Are you looking for healthy ways to get protein without eating meat? Nearly all foods contain a small amount of protein, but you might not know that it’s easy to get your daily protein intake from foods like beans, nuts, and grains. According to the CDC, women should consume 46 grams of protein each day while men should consume 56 grams. They also recommend eating two to three servings of protein-rich foods a day.
What is Protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient which plays a key role in maintaining and repairing our body’s cells for optimal function. Athletes and people who are about to partake in physical activity often eat a protein-rich meal beforehand for extra energy to burn. A lot of people look towards meat, poultry and eggs as a hardy source of protein; however, most Americans are taking in more than enough protein from these animal sources. When you consume too much of this nutrient, you are likely taking in more calories and fat than your body needs or can burn off.
Here are 8 meat free, protein-rich foods that you can eat without over consuming your recommended daily protein intake.
1. Greek Yogurt
Greek Yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein per 6-ounce serving. This protein powerhouse has nearly twice the amount of protein and half the sugar and carbs of regular yogurt. Did you know Greek yogurt contained the same amount of protein as a three-ounce serving of lean meat?
2. Lentils and Beans
One cup of iron-rich lentils
packs 18 grams of protein. This is almost as much as three ounces of steak. Lentils are also packed with other nutrients like iron, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc. Finally, lentils are a rich source of soluble fiber which can help reduce high cholesterol. Beans and lentils
might be the cheapest source of protein available! One cup of beans can contain 12-15 grams of protein. Whether its kidney(15g), lima (15g), black (15g), or pinto (15g), beans can make a great additional to almost any meal. Tip: washing the beans before you eat them can remove sodium levels.
3. Nuts and Seeds
1/3 cup of nuts contain 3-7 grams of protein (depending on the nut) while 1/3 cup of seeds contains 2-5 grams. Grams of protein per ounce: Almonds (6g), Pistachios (6g), Sunflower seeds (6g), Chia seeds (4g), Flaxseeds (5g) Mixed nuts (4g). Nuts and seeds are a great source of meat-free protein, but you have to be careful not to over indulge!
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and other nuts are all great sources of protein sources; however, peanuts top the list. One ounce of dry-roasted peanuts contains nearly 7 grams of protein! Tip: try sprinkling chopped nuts on top of your salad or oatmeal for an added protein crunch!
Pseudograins are the seeds of broadleaf plants that are treated like grains and flakes because they can easily be ground into flour; however, they are not grains at all. Amaranth, buckwheat, and quinoa fall into this category. Pseudograins
contain 5-7 grams of protein per cup. Grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and corn also contain protein; however, unlike true grains, pseudograins do not contain gluten. One cooked cup of Quinoa
contains more than 8 grams of protein, and a hearty dose of filling fiber. You may never expect this, but quinoa and spinach are part of the same food family
! Spinach contains both calcium and iron, and one cooked cup of this leafy green contains 5 grams of protein.
6. Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu contains 8 grams of protein per serving while Tempeh contains 18 grams per serving. One serving is about half a cup. Tip: when shopping for tofu and tempeh, look for organic products to avoid genetically modified soy and hexane, a cancer-causing contaminant that has been detected in heavily processed, nonorganic soy products.
Avocados contain 4 grams of protein. Even though all fruits contain between 1-2 grams of protein, avocado far surpasses them all. You will soon learn that avocados, just like hemp, contain all 9 essential amino acids; however, this delicious snack also contains omega-3 fatty acids which is good for your heart and brain health.
Hemp seeds contain 6 grams of protein per ounce while hemp milk contains 2 grams per cup. Hemp provides a great alternative to soy and dairy alternative. Hemp is also one of the very few plant proteins that can supply you with all the essential amino acids! These are acids that you body cannot produce on its own but helps build muscle and create protein. Hemp also contains goos fatty acids that boost your immune system.