Plant Based Proteins: Soy, Legumes, Cereals, Nuts
If you eat a varied diet of high quality protein from legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soy, whole grains, and nuts and combine it with ample vegetables, you have a protein packed meal with all the essential amino acids you need for the day.
Writes Gabriel Cousens in Conscious Eating:
“According to the American Dietetic Association, pure vegetarian diets in America usually contain twice the required protein for one’s daily need. Harvard researchers have found that it is difficult to have a vegetarian diet that will produce a protein deficiency unless there is an excess of vegetarian junk foods and sweets. In fact, if vegetarian protein is consumed in its live state, even less protein is needed because research shows that one half of the assimilable protein is destroyed by cooking.”
Soy: Soybeans are complete proteins just like meat, meaning that they contain every single amino acid. You can eat soy all day long. For a meat substitute, tofu works well – a half cup contains 10 grams of protein — as does tempeh, another beneficial soy source of protein. You can chomp on soy nuts, throw edamame in your salad and make a sandwich with soy cheese. For desert, try soy yogurt or soy ice cream which comes in many flavors. And when you’re thirsty or need liquid to throw over your cereal try soy milk which has almost as much protein as dairy milk, less fat, and no cholesterol. As an added bonus, many brands of tofu and soymilk are fortified with other nutrients that vegetarians and vegans need, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12. And don’t forget soy protein powders to boost your protein intake and especially if you are a serious body builder and trying to gain some serious muscle as your protein needs will be higher than average vegetarians. Be careful to read labels. Some whey and soy proteins contain cheap fillers.
NUTS/SEEDS/NUT BUTTERS: Nuts, including peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and walnuts all contain protein and have great nutritional benefits, as do seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein. Smear natural peanut butter on different foods like bananas, apples, celery, crackers and mix it into your oatmeal or add it to fruit smoothies and you will not only add protein to your meal but boost your overall calorie intake as well, which is important to build muscle. Although high in calories, nuts often enable people to maintain or lose weight.
A small handful consumed everyday gives a sense of satiety and results in less total food intake. Sesame seeds contain calcium and vitamin E. Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are particularly good sources of phytosterols which promote healthy heart. And nuts contain important essential fatty acids (EFA’s) and amino acids, making them a good source of both protein and fat. Take walnuts, which also give you a hefty supply of Omega 3’s. Though a chicken breast contains 20 grams of protein, once cooked half are destroyed and what’s left is harder to digest. In contrast, a cup of walnuts contains 24 grams of protein. For a little variety, you can also try other nut butters like almond and cashew.
Sprouts: The purest source of amino acids is sprouts and raw green leafy vegetables. Your body assimilates the protein better from these raw foods than from meats and dairy because the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are still intact. So be sure and throw sprouts into your daily salad.
Beans & Legumes: All beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent vegetarian and vegan source of protein, and are one of the most common protein-rich foods for vegetarians. For instance, one cup of canned kidney beans contains about 13.4 grams of protein. Chickpeas and other legumes especially are key sources of protein for vegetarians looking to build muscle. Have some hummus for lunch with a glass of soy milk and for dinner some lentil soup, with black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans or white beans thrown together with some rice or quinoa as your main dish and you have healthy and delicious meals that are packed with protein.
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