The human body needs protein. It is the nutrient that our bodies need to build and repair every bodily tissue, which is a process that is constantly on going. However most people when they hear the word protein they immediately think meat, dairy and fish, but vegetables, beans, legumes, grains and nuts also provide the body with protein as well. Plus these meatless options offer additional health benefits as well, such as complete proteins, lower fat, more fiber, antioxidants and water which help to decrease inflammation. The USDA recommends getting 46g of protein a day for women and 56g for men, while the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends choosing a variety of protein foods including replacing protein foods that are higher in solid fats such as meat and dairy with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories. You don’t have to completely cut out meat, but switching out some of your meals to meatless is definitely a way to achieve better health. Choose from these meatless protein options.
Quinoa is a complete protein so it contains all essential amino acids that the body needs. Quinoa is actually a seed not a grain like most people assumes. Quinoa is high in fiber so it fills you up, and it also contains iron and magnesium. Quinoa contains 4 grams of protein per ½ cup.
Chia seeds are also a complete protein that contain antioxidants, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein for every 2 tablespoons.
Although vegetables don’t contain nearly as much protein as legumes and nuts, there are a few who provide a valuable source of protein. Broccoli is high in fiber, low in calories and contains vitamins A, C, and K. Because of its antioxidant content broccoli is known as a cleansing and detoxifying vegetable. Broccoli contains 3 grams of protein per cup.
Hemp seeds are complete proteins which also contain minerals zinc, magnesium, and iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seeds contain 5 grams of protein per tablespoon.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are well known for being a protein powerhouse. They are also high in fiber, low in fat and contain minerals iron, zinc, and B vitamin folate. Chickpeas contain 7 grams of protein per ½ cup.
Green peas although small in stature they are loaded with health supporting nutrients. Green peas contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein. They pack a punch with 7.9 grams per cup.
Sunflower, Sesame, Poppy Seeds
Seeds contain a ton of vitamins, minerals and nutrients that are great for the body. In addition they pack a dollop of protein with an average of 6 grams for ¼ cup.
Soy Foods (Tempeh, tofu, edamame, soy milk)
Soybeans are complete proteins making all the soy foods made from soy beans the same, complete proteins. Soy milk has the highest protein content of all the nondairy milks with no saturated fat. Tempeh and tofu are meat substitutes which are low in fat. Edamame are soybeans as they appear in nature in a pod. Soy food products average about 8-10 grams of protein per ½ cup.
Regardless what type of bean you eat, red, black, which, pinto, etc., you are bound to get high quality protein, fiber with little to no fat. Beans contain 7 grams of protein for every ½ cup.
Oats are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than most whole grains. Rolled oats keep blood sugar levels steady and help prevent cravings and an energy crash. Oats contain 5 grams of protein per ½ cup.