Calling on all vegetarians — how many times have you told a friend, family member, or even an acquaintance about your dietary preferences, only to be met with “but where do you get your protein?” We’re guessing, quite a few. That’s just one of the reasons why we’ve put together this piece, so you can clearly lay out your answer!Read on for everything you need to know about your required protein intake and the best sources for the same.

So, how much protein does a person need?

According to the National Institute of Nutrition, the Estimated Average Requirement is 0.6g/kg of body weight, while the Recommended Dietary Allowance is around 0.8g/kg of body weight for adult Indians. However, it varies with factors such as age, comorbidities, physical activity, and physiological changes (example: pregnant women and during lactation).

Is it really difficult for vegetarians to meet their protein requirement?

No, it isn’t. But it is important to identify the best natural food sources from which we can gain most benefit. Most plant-based whole foods like whole grains, whole pulses, dals, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of protein, while animal-based sources include milk and its substitutes.

Here’s a list of some great protein sources vegetarians should include in their diets:

1. Pumpkin seeds

  • Protein content: 100g of pumpkin seeds contains 30 g of protein
  • Benefits: They are a natural source of tryptophan, which is a sleep hormone precursor
  • How much to consume in a day: Around 1.5 to 2 tbsp
Tip: Add pumpkin seeds to your salad or have it as a mid-day or an evening snack

2. Chickpeas (kabuli Chana)

  • Protein content: 100g of boiled chickpeas contains around 9g of protein
  • Benefits: The protein and fiber content in chickpeas increases satiety levels and leaves you feeling fuller for longer
  • How much to consume in a day: 100g, or 1/4th your major meal of the day
Tip: Boil chickpeas, add raw onion, tomatoes, and a tadka. Season it with grated coconut for a power-packed meal

3. Chia seeds

  • Protein content: 100g of chia seeds contains around 17g of protein
  • Benefits: It’s a rich source of magnesium which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • How much to consume in a day: Around 1.5 to 2 tbsp
Tip: Soak chia seeds in water overnight and add it to your fruit salad or overnight oats

4. Soyabean  

  • Protein content: 100g of boiled soybean contains 18g of protein
  • Benefits: It aids healthy weight management as it is low in carbohydrates and fat, while being rich in fiber and other micronutrients
  • How much to consume in a day: 1/4th of your major meal
Tip: Make a curry and have it with rice or roti

5. Almonds

  • Protein content: 100g of almonds contains around 21g of protein
  • Benefits: They are rich in Vitamin E, which boosts memory and prevents cognitive decline
  • How much to consume in a day: 10-12 pieces
Tip: Add almonds to your salad, make almond milk, have it as a mid-day or an evening snack or add it to your smoothie

6. Kidney beans or rajma

  • Protein content: 100g of boiled rajma has around 9g of protein
  • Benefits: It releases carbohydrates slowly and does not spike the blood sugar levels — making it beneficial for diabetics
  • How much to consume in a day:  1/4th of your major meal
Tip: Make a curry and have it with rice or roti

7. Dairy products

  • Protein content: 100g of greek yogurt contains around 10g of protein. 100ml of milk contains around 3.4g of protein
  • Benefits: Yogurt is rich in probiotics, and contains gut-friendly bacteria such as lactobacillus
  • How much to consume in a day: 400-500ml (overall dairy)
Tip: Greek yoghurt can be a healthier replacement for high-calorie ingredients like oil, butter, mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, and even cream cheese

There are plenty of other easy ways to incorporate protein in a vegetarian diet

  • Add whole pulses, sprouts, nuts and seeds in your meals and salads
  • Make lentil dosas instead of the regular white rice ones, or make rajma and sweet potato tikkis instead of potato tikkis
  • Try hung curd or whole-pulse hummus as a dip with your vegetables
  • Add milk (regular, almond, or oat), soaked almonds/cashews/walnuts in your morning fruit smoothies to make them creamier and protein rich

The possibilities are endless!

Tips for better protein absorption

Eat more raw foods

Proteins are big molecules made of amino acids. Once consumed, your stomach releases protein-specific enzymes to break these down and start the process of digestion. The best way to digest proteins is to have an enzyme rich meal — and increasing the amount of vegetables and raw fruits you consume is the way to do it. Since cooking food destroys living enzymes, avoid over-cooking green vegetables  and choose recipes that include a good amount of raw ingredients.

Chew your food well

This simple act can improve your digestion and help your body process the proteins you’re consuming. The more your food is broken down as it enters the stomach, the fewer enzymes are needed to absorb its nutrients.

Add spices

Use spices while cooking food to aid digestion. Jeera, ajwain, hing, and ginger-garlic paste in your protein rich meals will reduce bloating and boost digestion.

Hydrate well

This advice applies whether your meal is protein rich or not!

Recipe: Homemade sattu chia spiced summer drink

We’ll leave you with a simple and refreshing protein-dense recipe just for good measure.


  • 2 tbsp sattu (roasted chickpea) powder
  • 250 ml of buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp of soaked chia seeds
  • Roasted jeera powder — a pinch
  • Lemon juice —  1 tbsp
  • Mint sprigs — a few
  • Salt — to taste


  • Mix everything in a long shaker till everything is uniformly mixed
  • Cool it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (you can make this prior to your workout and refrigerate)
  • Enjoy the refreshing summer cooler!

That was your low-down on protein-rich vegetarian foods — so next time, don’t let anyone question your protein levels!If you want a personalised plan to meet your daily nutritional requirement, you can book a nutrition consultation on the app.Credits: Rekha Prabhu, Health & Wellness Coach at

Feb 9, 2021
Healthy Eating

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