Despite the meat-centric Filipino diet, Pinay celebrities Geneva Cruz and Amanda Griffin-Jacob, can give you a long list of reasons to try a vegetarian diet.
For self-serving reasons, it’s cheaper and helps keep our health in check. And for more altruistic reasons, sticking to a plant-based diet is both cruelty-free and better for the environment
However, a common question that arises among those who are considering transitioning to vegetarianism is: where to obtain a consistent and complete protein source since the body does not produce the nine essential amino acids?
According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Filipina women should consume approximately 58 grams of protein per day, although daily recommended protein intake varies according to sex and age. Meanwhile, Harvard Medical School recommends a daily allowance of a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
If you’re considering transitioning to a vegetarian diet or are simply running out of protein-rich vegetarian ideas, we’ve got you covered. Check out the list below of meatless-protein sources that even vegans can easily include in their meals.
Protein: 31 grams per cup
It might be time to hop aboard the tempeh train! Tempeh is a popular meat substitute because of its versatility, mushroom-like flavor, and nutritional value. It is made from fermented cooked soybeans and has about 8% of the recommended daily allowance of calcium and iron. While tempeh may be a rare food find here in the Philippines, it is available online at The Superfood Grocer.
Protein: 18g per cup
Lentils are small, annual legumes that belong to the pea family. Low in calories and high in nutrition, lentils are a hassle-free item that you can add to salads, make into soups or use as a spread. Roughly 26% of calories from lentils come more protein. Commonly used in Indian food and soups such as daal, lentils cook quickly, and are a rich source of protein but also contain iron, vitamin B, and phosphorous. Bottomline: aside from being a rich source of protein, lentils have a laundry list of other health benefits. Add them to your dinner table stat!
Protein: 15g per cup
While chickpeas aren’t necessarily low in calories compared to veggies, these legumes are a rich source of iron – providing over 25% of the recommended daily value. These protein powerhouses also have high fiber content, which helps keep you full longer among a whole bunch of other health benefits.
Protein: Firm Tofu 13g/3 oz.; Soft Tofu 4 g/3oz.
Tofu, also called bean curd, is a soft, bland, custard-like food from soy beans. Soy, as its source, is considered as a complete protein food because it has all the essential amino acids. Although half of the calories in a tofu come from fat, it is still low in saturated fat with zero cholesterol content.
Protein: 8g per cup
Peas are low in calories, but high in nutritional content. The laundry list of why peas are good for you can go on and on. Whether it is snow peas, sugar peas, snap peas, Chinese peas, and Oriental or Asian peas, these tiny legumes are jam-packed not only with protein but also with vitamins C, A, K, and B6.
Protein: 8g per cup
Hailed as a ‘superfood’ by some, quinoa gained popularity as a high-protein, gluten-free substitute for rice. These tiny seeds are a rich source of fiber and are loaded with many important nutrients including calcium and magnesium. Quinoa is available in big supermarkets and health stores here in the Philippines.
7. Almond Nuts and Almond Butter
Protein: Nuts 8g per quarter cup; Butter 7g for every 2 tablespoons
Although eating nuts isn’t a popular habit here in the Philippines, it probably should be – as many nuts are a source of healthy fats and proteins. Aside from protein, almonds, are also a rich source of vitamin E and are widely considered to help reduce cholesterol. Almonds are available in big supermarkets and health stores here in the Philippines.
8. Peanut Butter
Protein: 7.7g per serving
Peanut butter lovers, rejoice! It’s one of the popular spreads that is also classified as a good protein source for vegans. Along with protein, each serving also has 2.6 grams of healthy fiber. Still, that’s no reason to go overboard with peanut butter since it is high in fat and calories. It is best to always look for the minimally processed variety that contains peanut as the sole ingredient. Kraft Natural Peanut Butter is one of the few brands that uses peanut as an exclusive ingredient, or you can also make your own homemade peanut butter to make sure that the spread has no artificial additives. Be wary of the processed types in stores which contain sugar, salt, and hydrogenated fats. Check first also with an allergist to find out if you are susceptible to being allergic to peanut butter.
9. Soy Milk
Protein: 7g per cup
If you’re not a fan of protein shakes, soy milk might be a good alternative. This is an ideal drink for lactose intolerant individuals. An 8 ounce of soy milk or one cup already yields 7 grams of protein together with 8 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fat (with just 0.5 grams of it as saturated fat), and low sugar level content. This drink is negative of transfat and cholesterol. Soy milk can top other nutritious drinks because it contains 119 IU of vitamin D which is more than half of the daily recommendation.
Protein: 4g per cup
Surprisingly, broccoli contains more protein per calorie than steak. These florets are rich in amino acids, fiber, and vitamin B6. Certain studies also link broccoli as one of the vegetables that can help combat cancer.
Protein: 5 grams per cup
Remember how Popeye’s physique instantly becomes eye-poppingly buff after having eaten a can of spinach? That image may be quite an exaggeration of what happens to the body after consuming spinach, but it’s worth noting that spinach is nutrient-dense and is rich in iron, which can help improve blood quality. It is also packed with vitamins K, A, C, folic acid, manganese, magnesium, and vitamin B2.