Boca Health


Protein in the Vegetarian Diet


Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice that restricts the dietary intake of meat and other animal products. There are many forms of vegetarianism. Some people may choose to restrict certain animal proteins or completely avoid them. Each vegetarian may have different limitations according to their beliefs. In any case, people who choose a vegetarian diet need to make sure to have an adequate supply of protein daily. Many problems can occur in vegetarians and vegans who do not consume proteins every day. A lack of protein for a prolonged period of time can have a severe impact on your body, such as anemia and irregular moods.

The Basics of Protein

Protein is essential for bodily functions and maintains a healthy balance within the body, so it is linked with mood and energy. Proteins are part of every cell process within our bodies, which is why they are so crucial. Our bodies need protein, but we do not create it. We need to ingest it in our diets. Our bodies should be supplied with four servings of protein, and each serving must have 30 grams in order to sustain and fuel each muscle and body function.

How Protein Works

Protein is an organic compound comprised of chains of amino acids. Once amino acids are ingested, our bodies begin to break them down and absorb them. Amino acids must be in whole chains in order to create proteins that can be metabolized. If there is any incomplete chain, the body does not recognize it and it is not absorbed. Even if a chain is missing just one amino acid, your body will ignore it. Plants are partial proteins, so in order to complete a chain, you must combine two. For example, if you eat brown rice, eating peas would give you a whole chain of protein.

It is for this reason that the best sources of protein are animal meats, since these proteins have complete chains of amino acids easily absorbed by the body.

How Vegetarian Are You?

As said before, the best sources of protein are beef, chicken, and fish, but if you choose to restrict or avoid these foods completely, you must strive to obtain protein through a combination of foods. To help you determine where your best choices of protein, we ask you: How vegetarian are you?

Flexitarian- If you are a vegetarian who isn’t strict about eating an occasional serving of chicken, meat, fish, dairy, or eggs, then you have many options for obtaining protein. Fish, chicken, meat, whey protein and egg whites can all be used as a source of protein. Pescetarian- If you are okay with eating fish, your protein should be gained through the ingestion of fish.

Lacto-vegetarian – If you are okay with eating dairy products, but not eggs, whey protein is your best option for eating the right amount of protein. Just two servings of whey a day will provide an increased amount of energy and a more level mood.

Ovo-Vegetarian- If you are not okay with eating dairy products but are okay with eating eggs then egg whites are your best source for protein.

Vegans- Vegans must work the hardest to get a healthy intake of protein. Brown rice in combination with peas, and soy products are your protein source.

Soy protein is also a good source for vegetarians, though you may find that there is controversy over consuming soy as a sole supplier of protein. Nuts and beans contain protein as well, but they must be consumed in large amounts, making them inefficient as a protein source. Weight problems can arise from a high consumption of nuts and beans as they high in fat and carbohydrates.

Whatever your decisions regarding your diet may be, your overall health must be taken into high consideration. Protein stabilizes mood and energy, besides fueling necessary bodily functions. A vegetarian diet is often not an easy one, so if you are interested in losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, talk to a weight loss doctor to determine which diet would be ideal for you.

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