Going Vegetarian? Get Your Protein With These 6 Foods

vegetarian, kebab

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There are several reasons people choose to go vegetarian or vegan. For some, it’s about the treatments of animals or the environment, while others choose a plant-based diet for personal health or financial reasons. Regardless of your reason there is no doubting that going meatless has its perks. Skipping meat is almost always cheaper, lower in calories, and better for your heart.

Before you take the leap into vegetarianism or veganism, you’ll need to know how to get your daily dose of protein without your regular egg breakfast, lunchtime turkey sandwich, and steak dinner. Protein is one of the three macronutrients your body needs to function. When you digest protein it is broken down into its component amino acids, which impact your mood and brain function. There are 22 amino acids that your body needs to function property. Adults have 13 of those within the body, but the remaining nine must be obtained from food. This list of vegetarian and vegan complete protein sources contains all nine necessary amino acids in sufficient quantity.

1. Quinoa

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Quinoa is a grain but actually acts as a complete protein as it contains every essential amino acid and contains 13.8% protein. The grain also provides you with copper, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and more. This grain is a great substitute for rice and is versatile enough to be used in salads, breakfast casseroles, and baked goods (that includes cookies).

2. Buckwheat

Falling barely behind quinoa on protein levels, one cup of uncooked buckwheat still provides nearly 40% of your daily value for protein. While its name suggests it is a grain, buckwheat is actually a relative of rhubarb. This complete protein is high in B vitamins and minerals like magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc, potassium, and selenium. You can substitute ground buckwheat groats for regular flour or eat delicious Japanese soba noodles.

3. Hemp seeds

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

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Another plant-based complete protein is hemp seeds. This seed is unique in that it contains a rare vegan source of essential fatty acids like Omega-3s. These seeds have a concentrated balance of proteins, essential fats, vitamins, and enzymes without any sugar, starch, or saturated fats. Hemp seeds are more digestible than animal proteins and animal byproducts like eggs, milk, and cheese. Hemp seeds are delicious when sprinkled on yogurt or baked in your favorite cookie recipe.

4. Chia seeds

This seed based complete protein provides the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains more fiber than flax seeds or nuts. Chia seeds also have a low glycemic index and may help you loose weight as the seeds can absorb 10 times their weight in water making these seeds a low-calorie food that is filling and high in protein. Chia seeds add a great texture when sprinkled in smoothies or can be used as a replacement for eggs in baked goods.

5. Soy

Tofu Stir Fry, Rice

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Perhaps the most well known plant-based complete protein is soy. Soy can be found in soymilk, tempeh, meat and dairy substitutes, and, most famously, tofu. When selecting a tofu choose the firmest tofu available, as the protein levels will be higher. Soybeans are thought to reduce cholesterol, help prevent prostate cancer, and fight osteoporosis. Soy products are great in Asian dishes like curry and pad thai.

6. Spirulina

This vegan-friendly complete protein offers 2 grams of protein per ounce and 44% of your daily iron needs. This blue-green algae protein is often found in a dark green powder form and can be taken in pill form with your daily vitamins. If you love smoothies add a scoop of spirulina to your morning concoction for a blast of protein and bright green color.

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