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Top Vegetarian Protein Sources

Helpful options for incorporating more protein into your vegetarian diet.

Oftentimes, it is assumed that all vegetarians eat healthfully just because they omit meat from their diet. With meatless options like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and french fries, this isn't always the case. It is very easy to eat an unbalanced vegetarian diet, which is why it is extremely important for vegetarians to ensure that they are meeting their body's daily needs. 

Generally speaking, the importance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in our diets has, thankfully, become common knowledge. Produce is the largest source of the vitamins and minerals known to be vital to our health. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale provide high levels of Vitamins A and K as well as iron and calcium, while brightly colored carrots, peppers, and strawberries provide beta carotene, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and barley are important sources of fiber and magnesium. 

That said, protein is still seen as the one macronutrient that vegetarians are unable to consume in adequate amounts. While it does require some effort and thought, it is by no means impossible for vegetarians to meet their daily needs in terms of protein intake. The following examples are just a few of the many protein rich food sources available to vegetarians. 

Avocados: Due to their high levels of monounsaturated fats, avocados are very filling and have a slow release of energy, making them particularly good for athletes. Avocados are a better source of protein than cows milk, with one average sized avocado containing about four grams. 

Almonds: Almonds are the only source of protein that is also considered to be an excellent source of Vitamin E. Just 1/4 cup of almonds contains seven grams of a highly absorbable form of protein. 

Beans and Lentils: Beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent and versatile vegetarian source of protein, with one cup of kidney beans racking up over 13 grams of the macronutrient.

Tofu: Half a cup of tofu contains 10 grams of protein and you can add it to just about anything you cook. Include tofu in stir-fries, pasta sauces, and salads and it will take on the flavor of whatever seasonings you are using.

Quinoa: Quinoa contains every single essential amino acid, making it a "complete protein." Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber.

Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps in promoting fullness and satiety. Depending on the brand, a six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein, the amount found in two to three ounces of lean meat. 

With all of these excellent sources of protein and many more available as well, it is delicious and easy to incorporate high levels of this important macro-nutrient into a well-balanced and sustainable vegetarian diet. 

What is your favorite source of vegetarian protein? 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dina Sciortino April 05, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I eat organic soy and flax tempeh, which has about 20 grams of protein per serving. Question: if it is organic does that mean that the soy is also GMO-free? I noticed soy isn't on this list, is there a reason for that? Oh and BTW, red lentils are AWESOME!
Dina Sciortino April 05, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Hemp (chock full of omegas) and pumpkin seeds also have decent amounts of protein in them.
Katherine Savod April 05, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Hi Dina, New guidelines have been established that do not allow a crop to be called organic if it has been genetically modified. If something is Certified Organic, you can feel confident that it is also non-GMO. Here is a helpful article about how to avoid GMO foods: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/how-to-avoid-gm-foods.html Tofu is made from soy, so it is included in my list. I left out tempeh simply because I don't care for it :) I agree with you-red lentils are the best!
Dina Sciortino April 05, 2012 at 07:17 PM
That info will make grocery shopping much easier. And duh on the tofu/soy thing...didn't think of that! Thanks so much, this is super helpful!
Michael Woyton (Editor) April 05, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I eat Greek yogurt almost every morning. And I love cooking with tofu.
Lizzie Hedrick April 05, 2012 at 08:44 PM
I could revitalize the entire Greek economy based on my consumption of Greek Yogurt alone. Too bad it's manufactured here...I was also told "dairy proteins" were different from "meat-substitute" proteins, like beans, tofu and textured meat protein...
Lizzie Hedrick April 05, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Sorry, textured vegetable protein (TVP)—it's the grossest thing ever. Trust me.
Dan Thaler April 05, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Have you tried a tempeh reuben? Yum!
Buddy April 06, 2012 at 01:08 PM
What about the link between soy and heightened estrogen levels? Is the jury still out on that? A quick search of the web results in conflicting findings from seemingly reputable sources...
Katherine Savod April 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM
That sounds pretty good. I'm a big sauer kraut fan.
Katherine Savod April 06, 2012 at 01:36 PM
It's true, there is a ton of conflicting information about the effects/benefits of soy. Some sources say it is an excellent health food, and other sources claim that it can causes serious illnesses. I think it is best to stick to an "everything in moderation" viewpoint, which can apply to many situations.
Buddy April 09, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Thanks Katherine. I agree. Looking forward to more nutrition articles from you!
Dina Sciortino May 02, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Awesome article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/michellemaisto/2012/04/28/eating-less-meat-is-worlds-best-chance-for-timely-climate-change-say-experts/2/

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