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10 High Protein Vegetarian Foods

Multicolored mixed dried beans

Vegetarianism and veganism are gaining popularity in the United States, partially driven by documentaries such as Vegucated and Forks Over Knives. As people learn more about where their food comes from, they are making a conscious decision to either cut down on their meat consumption, or cut it out of their diet completely. A 2008 study, “Vegetarianism in America”, conducted by the Vegetarian Times, found that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet.

Meat is a protein-rich food; if you’re no longer eating it, it’s important to increase your intake of high-protein plant based foods, dairy, or eggs, to ensure a healthy balanced diet. Hemp protein has immune system and anti-fatigue benefits so if you decide to stop eating meat, there are lots of other options that have health benefits. Here we share 10 vegetarian friendly protein sources, all great options for people following a meat free diet.

1. Quinoa – Vegetarian and Vegan

Quinoa is everywhere right now; in fact 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa. Quinoa is the seed of a plant, closely related to spinach. It’s extremely versatile and can be added to many recipes. 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, making it a great choice for vegetarians and vegans. It’s also a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. Compared to traditional grains, quinoa is rich in dietary fiber. It’s also a great source of the essential minerals: iron, magnesium, and zinc. If you wish to incorporate it into your diet, add cooked quinoa to stews, soups, or substitute quinoa for rice or pasta.

2. Beans – Vegetarian and Vegan

Beans are one of the best protein sources available to vegetarians, because of the sheer amount of protein they contain. In terms of calories, beans are comparable to meat but they contain significantly more fiber and water; eating them will make you feel fuller faster. 1 cup of boiled pinto beans will give you 15.4 grams of protein. 1 cup of boiled black beans contains 15.2 grams of protein. As a comparison, to get the same amount of protein from black beans as you would from a 3oz serving of chicken, you’d need to eat 1-1/3 cup. This portion would be easy to incorporate into a burrito bowl, or a bean based chili.

3. Lentils – Vegetarian and Vegan

Lentils, a type of legume, contain a whopping 17.9 grams of protein per cup. They are easy to prepare and delicious when cooked. 1 cup and 2.5 tbsp of lentils compares to a 3oz portion of chicken in terms of protein. Lentils are rich in dietary fiber and contain significant amounts of the essential minerals folate and magnesium. Lentils are wonderful in curries, soups and stews. Different types of lentils work best in different types of cuisine. Green lentils retain their shape well and are suited to curries, where as red lentils become quite mushy when cooked and make a good addition to soup.

4. Garbanzo Beans/ Chickpeas – Vegetarian and Vegan

Despite their name, garbanzo beans are a legume. 1 cup of cooked garbanzo beans contains 14.5 grams of protein. Garbanzo beans are rich in fiber; just 2 cups contain your entire daily-recommended amount. Eating garbanzo beans can aid your digestive system. The insoluble fiber contained within these legumes is broken down in the last part of our digestive system, the colon, where it’s converted into energy-dense short chain fatty acids, important for keeping colon cells healthy. Garbanzo beans on their own aren’t a complete protein, but when combined with tahini to make hummus, you get all nine essential amino acids in one go. Hummus is yummy as a sandwich filler or delicious added to a veggie bowl with quinoa and vegetables.

5. Tofu and Tempeh – Vegetarian and Vegan

Tofu and tempeh are both soybean-derived products. Tofu is made from soybeans, water, and a coagulant, or curdling agent. Tempeh is made using a culturing and fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tofu is very versatile and takes on the flavor of whichever sauce or seasonings it is being cooked with. Tempeh always comes in a firm block and has a slightly nutty flavor, but it also works well with many sauces and seasonings. Tofu packs in approximately 21 grams of protein per cup, where as tempeh has around 30 grams.

6. Nuts and Seeds – Vegetarian and Vegan

Nuts and seeds are great snack choices for non-meat eaters. They can be combined into a healthy trail mix for when you are feeling hungry at work, or used as a salad or soup topper for a healthy lunch. Almonds contain approximately 6.02 grams of protein per ounce (23 nuts), peanuts contain 6.71 grams, and pistachios contain 6.05 grams. Add nut butter to a smoothie or a slice of wholegrain bread for a protein boost. All-natural, non-hydrogenated nut butters are the healthiest option. Pumpkin seeds are our top pick if you’re looking for a healthy seed to incorporate into your diet. 1 ounce contains 8.46 grams of protein.

7. Cottage Cheese – Vegetarian

Cottage cheese is a high protein cheese containing all of the essential amino acids your body needs. 1 cup of large curd cottage cheese contains 23 grams of protein. Full-fat cottage cheese is high in saturated fat, so eat it in moderation or choose the low-fat version. Cottage cheese is a great source of calcium, which aids bone health, and it also contains essential B vitamins, which assist your body in breaking down food and converting it into energy. You can check out cottage cheese recipes here.

8. Eggs – Vegetarian

1 large egg contains 6 grams of protein and only 7% of your daily fat allowance. Eggs are versatile and can be easily incorporated into a vegetarian diet. They can be used as salad toppers, scrambled with vegetables, or fried for a yummy sandwich filling. Eggs should be consumed in moderation because of their cholesterol content, but eating them a few times a week should help you to incorporate essential vitamins and minerals into your diet. We always choose pasture raised, organic eggs. Eggs from chickens raised on pasture have been found to have significantly more vitamin E in the yolk than eggs from chickens raised in cages. You can also use egg white protein powder if you want to build more muscle while on a veggie/vegan diet.

9. Greek Yogurt – Vegetarian

Greek yogurt is packed full of protein, with a typical 6 ounce serving containing 15 to 20 grams. A creamy alternative to regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is versatile and can be used as a substitute for sour cream in recipes, leading to a healthier, protein-rich dish. Try and choose a fat-free option as regular Greek yogurt can be high in saturated fat. We enjoy Greek yogurt blended into a fruit smoothie, or mixed with granola.

10. Seitan – Vegetarian and Vegan

Seitan is a plant-based protein derived from wheat gluten. Seitan is popular among vegetarians and vegans because it works well as a meat replacement in many dishes. Seitan contains approximately 20 grams of protein per 3 ounces, similar to the protein contained in 3 ounces of lean meat. Seitan is versatile and can be made to resemble lunchmeat or steaks.

Here are some of our favorite high protein vegetarian recipes. Enjoy!

Red Curry Lentils – Pinch of Yum

Smooth Hummus Recipe – Inspired Taste

Chipotle Black Bean Quinoa Burgers with Sweet Corn Relish – Oh My Veggies

Fruity Greek Yogurt Smoothie

Sources:

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/article/vegetarianism-in-america/ – Vegetarianism In America. Vegetarian Times.

http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/what-is-quinoa/nutritional-value/en/ – Quinoa Nutritional Value. FAO.org.

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/beans-legumes-highest-protein.php – Beans and Legumes with the Most Protein. Healthaliciousness.com.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/16/great-protein-sources_n_1347235.html#s785933&title=Spiced_Chickpea_Crepes – How Many Beans Equal The Protein Of Chicken? Huffington Post.

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52 – Lentils. The World’s Healthiest Foods.

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=58 – Garbanzo Beans. The World’s Healthiest Foods.

http://www.getvegucated.com/latests-challenges/mimicking-meat-tofu-tempeh-seitan/ – Mimicking Meat: Tofu, Tempeh, & Seitan. Vegucated.

http://www.health-alternatives.com/nut-seed-nutrition-chart.html – Nuts, Grains & Seeds Chart. health-alternatives.com.

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/cottage-cheese-healthy-eat-1575.html – Is Cottage Cheese Healthy to Eat. SFGate.

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92 – Eggs, Pasture Raised. The World’s Healthiest Foods.

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diet/articles/2011/09/30/greek-yogurt-vs-regular-yogurt-which-is-more-healthful?page=2 – Greek Yogurt Vs. Regular Yogurt: Which Is More Healthful? Health, US News.

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/seitan-vs-meat-3695.html – Seitan Vs Meat. SF Gate.

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