Branched Chain Amino Acids are a group of three essential amino acids: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. They are the building blocks of protein and represent 35-40% of all the essential amino acids present in our body.
Leucine is important to build muscle protein. Meanwhile, Isoleucine and Valine produce energy and help regulate blood sugar levels.
Some of the roles that BCAA plays in our bodies are as follows:
- The body uses them as building blocks for protein and muscle.
- They are involved in regulating blood sugar levels.
- BCAA helps decrease the production of serotonin in the brain that may help reduce fatigue during exercise.
Based on studies, an average woman should consume a minimum of 9 grams of BCAA per day and an average man should consume a minimum of 12 grams of BCAA per day.
BCAA are essential for us, but they cannot be produced by our bodies, and hence they must be obtained through a healthy diet.
We bring to you a list of vegetarian food items that you can include in your diet that will help you maintain the BCAA levels in your body.
Top 21 BCAA Rich Vegetarian Food Items
There are plenty of dairy products that are high in BCAA. Some of them include parmesan cheese, cow’s milk, greek yogurt, swiss cheese, and cheddar cheese. Consuming fresh dairy products will certainly help you keep your BCAA levels high.
Lentils contain all nine amino acids required by the human body on a daily basis. Lentils are filled with nutrition and are an essential part of the Indian diet. They contain around 2.5-3 grams of BCAA per cup.
Soy products like soy milk, soybeans, tofu, and tempeh are high in BCAA. Soy protein contains around 18% BCAA. It is effective in building muscles. Soy protein is a complete protein and an excellent choice for people who are vegetarians and vegan who do not consume anything animal-based.
- Brown Rice
Brown rice contains 37% of the protein as amino acids and 18% as BCAA. Brown rice is an incomplete protein as it does not contain an essential amino acid threonine, and it also has relatively low levels of lysine. The lack of threonine can be compensated by eating spinach, kale, and other leafy vegetables.
- Almonds and Cashews
Almonds and Cashews are rich in Isoleucine. It helps stabilize blood sugar and boost energy levels. Some other nuts which are good sources of BCAA are peanuts, walnuts, and brazil nuts.
Corn contains a high amount of BCAA, especially leucine. The problem with plant-based BCAA’s is that they contain allergens. Corn is widely used in the fermentation process of BCAA as it is not considered an allergen like soy.
Almost one-third of an adult’s daily protein needs can be fulfilled by a cupful of chickpeas. They are good at regulating blood pressure as they contain less sodium. The fiber in chickpeas helps prevent cancer. However, you should not eat them raw because they contain toxins and substances that are difficult to digest.
- Pumpkin and squash seeds
Seeds are often overlooked in terms of their nutrients. Pumpkin and squash seeds have a good amount of protein in them, especially amino acids. These seeds can be used in smoothies, milkshakes, and oats. It is important to soak, sprout or roast pumpkin seeds to reduce their phytic acid content.
- Mung bean sprouts
Mung bean sprouts are packed with healthy nutrients. They are versatile and can be added to salads and soups. They can be eaten raw as well. Sprouted beans contain fewer calories and more amino acids along with antioxidants.
- Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a complete protein and contain nine of the essential amino acids. Roasted sunflower seeds can be eaten as a snack or you can add them to salads and sauteed vegetables. They can be mixed into homemade bread and cookies or sprinkled upon yogurt and cottage cheese. The possibilities regarding their consumption are endless.
Spinach is filled with tons of nutrients and very few calories. It can be easily incorporated into your diet, it is cheap and readily available. Spinach is a great source of iron as well. It is great for diabetes management, asthma prevention, cancer prevention, and lowering blood pressure. Spinach can be used in a variety of healthy ways.
- Baked beans, Lima beans and Pinto beans
Beans belong to a high-protein plant family called legumes. They contain all the nine essential amino acids and so are a complete protein. They are also high in fiber and helpful in improving your cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and digestive health. Beans can be a part of your daily diet and help you maintain the BCAA levels in your body.
Quinoa is an excellent choice for vegetarians people to gain the maximum amount of protein from a plant-based diet. It can be cooked similar to rice and can be paired with a variety of vegetables. You can also have it for breakfast by cooking it in milk. Quinoa can also be substituted for rice in most dishes.
Seaweed is a form of algae that grows in the sea. They contain many essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. In many Asian and European countries, they are an essential part of the diet.
Seaweeds are being recognized as a sustainable food source with the potential to provide food security worldwide. Innovation and research are being carried out to increase their consumption in different ways.
- Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds provide 5 grams of protein per 30 grams of serving. Although they are low in lysine, you can eat them with high-lysine foods such as chickpeas or kidney beans to compensate. They have many health benefits and provide the body with essential nutrients.
Consuming sesame seeds may also increase the antioxidant activity in the blood. They are very easy to incorporate into your diet and can be added to various vegetables, salads, smoothies, yogurts, and bread.
Carrots have a lot of health benefits. They aid in weight loss and help lower the cholesterol levels of your body and improve eye health. They also act as the perfect snack because they are crunchy and tasty or you can cook them in several different ways. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and are a good source of antioxidants.
- Green peas
Cooked green peas contain nearly 9 grams of protein per cup. Along with being high in protein, peas are also high in fiber. Both of them work together to slow digestion and make you feel full. To get the maximum amount of essential amino acids in a plant-based diet, make sure to add green peas to your food.
Per cup of cooked broccoli contains 4 grams of protein. It can be eaten raw or cooked using different methods such as boiling, stir-frying, steaming. Eating broccoli can add a lot of benefits to your health. It also protects your skin from the sun and slows the aging process.
- Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. The proteins in it are especially effective in helping you build muscle. Therefore, it is very popular among athletes and people who exercise. You can incorporate cottage cheese into your diet in various ways.
However, if you are lactose intolerant or a vegan, you cannot consume it because it is made from milk.
- Chia seeds
Chia seeds have 15 grams of protein per half-cup. Chia-pudding has already become a popular dish among vegans and vegetarian people. Chia seeds are high in important bone nutrients and lower your risk of heart disease.
They do not need to be ground like flax seeds which makes them easier to prepare. They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, or added to porridge, smoothies, or baked goods.
- Hemp seeds
Raw hemp seeds have 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons. They are a complete source of protein and contain all nine essential amino acids. They have a wide range of health benefits.
Hemp seeds have a rich nutrition profile with high-levels of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants. They have a nutty taste and can be added to salads and stir-fry vegetables.
BCAA’s are essential vitamins for muscle growth and reduction of muscle soreness. For this reason, they are vital for people who exercise regularly. Plenty of BCAA supplements are available that you can take with milk or water.
However, it is not necessary to spend money on those supplements if you eat a healthy and balanced diet that provides you with the required intake of BCAA’s.
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