Proteins break down amino acids that support cell growth and cell repair, which is why they’re regarded as the building blocks of life. Unlike carbohydrates, protein help you feel fuller for longer and with fewer calories, that’s why they’re ideal if you’re trying to lose weight. Eggs, dairy and meat are good sources of protein, but they usually come with a high fat content and also cholesterol. Since these are not viable options if you’re vegetarian or vegan, here’s how to add proteins to your diet today.
Peas are members of the legume family and they make a great source of vegetarian protein, with one cup containing 7.9 grams. If peas are not to your liking, try adding them into a pesto. You can blend frozen peas, fresh mint, toasted pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil and pour it over linguine. It’s a great meat-free meal and can contribute to the 46 grams of protein per day needed by women or the 56 grams needed by men.
Grains usually have small amounts of protein, but quinoa contains a whopping 8 grams per cup, plus all nine essential amino acids that your body requires for cell growth and repair. Quinoa can be used to make vegetarian chili or soup during winter months, while in the summer it can be added to a refreshing salad.
Nuts contain high amounts of protein and healthy fats, making them a must-have in every diet. Despite this, nuts are high in calories, with pistachios, cashews and almonds containing 160 calories and 5-6 grams of protein per ounce.
Almond and peanut butter are also good sources of protein, but make sure the product you’re purchasing has few ingredients, ideally just nuts and some salt. Ditch the ones that have added sugar and hydrogenated oils.
There are several varieties of beans — black, white, heirloom pinto — but they are all high in proteins. Two cups of kidney beans contain 26 grams of protein (1 gram more than a Big Mac). Beans are easy to prepare because you can buy them directly canned, rinse them, and heat them over the stove, but you can also choose to dry and soak them over night.
Foods made from soybeans are high in protein, with tofu containing 20 grams per cup, while tempeh contains 15 grams. These are very nutritious foods and can be combined with anything, being able to take the on the texture and taste of whatever food you like.
Vegetables don’t contain as much protein as nuts and legumes, but some can have considerable amounts of these nutrients, but also fiber and antioxidants. The amount of amino acids in your system can greatly benefit by you consuming a lot of vegetables and an assortment of different types of vegetables. One cup of broccoli contains 8.1 grams, while two cups of spinach contain 2.1 grams of protein.
You can try non-dairy milk even if you’re lactose intolerant, because they can be great alternatives for anyone’s diet. Be careful about what you choose, though, because they can contain plenty of added sugar and flavors. Choose plain soy milk, because it contains around 100 calories per cup, similar to skim milk’s 80 calories, while the flavored types can go over this limit by quite much. Soy milk contains 4-8 grams of protein per 8 ounces, while rice, hemp and almond milk contains 1 gram per cup.
Chia Seeds are packed with fiber, contain 4.7 grams of protein per ounce and are also used to make Chia Pet products. These seeds can be stirred into oatmeal or yogurt, sprinkled over salads or blended into smoothies. Chia seeds make for a rich and creamy pudding-like treat, because they plump up and take a gelatinous texture when soaked in a liquid.
Sunflower, Sesame and Poppy Seeds
Sunflower seed kernels contain 7.3 grams of protein per quarter cup, with sesame seeds and poppy seeds containing 5.4 grams each. These seeds are not only high in protein, but also rich in healthy fats and can be used in a variety of wonderful recipes.