Abundant in vegetables, whole grains and legumes, vegetarian Indian dishes are healthy alternatives to eating meat. In fact, a study published in 2009 in “Diabetes Care” reports that people on vegetarian diets generally weigh less than non-vegetarians. Even if you avoid protein-rich meat, you can still get all the protein you need when following a vegetarian meal plan containing foods commonly used in Indian cuisine.
Legumes -- such as chickpeas, lentils, green peas, soybeans and kidney beans -- are common ingredients in Indian dishes. Rich in protein, legumes are also packed with fiber, iron, phosphorous, potassium and B vitamins. For example, 1/2 cup of cooked lentils provides almost 9 grams of protein, and 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas contains about 7 grams of dietary protein. Hummus, made from chickpeas, is also a source of vegetarian protein. Although legumes are classified as incomplete proteins, combining them with rice forms a complete protein, providing you with all the essential amino acids your body requires daily.
Tofu -- Bean Curd
Tofu -- also known as bean curd -- is a plant-based complete protein that makes an excellent addition to vegetarian Indian dishes. A 1/2-cup portion of firm tofu contains about 10 grams of dietary protein. Women need at least 46 grams of protein daily, men require at least 56 grams of protein per day, and pregnant and nursing women should aim for 71 grams daily, according to the Institute of Medicine. Tofu is also rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 fats, which makes it heart-healthier than high-fat meats containing saturated fat.
Many protein-rich dairy foods -- such as milk, yogurt and cheese -- are commonly incorporated into vegetarian Indian dishes. Calcium-fortified nondairy substitutes, such as soy milk and soy yogurt, are also excellent sources of protein. A cup of milk or soy milk provides about 8 grams, and 1 cup of low-fat yogurt contains about 13 grams of dietary protein. Paneer, a fresh cheese common in Indian cuisine, contains about 7 grams of protein per ounce.
Adding nuts, such as cashews and almonds, is an excellent way to incorporate plant-based protein into vegetarian Indian meal plans. One ounce, or about 23 whole almonds, provides about 6 grams of protein, while a 1-ounce portion of cashews contains just over 4 grams of dietary protein. In addition to being protein-rich, nuts are also excellent sources of heart-healthy fats, dietary fiber and vitamin E. If you’re worried about keeping your blood pressure in check, choose unsalted nuts.