Most meat-eaters claim that their vegetarian friends can’t possibly eat enough high quality protein sources in their diet. However, most vegetarians have found many delicious sources of protein that can be incorporated at every meal to help even a vegan consume enough of this important nutrient. There are animal and non-animal based sources listed here, so, make choices based on your lifestyle!
What Does Protein Do for My Body?
It is recommended that women consume 46 grams of protein each day. This essential amino acid maintains a variety of functions in the body, from aiding in blood clotting, keeping hair healthy, regulating metabolism, and of course, building strong muscles. So, the concern for vegetarians is real…not getting enough protein is not a good thing, leading to low energy levels, and poor recovery from illness. Fortunately, enough protein is in close reach, no matter what your eating habits are.
10 Plant Based Sources:
1. Soy beans / Edamame
Soybeans are a great way to add a whopping 28 grams of protein to your diet with just 1 cup of beans. Add a bag of the frozen shells to a pot of boiling water, and boil for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Add sea salt to taste, and pop them out to eat!
White, black or red, these little babies are great with rice, in veggie fajitas, on a salad, or plain! You can even pass up the canned (which often have lots of sodium) and boil your own. Soak beans in a pot of water overnight. Dump the water, rinse the beans and pick out the odd looking ones. Refill the pot, and bring back to a boil. Chop a medium onion and add to the pot with a bay leaf and two tablespoons of salt. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat and boil for about two hours, or until tender. Remove the bay leaf and serve! Add to a side of rice to turn this into a high quality protein by rounding out the amino acids that are lacking. This plant based protein power house racks up to: 15g protein in 1 cup beans.
This centuries-old legume is famous for the soup it makes, but is tasty when boiled for 30 minutes with a chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, a carrot and one celery stalk. The mixture, when combined with halved grape tomatoes and a little lemony vinaigrette, makes for a delicious salad. ½ cup lentils: 9g
This is a restauranteur’s go-to offering for vegans. Try it grilled or stir-fried for a tasty meat substitute. 3.5 oz tofu racks up 8g of protein
Most nuts get a bad rap for high fat and calories, but just one ounce isn’t so bad! As a mid-day snack, peanuts keep you satisfied, thanks to a wallop of protein. Break the shells yourself, and you’ll be likely to feel satisfied after 1 oz. Cashews, peanuts and peanut butter are also excellent sources. Peanuts: 1ounce: 7g
7. Peanut butter
Opt for a natural version for added health benefits 2 tbsp: 7g
Also known as ce-ce beans, garbanzos, and bengal gram, these can be a vegetarian’s best friend. Throw a few on your salad, or zap a can of these drained beans in the food processor with a tablespoon of oil, a clove of garlic and a little salt and pepper for a quick hummus. Add a little water if needed to help it blend. ½ cup: 6g
10. Green Peas:
Small but mighty, just a ½ cup serving delivers 4g
3 Animal Based Sources:
Most cheeses have high protein levels, and because it is animal based, all varieties contain the essential amino acids that aid in absorption. The fat content is on the high side, so stick to the lowfat versions.
- Ricotta Cheese: ½ cup: 14g
- Cottage Cheese: ½ cup: 14g
- Cheddar Cheese: 1oz standard serving: 7g
Skim or non-fat milk is a lowfat, lower calorie choice as a high quality protein. Combine a cup with a high protein cereal in the morning, like Grape Nuts, Mini Wheats, or oatmeal, and you’ve consumed nearly half the protein in a fillet mignon. 1 cup milk: 8g Replace cow’s milk with soy milk for 6g protein.
Eggs can be a convenient source of protein and pack a punch of vitamin d, folic acid and a wealth of other vitamins and minerals. Also a high quality protein, easy to make and easily portable when hard-boiled. Just one egg packs 6g protein!
Of course there are other sources as well, such as protein shakes, bars, and powders, which are intended for increasing muscle mass, but there are so many high quality options that will save you money and provide so many other nutrients to round out your healthy eating plan.