Nutrition

The 6 Best Vegetarian Protein Sources

Are you considering going vegetarian?

Some people are under the impression that going vegetarian means that you’ll become weak, frail, and malnourished. This is not the case. While it’s true that those who follow a vegetarian meal plan do need to be more careful about which food choices they make in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies, a vegetarian diet can be just as healthy, if not healthier than a non-vegetarian plan.

One of the primary areas to focus on will be your lean protein intake. Failing to get enough protein could lead to a loss of lean muscle mass, which would leave you feeling weaker and more prone to weight gain as you experience a reduced resting metabolic rate, therefore getting enough in is essential. One thing to also note is that there is no need to worry about food combining like some vegetarians do. Provided you are taking in a wide variety of foods over the course of the day, you should have no problem getting in sufficient amounts of the required essential amino acids.

Let’s take a closer look at the six best vegetarian protein sources that you should be considering.

Black Beans

Black BeansBlack beans are a good vegetarian protein source to be adding to your diet regularly. Black beans earn top marks for boosting your digestive health as they can help lower your risk factor for colon cancer while ensuring that you stay healthy. This is thanks to the fact they contain a high amount of indigestible fraction, which is a substance used to make butyric acid. This fuels the cells in the lower digestive tract to function optimally.

Black beans will provide you with an excellent dose of folate, copper, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, magnesium, as well as a good dose of iron along with the protein and complex carbohydrates they provide. The high fiber content they contain also makes them ideal for lowering your cholesterol levels, improving cardiovascular function and decreasing your risk for heart disease. They’re a highly versatile food and can easily be eaten on their own, mixed with some rice (a common vegetarian dish), used in soups or stews, or blended up and used in spreads or baked dishes.

Chickpeas

ChickpeasDon’t overlook adding chickpeas to your diet as well. These are a fantastic source of dietary fiber, providing 12.5 grams per one cup serving. They provide not only the protein that you’re looking for, but complex carbohydrates as well. That makes these a perfect energising food to eat before any exercise session.

They’re also going to provide a very strong dose of folate, giving you 71% of your total daily needs. This makes them a great food for any woman who is either trying to get pregnant or currently pregnant. Chickpeas will also provide a quarter of your daily intake for iron per cup serving, so will help keep your energy up as well. Chickpeas are also a rich source of antioxidant phytonutrients, which act as antioxidants in the body and can help lower oxidation levels while also improving heart health.

Try preparing them into a delicious hummus or using them to make baked foods such as muffins or loaves.

Quinoa

QuinoaNext up on the list of fantastic protein sources for vegetarians is quinoa. Quinoa is a grain that is quite comparable to brown rice in terms of how you can use it. However it is different, in that it provides a complete source of protein all on its own. It’s the only grain that has that complete spectrum of amino acids, so stands out as one of the best go-to sources for vegetarians. It’s also higher in total protein content, coming in at 8 grams of protein per one cup cooked.

In addition to that, quinoa is also rich in iron, magnesium, manganese, and is a fantastic source of dietary fiber. The iron content is especially notable as many vegetarians do fall short in this department. One great thing about quinoa is that it’s very versatile and can be used as a side dish or used to prepare casseroles, served as a morning breakfast cereal, or even used when making muffins or cookies.

Tofu

TofuOne vegetarian source that most people are already familiar with is tofu. You’ll take in around 10 grams of protein per half cup serving of firm tofu, making it quite a concentrated source. Take note that the harder the tofu you choose, the higher the protein content, so just be sure that you are choosing wisely. Tofu provides a very concentrated source of calcium with a 4 oz. serving providing 77% of your daily requirements.

If you’re worried about bone health, eat just one serving of tofu a day and you’ll be nearly set in terms of your RDA. In addition to that, tofu also is a rich source of vitamin B1, zinc, magnesium, along with providing 17% of your daily iron requirements as well. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that because tofu is made from soy, men will want to keep their intake a little on the lower side as soy consumption in males can have adverse effects.

Hemp Seeds

Hemp SeedsHemp seeds are the next go-to. This seed comes in at 10 grams of protein per two tablespoon serving, so will quickly help you meet your target intake. One very nice thing about hemp seeds is that they’re also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are an essential fatty acid necessary for optimal health. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower the level of inflammation in the body, protect brain health and function, reduce your risk factor for cancer, and promote a healthier heart as well. They are one nutrient you don’t want to fall short in, but yet, one that most people are. Hemp seeds are also going to provide a good dose of fiber as well, which is great for stabilising blood glucose levels and keeping your energy levels on an even keel. You’ll also get a small dose of calcium with your hemp seeds, which is another mineral important for vegetarians. Calcium will help with promoting strong bones while also making sure that you sustain regular muscular contractions. Finally, hemp seeds are also a good source of magnesium, zinc and iron, and so, are a perfect go-to food. Sprinkle some into a bowl of morning oatmeal or consider adding them to any smoothie you might be preparing. They’re also great used in baking such as with cookies, muffins, or squares.

Ezekiel Bread

Ezekiel BreadOne mistake that some vegetarians make as they plan and prepare their diet plan is overdoing carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates. If you find yourself feasting on bread, pasta, and breakfast cereals, you could be significantly skewing your diet in favor of carbs and leaving healthy fats and protein out. Balance is key. One great way to achieve balance at breakfast is to swap your regular toast with some Ezekiel bread toasted instead. This bread will provide 8 grams of protein per two slice serving, coming in quite a bit ahead of other bread varieties.

Ezekiel bread is made from a combination of wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, proving to be a very hearty bread variety. As such, it’s not only rich in protein, but will also provide a healthy dose of dietary fiber thanks to all those grains as well. It’ll keep blood sugar levels stable and ensure that you are energised for whatever your day brings. It also works great when used for sandwiches, such as peanut butter and banana or avocado, tomatoes, and cucumber for example.

So there you have some of the top sources of vegetarian protein to add into your diet plan. Do keep in mind that many of these sources will contain a good dose of carbohydrates and healthy fats, which isn’t bad by any means, but must be accounted for in your total daily calorie intake. If you simply add these to your diet without changing anything else, you may find that you are starting to gain weight, so substitute them instead. For instance, instead of eating pasta, which is high in carbs and relatively low in protein, try beans. Or, rather than serving rice with your dish, swap it for quinoa. By substituting these foods in while still focusing on taking in a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, it will help manage your total calorie intake while getting your protein needs met. If you eat a good vegetarian-friendly source of protein with each meal and snack you consume, you’ll b

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Updated: Aug 28, 2015

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