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5 High Protein Foods for Vegetarians

Hemp Seeds in yellow bowl on white background

Hemp Seeds in yellow bowl on white background

When opting for a vegetarian or vegan diet, many become concerned about getting enough protein. Since protein is a vital component in building muscle, growing hair and connective tissue, supporting injury recovery, and much more, most of us want to be certain we’re eating sufficient amounts. But how much do we need? Possibly less than you think. According to Harvard Health Blog, the RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To personalize that amount, you can use this handy online nutrient calculator from the USDA. Once you’ve determined how much you actually need, we can take a look at the best high protein foods for vegetarians and vegans. (Also please note: there are no known advantages to consuming more than the RDA of protein—and over-consumption can actually lead to health issues as well.)

The Vegetarian Resource Group states that “plant-based proteins are remarkably efficient at synthesizing amino acids and promoting cell growth and repair.” A sample menu here (scroll down a bit once opening) shows how easy it can be to get protein into your meals from sources you may not realize are protein-rich. Not only do the expected sources provide protein (like peas, soy, beans, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, spirulina and nuts) but also bagels, broccoli, brown rice and oatmeal can add plenty to your diet as well. And while some still argue the need for a “complete” protein (i.e. rice + beans = complete), others consider that realm to be mostly a myth at this point. Let’s see what the experts recommend for the best sources of plant-based protein available today. Here are the best high protein foods for vegetarians.
1. Lentils: Lentils can add 9 grams of protein per half cup, and they make a great hearty addition to any meal. If you need some ideas, try this roasted red lentil hummuslentil eggplant lasagna or a little lentil granola for breakfast. It’s all delicious and easy to make!
2. Hemp Seeds: Yup! Good old hemp makes another appearance—and this time as a superior protein provider! This highly-digestible, high-fiber substance has a nutty flavor, and the seeds are tasty in salads, puddings, cereals and granola. While some prefer to use the whole hemp seed, this hemp seed protein powder provides 14 grams of protein and 40% RDA of iron in a mere 1/4 cup – amazing!
3. Tofu: While some are leaning away from soy these days, others still love their tofu and silk milk! There’s approximately 40 grams of protein in 1 cup of firm tofu, a tasty addition to a variety of dishes, including this green tofu scramble and this curried tofu salad.
4. Seitan: High protein and savory seitan provides 16 grams of protein in 3 1/2 ounces – and only 120 calories. Made with vital wheat gluten, this vegetarian staple generally takes on whatever flavor you choose, and can be either homemade or store-purchased and used in many recipes including seitan barbecue ribs and vegan chicken pot pie.
5. Nuts and Nut Butter/Spreads: Nuts and nut butters (and milks! preferably without carrageenan) are delicious, high-protein and great in sandwiches. Peanut butter, or any similarly rich nut butters (like almond butter, cashew butter, etc) can be eaten on your favorite toast (such as Ezekiel bread), celery stalks or apple slices or even dropped into a smoothie for a tasty blend. Although somewhat caloric, you’ll get 5 or 6 grams of protein in every 160-calorie ounce. Opt for the raw or dry-roasted versions when possible, with the absolute fewest ingredients included.
So out of these best high protein foods for vegetarians, which do you like best and are there any others you recommend?

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