Best vegan and vegetarian protein sources
Proteins are the building blocks of our body where they break down into amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. One of the great things about protein is that they take longer to digest than carbs, helping you feel satiated for longer and with fewer calories, which is a great bonus for people trying to lose weight. According to studies, women should get about 46 grams of protein per day, and men need about 56. Animal products, such as meat, eggs and dairy, are good sources of protein. But they can also be high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which is not good for your health. Good news is that you don’t need to eat meat or cheese to get enough protein. Here are 14 good vegetarian and vegan sources.
Most grains are not that rich in protein, but quinoa, which is technically a seed, is unique – it contains more than 8 grams per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair, but cannot produce on its own. Because of that, quinoa is often called a “perfect protein”. You can add quinoa to soups or vegetarian chili during winter months, serve it with brown sugar and fruit as a hot breakfast cereal, or mix with vegetables and a vinaigrette for a summer salad.
These seeds are an easy way to get your protein and fiber intake. About two tablespoons of chis seeds contain 4.7 grams of protein. You can sprinkle them over salads, add into yogurt or oatmeal, or blend into smoothies. When soaked in a liquid they plump up and take on a gelatinous texture, forming a rich and creamy pudding-like treat.
Sesame, sunflower and poppy seeds
A lot of other seeds are also high in protein and healthy fats. Sunflower seed kernels contain the most protein – 7.3 grams per quarter cup, then sesame seeds and poppy seeds follow – they contain 5.4 grams each. Add these seeds into your salad, yogurt, oatmeal or sprinkle them over toasts.
Nuts and nut butter
All nuts are rich in both healthy fats and protein, which makes them a valuable part of a plant-based diet. But because they are high in calories (for example, almonds, cashews, and pistachios contain 160 calories and 5 or 6 grams of protein per ounce), opt for raw or dry roasted nuts. Nut butters, like peanut and almond butter, are also a good way to get protein. Choose the brands with as few ingredients as possible – just nuts and maybe salt. Avoid butters with hydrogenated oils or lots of added sugar.
All legumes are good sources of vegetarian protein, including peas. One cup of green peas contains 7.9 grams of protein, it’s about the same as a cup of milk. You can eat peas as a side dish or add them to a pesto sauce.
All different varieties of beans – black, white, pinto, heirloom, etc. – have high amounts of protein. For example, 2 cups of kidney beans contain about 26 grams. And by the way, even canned beans have all their nutritional benefits. Just rinse them and heat them up over the stove before serving.
These legumes contain 7.3 grams of protein in just half a cup, and are also high in fiber and low in calories. You can make a hummus out of chickpeas, add them into salads, and even used them fried and salted as a crispy snack.
Tempeh and tofu
Soybeans-made foods are some of the highest vegetarian sources of protein. For example, tempeh and tofu contain about 15 and 20 grams per half cup, respectively. They’re highly nutritious, and will add a great taste and texture to any food.
These green soy beans contain 8.4 grams of protein per half cup. Boiled edamame can be served hot or cold and sprinkled with salt. Try it as a snack, an appetizer before dinner, or add them to salads or pastas (without the shell, of course).
Although vegetables don’t have as much protein as legumes and nuts, some of them contain significant amounts of it, along with lots of antioxidants, amino acids and heart-healthy fiber. For example, two cups of raw spinach contain 2.1 grams of protein, and one cup of chopped broccoli contains 8.1 grams. You should eat a lot of vegetables, a wide variety of different types of them to get all their health benefits.
Three tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 10 grams of protein. You can add them to cereals, smoothies, pestos, or baked goods. Hemp milk can also be a dairy-free way to add protein to your diet, and it’s lower in calories than skim milk.
Seitan is made from wheat gluten and it’s very popular substitute of meat with vegetarians – half cup contains 36 grams, that’s more than either tofu or tempeh. It looks like duck meat and tastes like chicken, and can be used in any recipe that calls for poultry.
Milk alternatives are good not just for the lactose intolerant people. They can be great additions to any diet. Just avoid the brands with lots of added sugar and flavors. For example, plain soy milk contains about 100 calories per cup (compared to 80 calories of skim milk), but the flavored varieties can contain much more. Soy milk contains the most protein, at 4 to 8 grams per 8 ounces, but almond, rice, oat and hemp milk also contain about 1 gram per cup.
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Did you know that you can get protein from chocolate? But it’s true. Unsweetened cocoa powder contains about 1 gram of protein per tablespoon. The powder is bitter all by itself, so most recipes require lots of sugar and fat, usually butter or other dairy, as well. For a healthy, low-calorie hot cocoa choose nonfat or almond milk and calorie-free sweeteners.