If meat never passes your lips, your meat-eating friends and family might hound you about the dangers of not getting enough protein. But if you follow a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, you're likely getting all the protein you need. Eggs and dairy products contain plenty of protein, as do other vegetarian staples such as beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Contrary to many a meat-eater's perception, vegetarians, especially the lacto-ovo variety, rarely suffer from protein deficiencies.
You don't need nearly as much protein in your diet as many of your steak-loving friends would have you believe. Even vegans, who don't eat eggs or dairy, generally get all the protein they need, according to registered dietitian Dr. Reed Mangels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the average daily requirement for protein as 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams for men. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat just slightly less protein than non-vegetarians, getting 12 to 14 percent of their daily calories from protein compared to 14 to 18 percent for non-vegetarians, Mangels reports in "The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets."
Proteins consist of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids, which you must obtain every day from your diet; four that are non-essential, because your body can manufacture them if necessary; and eight conditional, meaning you need them only in times of stress or illness. Some foods -- eggs and dairy among them -- contain all the essential amino acids; eating them will ensure that you get the amino acids you need.
Protein in Eggs and Dairy
Adding a boiled egg to your breakfast supplies 6 grams of protein, 13 percent of your daily intake if you're a woman and just under 10 percent for men. Scramble the eggs with cheese or whip up a quiche and double your protein intake in one dish. A 1-ounce serving of cheddar cheese contains around 7 grams of protein. A cup of milk supplies 8 grams of protein to your diet, while a cup of yogurt supplies 11 grams. You shouldn't overdo eggs and dairy in your diet -- eggs contain cholesterol and dairy can be high in fat if you don't choose low-fat versions. Limit your egg intake to four per week, MedlinePlus recommends.
Other Protein Sources
Many foods in a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet besides eggs and dairy contain some protein. You can meet your protein need with high-protein grains such as quinoa; beans, nuts and soy products are also excellent sources of protein.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein
- The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets; Reed Mangels et al.
- Vegetarian Resource Group: Protein in the Vegan Diet
- USDA Nutrient Database Library: Cheese, Cheddar
- USDA Nutrient Database Library: Eggs
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