Maximizing Protein for Weight Loss While on a Vegetarian Diet
Protein is a very long established and well researched part of successful weight loss. Studies show greater weight loss, fat mass loss, and preservation of lean mass after higher-protein calorie-restriction diets than after lower-protein calorie-restriction diets. Reductions in triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference are also reported. In addition, more satiety effect, including greater perceived fullness and elevated satiety hormones is reported after higher-protein meals. The satiety effect of protein is partly mediated by a synergistic effect of the satiety hormones GLP-1 and PYY released from the small intestine. This is most effective with meals that contained at least 25 grams or more of protein at one serving but also had the same results for protein replacement meals, like high quality low processed protein smoothies (see the recipe below).
Getting the weight loss and muscle preserving and building benefits of protein is possible on a vegetarian diet. Here are 5 areas where you can maximize your protein on a vegetarian diet.
- High protein white beans. White beans contain almost 18 grams of protein per serving. Other beans can also provide anywhere from 7 grams to 17 grams of protein.
- Quinoa, Teff and Amaranth are protein powerhouses averaging 8 to 10 grams of protein per serving with largely a complete protein profile similar to meat. Make sure to soak and cook these naturally gluten free “seed” grains well to unlock their macro and micro nutrient potential and render them easy to digest.
- Pumpkin seeds yield around 9 grams of protein per serving and pumpkin seed protein powder yields 19 grams of protein! Pumpkin seeds are also rich in zinc and omega 3’s which are also often only found in fish and meat sources.
- Lentils have 9 grams of protein per serving, nearly the same as 2 eggs, which weigh in at 10 grams. Many people find lentils easier to digest than beans, especially sprouted lentils.
- Hemp seeds have 6 grams of protein per serving and are easy to sprinkle into a smoothie or onto a salad. They are also rich in omega 3’s, which is important if you are not eating fish.
Other tips for maximizing protein through plant based foods include preparing veggie burgers that combine beans, quinoa and eating complete protein sprouted bread. Even a serving of broccoli provides nearly 5 grams of protein which can add up and get you to your minimum of 25 grams per meal. If you are not vegan I recommend high protein Greek yogurt, pasture eggs and grass-fed whey protein, these will provide you with between 10 to 24 grams of protein per serving. Keep in mind that most plant sources of protein do not individually contain all 20 essential amino acids, but combining these different variety of plant proteins, including legumes, grains, seeds and nuts will naturally complete the proteins. We used to think this had to be done in one meal but we now know that is incorrect. All your incomplete protein intake will match up for the day; it doesn’t have to be done perfectly meal by meal, but the greater variety the better!
My favorite plant based morning protein smoothie recipe:
1 scoop of pumpkin seed protein (19 grams protein)
2 TB of hemp seeds (6 grams protein)
1 TB of almond butter (7 grams of protein)
1 cup berries (1 gram protein)
Filtered water, ice or your favorite seed, nut or oat milk
this yields a whopping 33 grams of protein, lots of healthy “fat burning” fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber while also staying low glycemic.