In our modern world, filled with fast food restaurants, the first thing many people think (usually non-lifters) when someone mentions protein, is a big, juicy burger. And they’d be right. Proteins are actually complex molecules made up of a chain of various amino acids, and they are abundant in the plant kingdom. The thing is in knowing where to find this protein, a skill that is invaluable for vegetarians and vegans. The daily protein recommendations range from 0.5 up to 1.5 gram per pound of body weight. This amounts to 15-40 percent of all calories, an amount that can be easily attained when incorporating these foods in a high-protein vegetarian diet. The best 5 choices for this type of diet are:
1. Eggs and dairy products
The first item on our list is not suitable for vegans, which is why we’ll get it out of the way first. An average egg has 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of unsaturated fat (the good kind) and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat (the bad kind). Always strive to buy organic and to make sure that the eggs were laid by healthy and happy chicken in a more natural environment. Unhappy and unhealthy chicken lay eggs which have a lower nutrient content. Greek yogurt has a smaller amount of sugar and a greater amount of good fats in comparison to the majority of conventional yogurts which are usually high in sugar, all kinds of additives and various hormones from cows.
Choose varieties that have live active cultures. They have good bacteria in them which will aid in regulating your digestion. Whey, which is a byproduct of milk, is easily digested and absorbed in the intestines and packs a huge protein punch with whooping 25 grams per scoop, which makes it an excellent addition to a high-protein diet for vegetarians. Start with the unflavored type first to avoid additives and see how your body reacts to it, and then you can choose different flavors and even add some fruits or some cocoa or chocolate powder.
2. Tofu and tempeh
Lately, there has been a lot of talk about consuming soy leading to increased estrogen level as well as increased risk of developing cancer, however, research so far hasn’t led to any conclusive results. That’s why in order to play it safe, avoid processed foods that contain soy and choose the fermented varieties, like tempeh. It even has a greater amount of protein than tofu, 30 grams vs 22 grams per cup. Tofu and soy-based faux-meats often have a high amount of starchy, unnatural and unhealthy additives which you would do good to avoid.
Even though it’s often mistaken for a grain, quinoa is actually a seed and it has 9 grams of protein per cup. People who are intolerant to gluten may find it suitable as it has a low glycemic index and has a high content of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Consuming it will also provide you with a solid dose of zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate.
4. Legumes and vegetables
Are you even surprised that these are on the list? For starters, one cup of broccoli has 5 grams of protein, as does a cup of cooked sweet potato and two cups of kale. A single avocado fruit has whopping 10 grams of protein. Provided that you don’t have to worry too much about carbs, a cup of lentils, garbanzo beans, and re-fried beans have 18, 14.5 and 15.5 grams of protein respectively.
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5. Seeds and nuts
Seeds and nuts are an excellent source of protein for those who want to lead a healthy vegetarian lifestyle. Below is a run-down of the protein content of the most popular nuts and seeds:
• 1 ounce of cashews – 4.4 grams of protein
• 1 ounce of sesame seeds – 6.5 grams
• 2 ounces of walnuts – 5 grams
• 1 ounce of pistachios – 5.8 grams
• 2 tablespoons of almonds – 4 grams
You should also remember that butter made of nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts are good protein sources, too. You only need to make sure that they are not filled with additives and sugars.