So why is protein important in the first place? Protein is composed of amino acids which are the building blocks that becomes us. Our muscles, tissues, and organs are composed of these amino acids that we get from protein.
Another important element about protein is that when we eat foods that contain protein, it stimulates the release of the hormone glucagon. Glucagon is the digestive hormone that encourages us to burn and metabolize fat. Including protein in your meals and stimulating the release of glucagon is what signals our bodies to become full and become satisfied. It also stimulates our bodies to start metabolizing and burn fat. Protein is something you want to include in your snacks and in all of your meals, so here is the top eight sources of vegetarian protein.
1. The incredible edible egg (6 grams per egg)
Eggs are a terrific source of protein. Let’s first take a moment to dispel a couple of myths about eggs. There have been a lot of claims that “eggs are high in cholesterol and the yolk may not be a good idea to eat”. This is not a good healthy recommendation. What you need to remember is that eating the whole egg is what provides you the benefit. The yolk is actually what contains most of the nutrients that are contained in the egg. If you are not eating the yolk, then you are really missing out.
2. Say Cheese (6-10 grams per ounce)
It is important to know that processed cheese products do not count. When we are eating high quality cheese, it can be a very good source of protein. One way to know that you are purchasing a high quality source of cheese is if it actually says the word “grass fed” or “pasture raised” on the packaging. This tip can also be applied to eggs as well that comes from grass fed or pasture raised chickens.
3. Yogurt (20 grams per cup)
Another great source of protein is yogurt. Often times when at the grocery store, in the yogurt section, there are a lot of different yogurts to choose from. Most of the yogurt that we see advertised on TV actually contain a whole lot of sugar and other chemical additives that we do not want to be eating. Make sure that you are reading the ingredient labels and if you see a long list of chemicals or sugar that should be your red flag it is processed. You want to look for organic and AVOID non-fat dairy products. The fat contained in a high quality dairy product actually helps you digest that dairy product. So when you take the fat out and eat a fat-free or skimmed version, it’s actually going to be harder for your body to digest. Another benefit of the fat that is contained in these certain dairy products is that the fat actually helps you feel full and tells your body to turn off that hunger mechanism. When eating a food such as yogurt for instance, there is a high source of protein also a high source of high quality fats that are really good for the brain, overall health, and makes you feel full and satisfied.
4. Quinoa (24 grams per cup)
This may not be a new food for some of you, but if it is something you aren’t familiar with, it is highly recommended as a great source of protein. It is incredibly easy to prepare and makes a great replacement for rice, pasta, or any other carbohydrate sides. This versatile seed can make a great breakfast, lunch, snack, and be added to salads. You can find it in the bulk section of your grocery store or even find it with the pasta and the rice.
5. Almonds (30 grams per cup)
Almonds help to stabilize our blood sugar and can make a really great snack, especially if you are trying to lose weight or you have problems with maintaining your blood sugar or have diabetes. They are also a great source of protein so carry them around with you as you go about your day.
6. Beans (15-40 grams per cup)
Beans are another great source of protein and there are a lot of different beans out there! There are lentil, kidney beans, pinto, black beans, garbanzo beans, and the list goes on. There are also a lot of different uses for beans. You can make hummus, stew, and add it to your salads or just about anything else. Beans had a bad rep for causing digestive distress, but that can be significantly reduced by preparing the beans correctly. Soaking the beans before preparing them or even sprouting the beans will help to make them easier to digest and less likely to make you gassy.
7. Tempeh (31 grams per cup)
Most of you have heard of tofu but may not be familiar with tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented tofu product. When you ferment the tofu, it really unleashes the different nutritional benefits and it significantly raises the protein content. You can find tempeh in pretty much any grocery store or definitely any health food store. It is very easy to prepare and a great food for vegetarians because it can be used in place of certain meat products. Now tofu itself is still a great source of protein, but it’s not quite a good source as tempeh.
8. Spinach, Asparagus, Swiss chard, and Mustard greens
You might be surprised to find that these vegetables are actually up there and really close to other meat products for protein. It’s worth noting that these vegetables have a good amount of protein to offer. Squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, and kale are also considered good sources of protein. For those who ever wonder how a vegetarian can ever get enough protein, well this is it!