Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Choosing Vegetarian Protein?

I've decided to become a vegetarian, but I don't know much about vegetarian sources of protein. Can you help?

Answer (Published 10/20/2011)

Congratulations, I think you've made a wise diet decision. As you may know, I was a lacto-vegetarian (my diet allowed for some dairy products) from 1970 to about 1987, when I began to include eating fish, so I know from personal experience that a vegetarian diet can be both healthy and satisfying. For the record, vegetarians have a lower-than-normal incidence of heart disease and cancer and lower risks of obesity and diabetes.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Healthy Eating - Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging for Nutrition - Want to change your diet? The Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging online guide is your anti-inflammatory diet headquarters. Start your free trial and get access to an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, hundreds of recipes, eating guides, and more.

I'm happy to provide you with some guidance to sources of vegetarian protein. Here's a rundown:

  • Seitan, a vegetarian meat substitute, is made from wheat gluten and is a good source of protein (it provides 23 grams of protein per 1/3 cup). It is low in fat and sodium. You can use it in place of other vegetarian sources of protein such as tofu or tempeh and can add it to stir fried vegetables to make a complete meal. It has a good, "meaty" texture.
  • Soy protein (including tofu or tempeh) is nutritionally equivalent to the protein you would get from meat, chicken, fish or eggs. Try coating slices of tempeh with olive oil and grill or broil, brushing with your favorite barbecue sauce. You can find many recipes for tofu on this site. Look around and try the ones that appeal to you most.
  • Many unprocessed plant foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all provide adequate amounts of protein. Beans and lentils are 20-25% protein by weight, and are a staple for many vegetarians and vegans. They're also rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber. Check this site for recipes.
  • Quinoa, pronounced "keen-wah," is sometimes referred to as a grain but is really a pseudocereal, meaning that it is the seed of a broadleaf plant (true cereals are the seeds of grasses). The quinoa plant is a relative of beets, spinach and Swiss chard, but we treat its seeds as we would a grain, preparing and eating them in much the same way. They are very quick cooking. Quinoa's protein is complete, containing all nine essential amino acids - a rarity in the plant kingdom. In fact, quinoa has the highest protein content of any grain. Quinoa is gluten-free and easy to digest. Try this True Food Kitchen recipe for red quinoa.

You can eat very well on a vegetarian diet. I hope my suggestions and recipes will tempt you.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here