Most people think that vegetarians and vegans don’t get enough protein. But that’s just not true! There are many meatless high protein foods out there. It comes down to knowing where to start.
Why Is Protein Important?
As one of the three major macronutrients, protein is essential for life. It’s found in every single cell. Protein is made of amino acids, which are aptly called the “building blocks” of the body. Without amino acids, the body would not be able to function properly.
Your body doesn’t store protein like it does with carbohydrates and fat. So you need to eat it every day.1 The recommended amount is 10 to 35 percent of your overall caloric intake.
Meat is one of the richest sources of protein. But if you’re following a vegetarian diet, meat isn’t an option. These top 4 protein sources for vegetarians will help you out.
Legumes or beans are some of the best vegetarian protein sources.2 This includes foods like kidney, garbanzo, and black beans. They can be tossed into salads, pasta, and rice – just to name a few. Beans also work well in tacos and homemade veggie burgers.
Beans should always be cooked before eating. It’ll enhance the digestibility of the protein, which is exactly what you want.3
Garbanzo beans can be made into a hummus. It doubles as a healthy dip and protein source for vegetarians. Eat it with tortilla chips or spread it on bread.
Since beans are plant-based, they are also good vegan sources of protein.
2. Soy Products
Soy foods like tofu and soy milk are good sources of proteins for vegetarians. These products are made from soy, a type of bean. It’s jam-packed with other nutrients like fiber, omega-3 fats, and B vitamins.
Soy is often used for vegetarian ‘meats’ like burgers, sausages, and hot dogs. Compared to real meat, these options have much less fat and cholesterol.4 However, watch out for the sodium. Some brands add lots of salt and flavoring to make it taste better.
Other soy products include ‘cheese’, miso, tempeh, and edamame. You can even buy soy protein powder.
If you have a hormone-sensitive condition, limit your soy intake. It has isoflavones which are weak phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). This means that they have estrogen-like effects on the body and might aggravate your condition.5
For a high protein vegetarian food, eat nuts. Just one ounce of peanuts, or 28 to 30 pieces, equals 6.9 grams. A tablespoon of peanut butter has 3.6 grams.6
Almonds, walnuts, Brazilian nuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts are also packed with protein. They make great toppings for yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal. You can also toss them in smoothie or trail mix. Making a salad? Eat them as healthy “croutons”.
Seitan or wheat gluten is another meat substitute. It’s popular in Asian restaurants and as a protein for vegetarians. The texture is a lot like meat, and it can even look like it.
Cooking seitan is similar to cooking tofu. For example, it can be fried, baked, or grilled. It’s also possible to make seitan at home using wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, and other ingredients.
While seitan is a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, it should be avoided by those with celiac disease. People with gluten insensitivity and intolerance should also skip seitan.
Finding protein for vegetarians and vegans isn’t hard. You just need to learn how to prepare it! Use the Internet to scope out recipes. Before long, you’ll be meeting your protein needs in the healthiest way.
|↑2, ↑6||Protein in diet. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Oliveira, Aline P., Geyssa Ferreira Andrade, Bianca SO Mateó, and Juliana Naozuka. “Protein and Metalloprotein Distribution in Different Varieties of Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.): Effects of Cooking.” International Journal of Food Science 2017 (2017).|
|↑4||Soy. Kid’s Health.|
|↑7||Ley, Sylvia H., Qi Sun, Walter C. Willett, A. Heather Eliassen, Kana Wu, An Pan, Fran Grodstein, and Frank B. Hu. “Associations between red meat intake and biomarkers of inflammation and glucose metabolism in women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2014): ajcn-075663.|
|↑8||Farvid, Maryam S., Eunyoung Cho, Wendy Y. Chen, A. Heather Eliassen, and Walter C. Willett. “Adolescent meat intake and breast cancer risk.” International journal of cancer 136, no. 8 (2015): 1909-1920.|