What’s the Big Deal About Protein?
Protein is a micro-nutrient that helps your body build healthy muscle, bone, and skin, among other things. Without enough protein, you may experience muscle loss, fatigue, and even a weakened immune system.
The daily recommended amount of protein varies from person to person, but the average female requires about 45 grams, and the average male requires 55 grams.
While meat is a great source of protein, it’s not the only source. Here are ten healthy sources of protein for vegetarians (and meat eaters too).
Best Protein Sources for Vegetarians
While all beans are a good source of protein, black beans are one of the healthiest legumes you can eat. In each cup of black beans, you’ll find 42 grams of protein and 30 grams of fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Combine those nutritional figures with the fact that black beans only have 2.8 grams of fat (4% of your daily recommended intake), and you have an unbeatable vegetarian protein source.
Quinoa is one of the only grains that is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. With about 8 grams of protein per cooked cup (220 calories), it’s a low-calorie, high-fiber food that is versatile in cooking.
Dairy milk is another powerful source of protein with 8 grams per cup (about 160 calories) and eight essential nutrients: calcium, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamins A, D, and B12. Milk, especially whole and chocolate, has a wonderful blend of protein and fat which make it an ideal post-workout drink.
Two eggs contain 12 grams of protein and only 160 calories, making them a great source of protein for vegetarians. Eggs also have a substantial amount of the daily recommended vitamin D and B12.
Lentils are underutilized in most kitchens but are a great way to add protein to your diet. One cup of cooked lentils has a whopping 18 grams of protein topping out at 230 calories. Lentils also contain high amounts of fiber – 16 grams per cup (about 64% of your daily value).
Split peas have a similar protein profile to lentils, coming in at 16 grams per one cup. They also contain potassium and magnesium which keep your muscles healthy and functional.
Tofu has about 10 grams of protein per ½ cup, along with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (known as “good fat”). Since tofu can take on flavor, it’s versatile and a perfect addition to your protein staples.
Kale & Spinach
If you look at the calories-to-protein ratio, kale and spinach are winners. With about 3 grams of protein per cup and only 30 calories, you can fill up your plate and easily increase your protein intake.
Generally, fruits don’t contain much protein, but if you’re looking for one that stands out, choose delicious guava. With a little over 4 grams of protein per cup, guavas can be a healthy dessert or snack.
Whether you like peanuts raw or in butter form, they have more protein than any other nut. A half cup of peanuts will deliver 19 grams of protein, along with fiber and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
It’s easy for vegetarians to load up on protein. Choose legumes, leafy vegetables, eggs, and milk to supercharge your meals, stay fuller, and feed your muscles. If you want to include a glass of milk with your meal for added protein, find a carton of a2 MilkⓇ at your local grocery store – it may be easier on digestion and may help some avoid discomfort!