If you're a vegetarian, you've most likely been asked the same question over and over again: "but how will you get your protein?"
Well, contrary to popular belief, protein is not exclusive to meat-based sources. There are plenty of plant-based and other sources of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. We should be striving for somewhere between 10-15% of our daily calories in the form of protein. Or, an easy way to figure out your daily protein requirement is to take your weight in pounds, divide it in half, then subtract 10. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you would need 60 grams of protein per day.
Here are the top vegetarian sources of protein, along with how many grams they contain per serving:
- Beans and Lentils - 12-14 g per cup cooked (beans) and 18 g per cup cooked (lentils) - Beans and lentils are excellent sources of protein. Either look for organic brands that use BPA-free cans, and rinse the beans well before using, or buy dry beans and cook them at home, which is much cheaper! Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and red, brown and green lentils are all delicious and very versatile!
- Nuts and Seeds - 3 to 7 g per 1/3-cup (nuts) and 2 to 5 g per 1/3-cup (seeds) - Nuts, seeds, and their butters are very tasty and nutritious protein sources. A handful of almonds is a great mid-morning snack, and some almond or sunflower seed butter is a delicious spread on a piece of toast or some apple slices.
- Hemp - 12 g per oz (powder) and 6 g per oz (seeds) - Hemp is special because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. Add a scoop of powder into your morning smoothie or sprinkle some seeds over a salad for a healthy protein boost. Check out Healthy Planet's wide range of hemp products.
- Milk and Yogurt - 8 g per cup (milk) and 20 g per cup (greek yogurt) - Whether you drink cow's milk or a non-dairy alternative like almond milk, you'll get somewhere between 7 and 9 grams of protein per cup. And organic greek yogurt packs a huge protein punch! Again, stay away from soy milk since it's highly processed and most likely contains GM soy.
- Vegetables - 1 cup of green peas (9 g), spinach (5 g), or broccoli (5 g) on your dinner plate is an easy way to include some green veggie-based protein in your diet. Either fresh or frozen, these three are a great addition to any diet.
- Chia Seeds - 5 g per oz - Although they should be included with the nuts and seeds section, chia seeds really deserve a section all their own since, like hemp, they are a complete protein. They contain twice the potassium of a banana, three times more iron than spinach, and are high in dietary fibre. Sprinkle some over cereal, soups, and salads, or add some to a smoothie. Healthy Planet also carries a nice range of chia products.
- Grains (ancient, sprouted, multi) - Quinoa (9 g per cup), oatmeal (6 g per cup), and sprouted grain breads (7-10 g) are a healthy addition to a vegetarian diet, since they provide a high amount of protein, and quinoa is also gluten-free! Some oatmeal is also gluten-free, but you must check the label. Check out Healthy Planet's selection of quinoa products and gluten-free oats.
What About Tofu and other Soy Products?
Though it's true that soy products contain some of the highest amounts of protein, tofu is one of the most highly processed products on the market today. Nearly all of the soy being produced now is genetically modified (GM), and even if you purchase organic soy products, there is no guarantee that those crops have not been contaminated by GM soy. Recent studies have also shown soy to be a hormone-disruptor, as it contains phytoestrogens, causing it to mimic estrogen in the body. Tempeh, on the other hand, which has been consumed by Asians for many generations, is a fermented soy product and is much healthier and more nutrient-dense than tofu.