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Proteins are essential. Present in every cell of human body ( 75% of muscle mass and basic components of our body fluids), they are necessary need for our regeneration, healthy growth and detoxification.
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.
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.
Our bodies can make complete proteins from foods with 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.
Vegetables and Legumes High in Protein
(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.
(16g per 100g)
Quinoa has it’s 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 flavor.
Full of fiber, magnesium and iron makes it the perfect food. You can eat it as a side dish, but also as an addition to your yogurt, 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)
Easy to get, convenient and delicious nuts maybe the nature’s most versatile, nutritionally balanced health food. Packed with with healthy fatty acids help to preventstroke, type 2 diabetes, encourage weight loss (curb apetite) and are helathy 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 butters – 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 favorite variations of pesto. Blend an ounce of nuts with rucola, basil or coleander, 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 home made 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 then in advance in bigger quantities. I bring mine from a local food market in Poland and store in big jars.
TOFU , TEMPEH, NATTO and OTHER SOYA PRODUCTS
(13,1g per 100g)
Soy is one of 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 flavory.
How to choose right tofu?
The rule is one: the firmer, harder tofu is, the highest amount of protein it contains.
Soy’s health benefits such us 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 soy products you buy, like any other processed food.
(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 fiber, 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 flavor.
(16 g 100 g)
Originally grown in Mexico, dark small chia seeds became very popular in the super foods 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 suprising that back in times Aztec warriors were using chia seeds as a source of their energy and endurance!
You can read more about how to prepare chia at Superfoods That Will Boost Your Vital Energy.
(3 g per 100g)
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 fiber, 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.
(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).