Low Carb Vegetarian Diet: 20 Best Sources of Protein For Vegetarians

Low Carb Vegetarian Diet: 20 Best Sources of Protein For Vegetarians

Many people are making the move from animal-based protein (meat, eggs, cheese) to consuming more plant-based proteins. What is a plant-based protein? A plant-based protein is a source of protein that has no animal by-product in it.

Proteins are essential. Present in every cell of the human body ( 75% of muscle mass and basic components of our body fluids), they are a necessary need for our regeneration, healthy growth and detoxification.

What happens if you don’t get enough protein?

No matter what is your nutrition goal: to boost your health, to lose or gain weight – skimping on proteins is never a good idea! Researchers from Harvard University encourage getting daily at least around 25-30% of your whole food  (46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men).

Proteins are usually more expensive than other nutrients but they will keep you fuller than any starchy food because your body takes more time to digest them. Additionally, they boost your metabolism, immunology system and brain power.

What is a good source of a plant protein?

For your body, it doesn’t matter if you provide your body with the proteins of animal or plant origins (it matters for the environment though to limit the animal nutrient s in your diet). For your body, the main aim is to ensure to get a complete amino acid ‘package’ on daily basis, which contains enough amounts of various types of high-quality proteins which contain all essential amino acids.

Where do you get your protein as a vegan?

Our bodies can make complete proteins from foods with a different type of proteins. This process of  ‘pairing proteins’ was incorporated in the typical food habit in many cultures in the world. People intuitively combined foods that can naturally complement each other’s proteins, like:

  • Beans + rice or tortillas  (Central and South America),
  • Dairy + nuts and grains (All western cultures)
  • Hummus + pita bread  (Middle East)
  • Peanut or sesame seed sauce  + noodles  (South East Asia)
  • Pizza, lasagna:  cheese + quality bread/pasta  (Italy)
  • Peanut butter + bread  (USA)

In my selection of 20 best sources of proteins for vegetarians, I’ve chosen products, which are easy to get and to prepare. I also recommend checking the nutritional value of your favorite foods at the nutriton calculator, taking into consideration their protein value. What are examples of plant-based foods?

How can you get protein without eating meat? Vegetables and Legumes High in Protein

SEITAN

(75g per 100g)

If you want to eat something like meat but what is better for the environment than meat dishes, seitan will be the best alternative. 100g of seitan provides more than your daily requirement of protein.

Created more thousand years ago as a meat substitute for Chinese Buddhist monks, seitan is made by mixing the protein in wheat (gluten) with herbs and spices.  Cooked in usually soy sauce broth to add gluten’s missing amino acid (lysine) makes a rich, 75% protein, meat-like product, which has little in common with bread, pasta or other wheat products.

You can use it to any dish which normally would include meat, like goulash, stake or chicken dishes. Despite is wheat origins seitan is low in carbohydrates and fat, but high in iron and calcium.

QUINOA

(16g per 100g)

Quinoa has its origins in South America where it was cultivated since 3-5 000 years making a typical ancient Inkas food.  It is the perfect side dish, way richer in proteins and generally more nutritious than rice or pasta. It and contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs, is totally gluten-free and has an interesting nutty flavour.

Full of fibre, magnesium and iron makes it the perfect food. You can eat it as a side dish, but also as an addition to your yoghurt, make quinoa pancakes, cookies, veggie bowl, granola bars (perfect gluten-free granola replacement – if you are intolerant), salads, quesadillas etc…

NUTS and NUT BUTTERS

(16g per 100g)

A childhood staple that is highly consumed by many around the world. Peanut butter is often chosen for its taste and convenience. Easy to get, convenient and delicious nuts maybe nature’s most versatile, nutritionally balanced health food. Packed with healthy fatty acids help to prevent stroke,  type 2 diabetes, encourage weight loss (curb appetite) and are a healthy vegetal source of proteins.

Sprinkle nuts and seeds everywhere – on your salads, desserts and as a topping of your dish. It’s the perfect food to have it always with you in your bag. Nuts also make great kinds of butter – you especially almond peanuts, macadamia and cashew. Peanut butter is a yummy alternative to meat that contains plenty of protein.

Nuts can be used to make your favourite variations of pesto. Blend an ounce of nuts with rucola, basil or coriander, add a lot of oil (f.ex linen oil rich in omegas3), a bit of parmesan if you like, salt pepper and enjoy a healthy homemade pesto!

Finding quality, not salty and not processed nuts can come across as pricey so I recommend finding a cheap source of nuts and buying them in advance in bigger quantities. I got mine from a local food market and store in big jars.

TOFU, TEMPEH, NATTO and OTHER SOY PRODUCTS

(13,1g per 100g)

Often labelled as bland, tofu has a bit of a bad rap for being tasteless. The thing about tofu is, that once you properly learn to prepare and cook it, it can be enjoyable. Tofu as a plant-based source of protein is awesome for its sense of versatility, taking on whatever flavour you want.

Soy is one of the rare complete proteins. Originally from eastern Asia, are most commonly known as processed soy products such as tofu, soy milk, soy sauce or tempeh.

The most famous one – tofu, has its origins in ancient China and comes in many different forms, tastes, and textures. when marinated in advanced, fried with onions, garlic and other spices can be really flavoured. Tofu is relatively low in calories in relation to its protein count. Tofu may be a good option for people looking for a plant-based protein that is low in fat and carbs.

How to choose the right tofu?

The rule is one: the firmer, harder tofu is, the highest amount of protein it contains.

Made from fermented soybeans Tempeh and Natto are even higher in proteins and probiotics. ( 10 g per ½ cup serving (firm tofu), 15 grams per ½ cup serving (tempeh or natto).

Soy’s health benefits such as antioxidants and phytonutrients are undeniable, but the whole scale of how the food was processed raises concerns about the side effects. Carefully check the origins of the soy products you buy, like any other processed food.

Tempeh is a fermented soy product that originated from Indonesia is an excellent source of plant-based protein, tempeh is low in fat, free of cholesterol and sodium and is a good source of calcium, iron and fiber.

LENTILS

(9g protein per 100g *cooked*)

Lentils are a food staple throughout many countries, including; India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Nepal.

Lentils, part of the legume family, come in many different varieties (red, green, yellow). Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein, packed with nutrients, such as, folate, manganese, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and loaded with fibre. Cheap, easy to store and cook. Mixed with your favourite spaces as a side dish, blended in a soup, shaped into a veggie burgers or cooked as a part of a vegetarian stew.

HEMP SEED

(10g per ounce (28g)

A botanical related to his famous cousin Cannabis sativa, hemp seed does NOT cause any psychotropic reactions (if anyone expected that). What it has are significant health benefits,, which makes it not only a great protein source but also one of the best super foods.

Rich in un-soluble fibre, naturally clean the colon and reduces sugar cravings. Hemp seed’s amino acid profile is comparable to animal sources of protein such as meat, milk, and eggs, so it is the perfect addition if you skimp on those. Hemp seed protein is unique by including 65% of it is globulin edestin (responsible for DNA repair), which is the highest amount found in any plant. Hemp seed it is considered as “the perfect protein” not only containing all 20 amino acids, but also each of the 9 essential amino acids that our body is not able to produce itself.

It has a very delicate taste so you can sprinkle the shelled seeds on your salads, smoothies, cereals without changing much the flavour.

CHIA SEEDS

(16 g 100 g)

Originally grown in Mexico, dark small chia seeds became very popular in the superfoods community. 37% of chia is dietary fiber, 20% protein, 20% omega fats. It is also high in antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. Chia proven benefits are related to age prevention, improving metabolism, boosting heart health (reversing inflammation, regulating cholesterol and lowering blood pressure).

It’s not surprising that back in times Aztec warriors were using chia seeds as a source of their energy! Along with a good source of plant protein, Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants, iron and calcium.

People on blood thinners and/or those with already considerably low blood pressure should talk to their health care professional before adding to diet. The most common side effect with chia seed consumption is gastrointestinal problems, varying from constipation, bloating and diarrhoea.

You can read more about how to prepare chia at Superfoods That Will Boost Your Vital Energy.

KALE

(3 g per 100g)

food salad-texture-green-kale

Sometimes, some vegetables are just a bit more intriguing than others. Kale is a great example of how powerful a simple veggie can be with all the health websites and forums writing about its health benefits. There have been even TED talks proving that the diet rich in Kale helped to fight against multiple sclerosis!

It contains enough protein to rank on our countdown, but kale alone is not enough to make up for not having meat. When combined with other high-protein meat-free sources you’ll have no trouble meeting your needs.  Kale is also high in fibre, and is a cruciferous vegetable, with research showing that it may be helpful in preventing cancer and other diseases. Bake up leaves of kale into kale chips.

Some of these products may be expensive or difficult to find for example when you are living in a small city and forgot to buy them online, or when you are travelling.

AVOCADO

(2g per 100g)

While not the highest protein count for a meatless source of protein, avocados should not be overlooked. They’ll not only add to your total protein for the day, but they’ll provide other healthy benefits that will help facilitate healthy living. They’re one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and their protein content is only a small part of that reason.

Continue reading about easy to find and cheap sources of protein (which are not meat).