Protein is essential to human health. It is found in every muscle, cell and tissue in our bodies, and is used to grow, repair and maintain cells. Our organs, muscles, skin, hair, nails, bones and even particular hormones are made up of some amount of protein, and so it is a crucial component in sustaining life and normal function.
While the health advantages of following a vegetarian or vegan diet are well documented, there is one question that will always be asked, “Where do you get your protein?” This is because animal based products have always been promoted as the best source of protein, and are a must in the diet of those who wish to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This assumption, however, is wrong, and it is actually very easy to add more protein to your diet without having to add meat or any other animal based products.
Here are some of the best sources of non-animal protein you can find:
Quinoa is often eaten in place of rice or couscous, and is extremely high in protein. A quarter cup of uncooked quinoa (makes about a cup when cooked) contains approximately 170 calories and 7 grams of protein. It is also known as a “complete protein” as it contains all the same nutrients a person would get from eating meat.
Avocados are not only high in protein but also a great source of fiber. They also provide essential omega 3 and 6 fats and nutrients that can normally only be found in fish and plant oils
Although nuts are quite a calorie and fat dense snack, they are packed with nutrients, fiber and protein (almonds have approximately 6 grams per one ounce serving). Think of nuts as more than just a snack, and try to incorporate them into your diet perhaps in stir fries and salads.
Chick peas are popularly used in soups and salads, and are a primary ingredient in many ethnic foods, such as hummus and falafel. The high protein and low fat content of chickpeas makes them an attractive food source to those interested in a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. When combined with foods such as grains or nuts, chickpeas can provide your body with a complete profile of amino acids needed to make the essential protein for proper health.
Tofu, made from soybeans, has just 94 calories and 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving, making it an excellent choice for those wishing to add more protein to their diet. Consuming tofu regularly helps to lower cholesterol, alleviate symptoms associated with menopause and even lowers the risk of cancer. It is also a great source of calcium and vitamin E.
Peas are not only a good source of protein, but are also high in vitamins C and K, as well as fiber. They are not a complete protein, and so must be eaten with a food such as quinoa for full nutritional benefit.
While peanut butter is quite calorie dense, it can contain up to 28% protein. It also contains folate, vitamin E, magnesium and resveratrol, nutrients associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Peanut butter also offers a small amount of zinc and fiber.
Coconut is another great example of a complete protein and is also high in fiber. Although quite high in fat, it is a type of healthy fat your body will use as energy immediately rather than storing it. This said, it is still best to consume coconut in moderation.
Brown rice is low on the glycemic index, as well as being high in protein and fiber, and rich in minerals. Brown rice helps to create a balanced meal as well as keeping you feeling fuller for longer.