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10 Vegetarian Sources of Protein

10 Vegetarian Sources of Protein

One challenge in going vegetarian is finding enough “high-quality” protein. High-quality protein is defined as protein that contains all eight of the essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Most meat sources have all of the amino acids in one place. Plant sources usually have some of the acids, but not all in one place. So the key is combining foods to get a full complement of amino acids. Here are some of the top ways to get your proteins sans meat. (Vegans, skip to #3, and keep in mind that #7 uses egg whites as a binder).

  1. Eggs. Egg protein is commonly referred to as a “perfect protein,” because it contains all eight essential amino acids. There’s a reason Rocky drank eggs during training; they contribute greatly to muscle recovery
  2. Dairy. Many dairy products still have the same saturated-fat issues as meat, and not all people can tolerate dairy well; a not-inconsiderable percentage of the population is either lactose-intolerant or allergic to dairy
  3. Legumes.  They are high in fibre and high in protein too.
  4. Grains. Usually we think of grains as carbs, but when we’re talking grains, they actually have a fair amount of protein. If you always choose whole-grain varieties of your favorite grains, you’ll get most of your recommended daily allowance (RDA)* of fiber as well. But carb-watchers should beware; whole grains are the “carbiest” of the protein sources available.
  5. Nuts and seeds. The mighty almond, which also has the most fiber per 30g of any of the common nuts, also has the most protein.
  6. Seitan. Seitan is a meat substitute made from processed wheat gluten. Popular for centuries in Asia.. It’s not very flavorful, which makes it an ideal ingredient for replacing meat in any dish—it will assume the flavor of the sauce or spices you use. Many Asian dishes use it as mock pork, chicken, or beef. Try it in a stir-fry—you might fool your family!
  7. Quorn. Quorn is the most well-known brand name of a fungus-based protein source that has only been available commercially since 1985. Quorn is processed into different forms and flavors, like hot dogs, burgers, and faux chicken nuggets. As with seitan and other meat substitutes, you should keep an eye on the sodium content; salt is usually the go-to ingredient when attempting to disguise a meat substitute’s origins. Also, there have been some reports of people having allergic reactions to Quorn, so it may be worth checking with your doctor to see if you’re sensitive to it.
  8. Nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast can be used as an additive in a variety of recipes. It’s very popular in Europe and Australia, and is gaining popularity in America. It has a slightly cheesy flavor and can be added to shakes, soups, and sauces, or used as a substitute for Parmesan cheese or as a popcorn or garlic-bread topping. It’s especially rich in B vitamins.
  9. Spirulina. Also known as blue-green algae, this has been a food source for centuries in Africa and South America. It has a lot of vitamins and minerals and is a complete protein. It can also be used powdered or fresh in dips, salads, and sauces. Take a look at Internet message boards and Web sites, where enthusiasts post lots of recipe ideas.
  10. Amaranth and Quinoa. These are often referred to as “pseudograins.” Both are actually seeds but are similar to grains in texture and flavour. Both are complete proteins, containing all eight essential amino acids, and have high levels of fiber and minerals. Amaranth can be used as flour, puffed into breakfast cereal, or cooked into soups and stir-frys. Quinoa can also be used for breakfast cereal, and, when boiled, makes an excellent substitute for rice or couscous.

Additionally, if you’re thinking of cutting back on fish in your diet, you might want to consider adding a decent omega-3 supplement to your regular food intake.

Type of food

Measurement

Protein (g)

Fats (g)

Calories

1 Eggs

1 egg

6

5

80

2 Dairy

Milk

1 cup (250ml)

8

5

120

Swiss Cheese

30g

8

8

105

Non-fat Yoghurt

225g

14

137

Cottage Cheese

1 cup (250ml)

28

3 Legumes

Chickpeas

1 cup

17

Lentils

1 cup

16

Peanut Butter

1 tablespoon

4

4 Grains

Barley

1 cup

18

Buckwheat Flour

1 cup

15

Oats

1 cup

13

5 Nuts & Seeds

Almond

30g

6

16

Pumpkin Seeds or Pepitas

30g

7

13

Sunflower and Flax seeds

30g

5

6 Seitan

90g

20g

2

130

7 Quorn

90g

10-16g

8 Nutritional Yeast

2 tablespoons

8

1

50

9 Spirulina

30g

16

2

81

10 Amaranth & Quinoa

30g

4

2

105

Amaranth

30g

4

2

105

Quinoa

1 cup (cooked)

8

4

222

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