Although most vegetarians consume a considerable
amount of protein, they often do not absorb as much
as they would on a non-vegetarian diet. This is because
plant proteins are considerably less digestible than
animal proteins, which contain amino acid chains that
are closer or identical to human amino acid chains.Consuming animal proteins might yield close to a 1:1
absorption ratio, while consuming plant proteins, such
as wheat, might only yield 50% of the amino acids needed
to build a “complete protein” or a protein that can
readily be assimilated into the human body.In order for vegetarians to absorb a healthy amount
of protein, they must consume a variety of plant proteins
to form complete amino chains. By eating vegetables,
legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, and whole grains, vegetarians
can increase the amount of complete proteins they create
by combining a number of varieties of amino acid chains.
Vegetarians must also consume more foods that contain
proteins because plant proteins are generally
harder to digest. While a nutritional label may suggest
that pasta has 5 grams of protein per serving; you may
only be able to digest 2-3 grams of that protein, which
means you must complement the pasta with other sources
In addition to natural sources of protein, vegetarians
should also seek foods that are “protein-fortified”–
or artificially-infused with protein.
For example, many supermarkets offer a variety
“protein-fortified” pasta and bread. I have seen pasta
that contains as much as 12 grams of protein per serving.
Soy milk is also a good source of protein for vegetarians.
Studies on isolated soy protein show that it can be
absorbed nearly as well as animal proteins, yielding close
to a 1:1 protein absorption ratio.
For non-vegan vegetarians, yogurt, milk, and
eggs (which contain complete proteins) are all
excellent sources of protein.
As a vegetarian you have a number of options to
boost your protein intake – and you should consider
taking advantage of all of them. You should diversify
your food selections, drink more soy products, and
eat “protein-fortified” breads and pasta.