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Are You Getting Enough Protein? Here Are 12 Great Vegetarian Sources

Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Food, Drink & Nutrition, Health with 0 Comments

 Nick English | Greatist

“Divine

protein dietThere are plenty of reasons to eat more meat-free meals: They’re nearly always cheaper, lower in calories, and better for the environment. It’s easy to get enough protein without eating animals, but the doubters often have another concern: Are these meat-free protein sources complete?

The term “complete protein” refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein, and nine that the body can’t produce on its own. These are called essential amino acids—we need to eat them because we can’t make them ourselves. In order to be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine of these essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts.

Related Article: Are You Protein Deficient? Why Protein is Essential & the Best Ways to Get It (Video)

Yes, meat and eggs are complete proteins, and beans and nuts aren’t. But humans don’t need every essential amino acid in every bite of food in every meal they eat; we only need a sufficient amount of each amino acid every day . Most dieticians believe that plant-based diets contain such a wide variety of amino acid profiles that vegans are virtually guaranteed to get all of their amino acids with very little effort .

Still, some people want complete proteins in all of their meals. No problem—meat’s not the only contender. Eggs and dairy also fit the bill, which is an easy get for the vegetarians, but there are plenty of other ways to get complete proteins on your next meatless Monday. Here are some of the easiest:

1. Quinoa

Protein: 8 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked

A food so healthy that NASA hopes we’ll grow it on interplanetary space flights, quinoa looks a lot like couscous, but it’s way more nutritious. Full of fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese, quinoa is a terrific substitute for rice and it’s versatile enough to make muffins, fritters, cookies, and breakfast casseroles .

Go-to recipes:
Black Bean and Cilantro Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
Roasted Strawberry Quinoa Parfait
Crispy Quinoa Fritters with Dill and Garlic Yogurt
Chocolate Quinoa Cookie Cake

2. Buckwheat

Protein: 6 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked

“Perfect

Buckwheat is, in fact, not a type of wheat at all, but a relative of rhubarb. While the Japanese have turned the plant into funky noodles called soba, most cultures eat the seeds by either grinding them into flour (making a great base for gluten-free pancakes!) or cooking the hulled kernels, or “groats,” similarly to oatmeal. Buckwheat is crazy healthy: Some studies have shown that it may improve circulation, lower blood cholesterol and control blood glucose levels  .

Go-to recipes:
Buckwheat Chili
Mushroom Buckwheat Risotto with Goat’s Curd
Roasted Spiced Pumpkin with Toasted Buckwheat
Soba Noodles with Peanut Dressing

3. Hempseed

Protein: 10 grams per 2 tablespoon serving

Chillax, bro, this hemp won’t get anyone stoned. This relative of the popular narcotic contains significant amounts of all nine essential amino acids, as well as plenty of magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium. They’re also a rare vegan source of essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, which can help fight depression withoutthe need to get high!

Go-to recipes:
Raw Pumpkin Hemp Seed Protein Bars
Lemon Hemp Seed Cookies
Gluten-Free Pizza with Hemp Seed Pesto
Strawberry Blueberry Smoothie with Hemp Seeds

Related Article: Raw Power Protein Balls with Cacao, Hemp, Chia Seeds and Flax Seeds

4. Chia

Protein: 4 grams per 2 tablespoon serving

No longer used to grow fur on boring clay animals, chia seeds are the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, and they contain more fiber than flax seeds or nuts. Chia is also a powerhouse of iron, calcium, zinc, and antioxidants, but the best thing about these little seeds is that they form a goopy gel when combined with milk or water. This makes them fantastic for making healthy puddings, thickeningsmoothies, or replacing eggs in vegan baking.

Go-to recipes:
Coconut Chia Pudding
Pear and Chia Whole Wheat Pancakes
Chia Vegan Protein Muffins
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Chia Seeds

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