One Solid Way to Boost Your Protein Intake as a Vegetarian


lentilsPaleo people, don’t chastise me yet! I’m not pushing a vegetarian diet. This is simply an attempt at pointing out how vegetarians and vegans can maintain a high level of protein intake with plant based foods. Just don’t forget to include bio-available sub-lingual or patch methylcobalamin B12 supplements, as a plant-based diet will often leave  you B12-depleted. Vitamin B12 prices are usually reasonable.

For the record, I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, one who consumes dairy products and eggs while abstaining from animal flesh. Ocean and farm fish pollutions have forced me to drop fish, lobster, and even shrimp (darn!). I grew up in a three meat a day culture, so switching to vegetarian was gradual.

The Harvard School of Health recommends minimizing or avoiding both unprocessed and process red meats based on a vast epidemiological study that surveys thousands of health professionals for several years. They discovered higher rates of cardiovascular and cancer incidents among red meat eaters.

As usual with these studies, they didn’t differentiate between humanely treated grass fed cattle, which most healthy savvy Paleo people consume, and the normal factory farm GMO feed-fed, antibiotic-injected, and horribly mistreated cattle.

And here’s what else is ignored most of the time. Generally speaking, meats, especially red meats, contain complete proteins that need to be broken down into the nine essential amino acids needed for a healthy body. But that demands protease or proteolytic enzymes, which are create and provided by the pancreas.

Proteolytic enzymes are also important for scavenging toxic oxidized protein molecules and, take this in, breaking down cancer cell walls before they can create colonies called tumors. Could this be a major factor for increased cancers among red meat eaters? This is rarely disclosed, but I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Plant-based foods don’t synthesize the essential amino acids your body requires, so they don’t need much effort with breaking down complete proteins. But most do not provide all of the amino acids required. Knowing the few that do and what veggie food combinations provide the necessary amino acids is the solution to a vegetarian’s protein quandary.

Read: 5 Foods for a High-Protein Vegetarian Diet

Veggie Amino Acids That Will Meet Your Protein Requirements

All the foods mentioned in this section should be organic or from sources that don’t use chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.

Lentils, black beans, and garbanzo beans (chick peas) offer 15 grams of protein with it’s amino acids. But a couple of amino acids are missing. So bring in the rice to bring in the beans’ missing methionine and cystine.

Bingo, you now have an inexpensive vegetarian meal with a full package of amino acids your body can assemble any which way it needs without placing demands on your pancreas’ protelytic enzymes to break the proteins down into amino acids.

Most prefer organic brown rice, although authentic Indian parboiled basmati white rice is good too. Here’s one hardly anyone mentions – potatoes! A baked potato can provide all 22 amino acids needed to metabolize as complete proteins, again, without requiring protein wall busting enzymes from your pancreas. Surprised?

Soy also provides complete protein nutrition, but there are problems with soy – it’s mostly GMO. Even organic soy can trigger health issues; too much reliance on it as a meat substitute won’t work. It’s better to use fermented, organic soy products such as tempeh, tamari soy sauce, natto, miso, pickled tofu, and others that Asians use for their soy cuisine. Sprouted beans offer complete amino acid groups as well.

Having issues with grains’ and beans’ phytic acid anti-nutrient properties? If you use bulk dry beans, you have to soak them overnight before cooking. Heat reduces phytic acid as well. Sprouted beans don’t have those pesky phytates, which are actually not as scary as publicized.

Experiment. Mix and match to your delight and enjoy your vegetarian diet with all your protein needs met.