to use in the Indian diet.
On the other hand, tempeh is made by fermenting soybeans with a very specific culture. Tempeh has been consumed in Indonesia and other parts of the world for centuries but is now gaining popularity worldwide for its nutritional value. 100g of tempeh has about 16-20g of protein making it very high in protein. Since tempeh is fermented, it is easy on your gut. It is also a good source of beneficial prebiotics. Tempeh can be used in stir-fries, southeast Asian curries, noodles etc.
Soy chunks are quite popular in the Indian diet. It has a unique, chewy texture which makes it a good meat substitute in many recipes. Soy chunks have about 30-35g of protein per 100g of dry chunks- they are also a good source of carbohydrates. Thanks to the high protein and fiber content, adding soy chunks to your meal can help keep you full for longer.
Seitan (say-tan) is essentially a type of mock meat that is made from the protein ‘gluten’ which is found in wheat. When cooked, the taste and texture is very close to that of meat- making it a great substitute for those who are used to consuming meat.
The protein content of various mock types of meat can vary depending on the brand and the product, but seitan usually has about 20-25g protein per 100g. Seitan is very versatile and can be added to just about any dish to replace meat.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are actually mainly sources of carbohydrates that are fairly high in protein. Most types of beans such as chickpeas (channa), kidney beans (rajma) and pinto beans have about 7-8g of protein per 100g when cooked. Beans also contain several essential micronutrients like iron, phosphorus, and potassium. Additionally, are good sources of dietary fiber- this helps keep you full for longer.
Lentils like toor dal, and chana dal tend to be slightly higher in protein than beans, with roughly 9g of protein per 100g when cooked. Lentils are also high in fiber, with a 100g (roughly ½ cup) serving to give you almost 25% of your daily recommended fiber. They are a good source of iron, folate and copper as well as some B vitamins.
Keep in mind to always soak lentils and beans overnight and then to wash them under tap water before consuming. Make sure to discard the soaking water. This helps to remove some antinutrients such as lectins that are usually present in beans and lentils. This also makes it much easier for your gut to digest.
Nutritional yeast is a relatively new ingredient in the market. It’s basically an inactive type of yeast that has a flavor profile similar to cheese and hence is often used to impart “cheesiness” to plant-based cheese substitutes. It is high in protein and is usually also fortified with some vital nutrients like B12 and D. Just 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast can have up to 7g of protein. It’s great to have handy to add a protein boost to your dishes. Simply sprinkle it on top of your salad or add it to your pasta sauce.