There are many health benefits associated with vegetarianism. Research indicates that vegetarians have lower levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, and obesity rates are generally lower among vegetarians than their meat-eating counterparts. In addition, vegetarians have reduced incidences of type 2 diabetes and lower blood pressure than meat eaters. However, unless their diets are well balanced, vegetarians also may have low levels of protein, which can compromise their overall health.
Protein is essential to build and repair bodily tissues and provide amino acids. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein, as are several important chemicals in the body, including hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters. Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are some amino acids that cannot be produced by the body and must come from a protein-rich diet.
Many of the foods that contain protein are animal-based (meats, poultry, milk, eggs, etc.), and these foods are commonly avoided by vegetarians and vegans. As a result, their bodies may be deficient in vital nutrients.
The amount of protein needed varies by one’s body weight, age and activity level. A person who is 150 pounds should eat roughly 55 grams of protein each day. A 200-pound person should eat around 75 grams. An ounce of meat has around 7 grams of protein per serving. Therefore, vegetarians will have to replace those grams with other sources of protein. Here are some options:
* Eggs (large): 6 grams
* Milk (1 cup): 8 grams
* Cottage cheese (1/2 cup): 15 grams
* Cheese (1 ounce): 6-10 grams
* Tofu (1 ounce): 2.3 grams
* Most beans (1/2 cup cooked): 7-10 grams
* Soybeans (1/2 cup cooked): 14 grams
* Split peas (1/2 cup cooked): 8 grams
* Peanuts (1/4 cup): 9 grams
* Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup): 6 grams
* Quinoa: (2 ounces cooked): 2.5 grams