Top 5 High-Protein Vegetarian Foods
Protein is the foundation of a healthy diet, no matter what types of foods you prefer. Unfortunately, for vegetarians it can be quite tough to find food sources with adequate amounts of protein. Don’t worry though, our guide to the five best vegetarian-friendly, high-protein foods is here to help!
It can be very discouraging when you aren’t making the progress you want in spite of eating a sound diet. Usually though, it’s because your diet is lacking in a particular nutrient. For many active individuals who are on vegetarian diets, protein tends to be that nutrient.
The good news is that there are still plenty of useful vegetarian foods out there that will help you reach your daily quota of protein. Some of these recommended foods may seem obvious, but don’t discredit them – they made the list for good reason.
With that in mind, read on as this article breaks down five superb vegetarian foods that are high in protein and will surely help you reach your health and fitness goals!
1) GREEK YOGURT
Greek yogurt is produced by straining/filtering regular yogurt to remove the whey content. The resulting product has a thicker, creamier consistency than regular yogurt and is much lower in sugar and very high in protein. Eight ounces (1 cup) of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt contains more than 20 grams of protein, is loaded with calcium, and only packs about 120 calories, making it a fantastic option for those trying to lose weight on a vegetarian regimen.
Better yet, Greek yogurt can be mixed with many herbs/spices to accompany main dishes as either a dip or spread. Some people will even go so far as to use Greek yogurt for their own homemade salad dressing base. Be creative with its versatility!
With so many different varieties of milk available nowadays, such as almond, rice, and soy, it’s hard to imagine not finding one that suits a vegetarian’s needs. Dairy/cow’s milk, in general, seems to get a bad rap from many individuals, mainly due to the fact that lactose intolerance is a fairly common issue among humans. That being said, for those who tolerate dairy just fine, cow’s milk can do wonders for getting in adequate protein and calcium.
Moreover, whole milk is an excellent source of both vitamin D and calcium, two micronutrients that work synergistically for proper bone, hormone and skin health (and reduce the risk of cancer).1 One cup (8oz) of whole milk contains 150 calories, 8g of protein, and 30% of the recommended daily values of calcium and vitamin D (the latter of which typically lacks in vegetarian diets). Rest assured, almond/rice/soy milk are great vegetarian options for protein as well if you don’t tolerate lactose well.
As you can see, many dairy products are the vegetarian’s ally, especially when it comes to needing quality protein. Don’t worry if you’re lactose intolerant either, cheese is much more tolerable for most people than milk is. There are tons of different varieties of cheese available so if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck (in terms of protein and nutrient content goes) then opt for full-fat cheeses (not the fat free or part-skim options, which tend to lack in micronutrient content).
Cheese, much like whole milk, is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and also vitamin K2, all of which work in concert to promote bone health and improve cardiac functioning. Cheese is also one of the few food products that contains a specific fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA has been shown in studies to actually improve body composition and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).2,3
4) WHOLE EGGS
Not surprisingly, whole eggs are a staple food for breakfast in many American’s diets, and that’s a positive thing considering that whole eggs are full of micronutrients, protein and essential fatty acids. Better yet, whole eggs are highly-satiating for only having 80 calories per egg. If you make yourself a three egg omelet for breakfast that’s a very filling 240 calories (and 24g of protein) right there!
Many people fear eating whole eggs in favor of just the egg white because of the cholesterol content in whole eggs. However, research suggests that individuals who eat whole eggs actually increase their HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and reduce their LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol).4 In short, if you want a quality vegetarian protein source that promotes your health, your best bet is stop ditching the yolk and eat the whole egg.
Since there are myriad bean varieties out there, it should be noted this is specifically refers to beans such as kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, red beans, etc. Beans are a low-calorie, nutrient-packed food, containing plentiful amounts of fiber and protein to enhance digestive health and promote fullness. They are also loaded with magnesium, iron and potassium to help keep your body operating efficiently.
Even just one serving of beans packs upwards of 10g of protein along with roughly 8g of dietary fiber. For a vegetarian diet, it’s hard to find a much better source of both slow-digesting carbs and protein than beans.
Protein is vital for many reasons, beyond the fact that it helps sustain healthy body composition, so be sure not to skimp on your intake. By incorporating these foods in your vegetarian diet consistently you will certainly find it much easier to meet your protein needs. Remember, your diet shouldn’t consist solely of these foods, but do try and eat some (or all) of these foods in moderation.
1 Lappe, J. M., Travers-Gustafson, D., Davies, K. M., Recker, R. R., & Heaney, R. P. (2007). Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(6), 1586-1591.
2 Terpstra, A. H. (2004). Effect of conjugated linoleic acid on body composition and plasma lipids in humans: an overview of the literature. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 79(3), 352-361.
3 Nicolosi, R. J., Rogers, E. J., Kritchevsky, D., Scimeca, J. A., & Huth, P. J. (1996). Dietary conjugated linoleic acid reduces plasma lipoproteins and early aortic atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic hamsters. Artery, 22(5), 266-277.
4 Fernandez, M. L. (2006). Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 9(1), 8-12.