Being a vegetarian, I tend to receive a lot of questions from people asking me about where I get my protein, and if I even get enough. A lot of my family members, who are die hard carnivores, don’t believe that it’s possible for me to consume enough protein in a day. Believe it or not, I can!
Before I delve any further into whether or not people can get enough of their protein without any animal products, I’ll give you a quick overview on what protein is.
What is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient composed of about 20 amino acids. (It is referred to as a macronutrient because it’s a nutrient that your body needs a lot of to run smoothly.)
It is essential for:
- Regenerating and repairing the growth of muscles, bones, cells, and connective tissues in your body
- Maintaining your hair and nails (which are mostly made of protein),
- Forming different chemicals and hormones in your body
- Forming glucose- gluconeogensis (converting protein into glucose for energy)
- Providing energy: about 10% of your calories burned come from protein during exercise
While protein is crucial to maintaining a healthy body, especially if you’re an active person, you’ll be surprised that it isn’t that difficult to get enough of it. If you’re an average person who eats ‘real’ food and enough calories each day, then you should be able to consume the necessary amount of protein your body needs to run smoothly. Don’t worry about the protein shakes, protein bars, or protein powders unless your doctor recommends it.
Top Plant Based Protein Sources UNLOCKED
Note: Plant based proteins are considered ‘incomplete’ proteins since they do not contain all 9 of the essential amino acids and you’ll have to do something I like to call a mix and match of veggies, whole grains, beans, etc. to get all of them.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are my number one go to source of protein. I don’t know why people always associate beans with farting, which, by the way, ends up deterring a lot of people from one of the best protein sources!
Just one cup of black beans will give you 39 grams of protein. 1 tablespoon of garbanzo beans will give you about 2-3 grams of protein (and we normally eat way more hummus than that). Not only are beans one of the most versatile and inexpensive sources of protein, they also provide us with numerous health benefits other than just protein: folate, fiber, antioxidants, etc.
Plenty of vegetables also give us protein. Yes, muscle builders, eat your veggies! One cup of green peas will give you 8 grams of protein. One cup of chopped kale will give you about 2.9 grams of protein, so throw it in your smoothies and soups, eat a salad for lunch with some whole grains and nuts. Mix and match your veggies with some of the other protein sources to obtain a myriad of tasty nutrients and amino acids.
3. Whole Grains, Quinoa, Oats
Believe it or not, quinoa is not actually a whole grain even though I lumped it into that same category. It’s actually a seed, but is usually treated as a whole grain. It is apparently one of the few plant based ‘complete’ proteins (contains all 9 amino acids). All whole grains should generally be eaten with some type of vegetables, beans, or other side so that you can obtain not only all of your necessary protein, but vitamins as well.
One cup cooked quinoa = 8 g One cup cooked farro = 8 g One cup cooked wild rice = 7 g
One cup cooked brown rice = 5 g One cup oatmeal = 6 g
4. Tofu or Soy
I debated on putting tofu up here because I’ve been hearing about some its negative effects, but it doesn’t seem like there’s anything too alarming about it if you don’t eat absurd amounts of it. Tofu comes in many forms and depending on its type (soft, silken, firm, fried, etc.), contains a different amount of protein. For the most part, it is a great source of protein and one cup of tofu can contain about 20 grams. As with any food, don’t only eat soy, and don’t go overboard on it.
Note: Since tofu is made of soy, and soy contains estrogen, excessive amounts of tofu/soy can cause some hormonal imbalances in men. Again, just don’t all of a sudden start consuming tons of tofu.
Everything, all foods, even chocolate, should be eaten in moderation.
5. Nuts, Nut Butters, and Seeds
And I’ve saved my favorite for last. Nuts, nut butters, and seeds are also fantastic sources of protein while also being healthy sources of fats. Whoo hoo! For almonds, 1/4 cup contains 8 grams of protein. Two tablespoons of all natural peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein. One tablespoon of chia seeds, my favorite seeds, contains 3 grams.
You can toss the nuts and seeds over a salad so that you don’t overeat them, but still get the desired amount of fats and proteins. Spread nut butters over some whole grains or mix them in with some overnight oats. Snack on some nuts or seeds whenever you feel hungry. Yum, yum, yummy in my tummy.
That’s right, who needs animal based foods to get adequate amounts of protein? You’ll just need to put a bit more thought into what you’re choosing to eat when eating a plant based diet to get the desired amounts of nutrients.