If there’s one thing vegetarians are continually told, it’s that they don’t get enough protein.
In large part, this is because protein is available in the highest quantities in meat – chicken, fish, steak, turkey.
However, it’s erroneous to say that vegetarians struggle to get enough protein. All that’s required is effort: consciously getting into a routine of consuming enough.
Like carnivores, vegetarians are best served eating a wide variety of whole foods; it just so happens that meat is off the menu. Far from letting this fact deter them, vegetarians are known to have some of the most colourful and diverse diets around.
Some people profess that they could never live without meat, but those that do rarely believe their diet is lacking: rather, swearing off meat opens one’s mind to the possibilities of what food can do.
The Importance of Protein:
But steering things back to protein, for a second. It would be patently wrong to deny that protein is important: in the body, protein breaks down into amino acids which promote cell growth and repair. It is quite obviously the most valuable macronutrient when it comes to building muscle and bones.
Proteins also help us feel fuller for longer and support good neurological function.
Fortunately, the muscle-building macronutrient is not confined to meat. Great vegetarian protein sources include chickpeas, lentils and beans; tofu, hemp and seitan; and nuts like almonds, black walnuts, and pistachios. Meat substitutes such as Quorn also mimic the flavour and texture of meat, helping people transition more easily to a plant-based diet.
Pumpkin Seeds: Nutritional Powerhouses
One tremendous source of protein you might consider adding to your diet is pumpkin seed – preferably raw and organic rather than salted or sprayed with pesticides.
Pumpkin seeds are exceptionally protein-rich and one of the plant kingdom’s few examples of foods with a complete amino acid profile.
It doesn’t stop there: pumpkin seeds are fertile sources of minerals (magnesium, iron, phosphorous, copper, manganese, zinc), vitamins (B2, E, K), antioxidants and dietary fibre – the same fibre that is lacking in popular whey supplements.
What’s more, the small, stable seeds contain a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, which is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. To break it down numerically, a quarter cup of pumpkin seeds yields 23% of your daily zinc and 16% of your daily iron.
In terms of protein, there’s between 5-7 grams per ounce – but it’s safe to say you’d have to chomp your way through quite a few seeds to get a meal’s worth.
Nonetheless, no-one’s likely to base an entire meal around pumpkin seeds: toss them into a superfood salad, sprinkle over oats, employ in buckwheat pancakes or homemade granola. The options are endless…
Feed Your Muscles Pumpkin Protein:
To make matters even easier, you could use pumpkin seed protein powder; it’s much easier, after all, to consume milled pumpkin seeds than the crunchy variety.
Omega Nutrition’s Organic Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder is particularly good.
Made entirely from defatted raw pumpkin seeds, the powder provides an easily digestible protein source for vegetarians, with protein content in excess of 60%.
Suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians, Pumpkin Seed Protein Powder is perfect for use in hot or cold cereals, green juices, and smoothies. It also mixes well with natural yogurt or full-fat milk. One serving provides 55 calories – 9.5g of protein, 1.5g of carbs, 1g of fat – and about 20% of your daily recommended iron.
According to UK dietary guidelines, the average man should consume 55g of protein per day, with women said to need 45g. One serving of pumpkin seed protein, therefore, yields between 17 and 21% of your daily intake.
Vegetarian proteins are quite popular nowadays, with some using pea protein and others relying on hemp, brown rice, soy – or a combination of the above. As ever, if you are going to use a protein powder you should favour one that is free of GMOs, additives, fillers, preservatives, sugar and bleaching agents.
Pumpkin Seed protein can be used in a number of dishes, such as Matcha and Coconut Vegan Protein Balls, Chocolate Cherry Protein Smoothie, Easy Chocolate and Oats Protein Bar – recipes specially developed by VEGETARIAN DEPARTMENT.
Whether you’re looking to build or maintain muscle, or simply incorporate a healthy natural protein source into your diet – one that’s versatile, nutrient-rich and flavourful – pumpkin seeds are a great choice.
Oh, and next time you get asked where your protein comes from, respond with a grin fit for a jack-o-lantern.
Author: Ronnie McCluskey @ WATER FOR HEALTH
Photography: Kirill Greidan @ VEGETARIAN DEPARTMENT
Recipes: Kirill Greidan @ VEGETARIAN DEPARTMENT