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7 Ways to Get More Vegetarian Protein in Your Diet to Get Leaner, Stronger and Fitter!

A high protein diet helps shed excess weight by controlling overeating and building lean muscles that make you look slimmer! Not only that, you can also say hello to gorgeous skin and healthy hair with this nutrient.

Arpita Kala
For long it was believed that only animal protein sources such as eggs or meat can formulate a complete diet. However, turn out, vegetarians and vegans are not really losing out on protein with their diet either. Priya Prakash, certified nutrition coach and co-founder of Naturally Yours agrees. "Thankfully the myth that only animal-based products can give you sufficient proteins has been proven wrong by both scientists and athletes alike. Some of the best sportspeople today are in their best form and credit the vegan diet for their fitness and endurance levels," she says. So, here are her pick of tasty and healthy protein sources for vegans and vegetarians that help you lose weight and build lean muscles:
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    Quinoa
    "Quinoa is one of the best sources of plant-based proteins. It is called a complete protein because it contains sufficient amounts of all the essential amino acids. One cup (about 185g) of cooked quinoa provides about 8 grams of protein. Apart from proteins, It is also an excellent source of dietary fibers, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Adding it to our daily diet can help in supporting healthy heart function, maintenance of blood glucose levels and weight management."

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    Quinoa Salad
    Quinoa does not have a dominating taste of its own and hence can be used in a variety of dishes like salad, pulao, upma or it can be used in the flour form in chapati, dosas etc. To prep a quinoa salad: In a saucepan, add 1 cup of water to 1/2 cup of washed quinoa (2:1 ratio of water and quinoa). When water starts boiling, reduce the flame to low. Cover and cook simmered for 15 minutes or until the entire liquid are absorbed. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then fluff it with a fork. Toss it together with veggies of your choice, herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Serve it cold.

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    Chia Seeds
    "Chia seeds are tiny power-packed superfoods that are loaded with several vital nutrients including proteins, Omega 3, fibre, iron and calcium. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, 2 Tbsp of chia seeds (28g) contains 4.69g of protein. Sprinkle them on salads or breakfast cereals, add it to your favourite smoothie, lemonade, yoghurt or fold them in while making bread, cookies, cakes, chapati etc.

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    Chia seeds energy drink
    You could also add a tbsp of chia seeds in a bottle of water and carry it to work. Keep refilling the bottle and take regular sips of water to help you stay energized and avoid cravings.

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    Chickpeas
    "Chickpeas or kabuli chana are a great source of plant-based proteins. A 28g serving of chickpea provides 3g of proteins. They are also high in vitamins, minerals and dietary. Chickpea contains all the essential amino acids except Methionine. So, combining chickpea with a whole grain like rice (which has good amounts of Methionine) will ensure that you get all the essential amino acids in your diet."

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    Hummus
    Apart from the all-time favourite chole masala, chickpeas can be used in salads, as a roasted snack and even hummus! To prepare hummus: Take 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, 2 Tbsp of water, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1tbsp lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, 1 Tsp cumin powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Blend together until smooth and creamy. Do a taste test and add more salt if required. Sprinkle some chilli flakes and parsley (optional). Serve as a healthy dip with pita bread, chips, carrot sticks etc.

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    Millets
    "Millets are one of the highest in terms of protein content and quality. They are also an excellent source of calcium. Some of the traditional varieties of millets in India are foxtail millet, little millet, Kodo millet, barnyard millet, proso millet, ragi, bajra and jowar. Traditionally millets are sprouted and powdered to make porridge for babies as a weaning food. Sprouting increases the bioavailability of nutrients in the millets thus increasing its health benefits manifold. It is not only highly nutritious but also easy to digest for the young ones."

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    Ragi Malt
    Millets can also be cooked and consumed like rice. It can be ground into flour, which can be used for making roti, cookies, cakes, malt, dosa etc. Ragi malt is a simple, delicious and nourishing health drink suitable for all ages. For Ragi malt: Take 2 Tbsp sprouted ragi flour and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Mix well so that there are no lumps. Cook in a low/medium flame for about 5 minutes with regular stirring. Switch off the flame and add ½ cup of milk (at room temperature). Sweeten with jaggery powder and a pinch of cardamom powder.

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    Lentils or dals
    "Lentils are highly nutritious and flavourful. Red lentils especially are an excellent source of proteins. A bowl (about 50g) of cooked red lentil contains 12 g of protein which basically translates to 30 per cent of your recommended daily protein intake. Thus making it an awesome source of plant-based protein for vegans and vegetarians. They can be used in a variety of dishes like soups, stew, dal etc.

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    Red lentils
    This low calorie and high protein superfood is also a great alternative to refined flour which has zero nutrients. Red lentils are a good source of iron too and hence would make a good addition to the diet especially for menstruating/pregnant women, children and adolescents who are at more risk for iron deficiency. Companies such as Naturally Yours have developed nutritious gluten-free pasta made of red lentils that do not compromise on the health factor.

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    Nuts and seeds
    "Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein, particularly for vegans and vegetarians. High protein nuts and seeds include hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, cashews, and more."

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    Nut and seeds laddus
    Nuts and seeds are the most ideal snacking options for those following a high protein diet. They can also be included in salads, smoothies, baked goods, laddus, gravies or used as nut butter to give a health boost to any meal. To snack on nuts and seeds laddu: Add 1/3 cups each of cashew, almonds and pistachio in a mixer grinder. Grind with short pulses so that the nuts break into smaller pieces but do not get powdered completely. Add in 1 Tbsp of chia seeds, 2 Tbsp raisins, 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds and 12 soaked dates (Soaking the dates for about 15 minutes will soften it and make it a good binding agent). Pulse them a few times till everything is well combined.

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    Soybean
    "Soya beans are among the best sources of plant-based proteins. A bowl of 100g cooked soybean contains 16.6g of proteins. It is also a good source of dietary fibres, vitamins and minerals."

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    Soybean curry
    Soya beans can be made into a healthy curry. It can also be ground into flour and used as a thickening agent in gravies and sauces, or it can be added to baked goods, chapatis etc. Derivatives of soya like soy milk, tofu, miso paste and roasted soya beans are also healthier alternatives to conventional products. The health benefits of soybean for menopausal women include lowered risk of osteoporosis, protection from coronary heart disease, and fewer hot flushes.

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