High-Protein Foods for Vegetarians, Pescetarians, and Vegans
Protein Is an Essential Nutrient
Protein is an essential nutrient in the human diet. This means the body needs to consume protein as it can not create it itself. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) advises us to consume anywhere between 10% to 35% protein in our daily diet. Although we need protein to help support muscle development, a diet of increased protein will not produce muscle mass.
Common Questions About Protein
Do certain people need more protein? Yes.
- Women that are pregnant or breastfeeding need more protein in their diet. The increased protein in a woman's diet supports lactation and fetal growth.
- Athletes can also benefit from increasing their protein intake. The added protein may help promote muscle recovery after athletic events.
Beef and dairy are a common source of protein. What do you do if you are a vegetarian or vegan?
- Vegetarian: Meat is obviously withheld in a vegetarian diet. Some vegetarians may or may not include eggs, dairy, or fish (for pescetarians) in their daily meals.
- Vegan: Vegans do not eat any animal products. Vegans attain their dietary needs through the consumption of legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Although meat and dairy provide the highest level of protein, there are alternatives for those that choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Although dairy, eggs, and fish are considered optional for some vegetarians and pescetarians, I have provided them in the information below. Vegans may want to jump to the legumes section (below eggs, dairy, and fish).
Non-Meat Protein Sources
- Legumes, Hummus, and Sprouts
- Soy, Edamame, and Tofu
- Nuts, Seeds, and Spreads
One large egg (about 50 grams) provides 6 grams of protein. Eggs are versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways. A veggie omelet will boost up the nutrition level and can provide you with an additional tasty source of protein. Consider a mushroom and spinach omelet for an extra boost of colorful flavor and protein.
- Yogurt: One cup (8 ounces) of plain low fat yogurt provides you with approximately 13 grams of protein. Don't forget, the dairy in yogurt is a great source for calcium—about 45% calcium.
- Cottage Cheese: One cup (8 ounces) of plain low fat cottage cheese provides you with approximately 27 grams of protein. Add a variety of seeds for an additional punch of protein.
- Milk: One cup (8 ounces) of whole milk has about 8 grams of protein.
- Fish: Three ounces of Atlantic Salmon has approximately 19 grams of protein.
- Shellfish: 100 grams of bay and sea scallops will provide you with approximately 23 grams of protein.
Legumes, Hummus, and Sprouts
Legumes include a variety of beans as well as peas. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, iron and calcium. Legumes that are a great protein source include:
- kidney beans
- garbanzo beans
- soy beans
- navy beans
- black beans
Hummus is a paste made from chickpeas. One cup of homemade humus contains 12 g of protein.
Sprouts are grown from legumes and are a decent source of protein.
- Alfalfa sprouts: 1 cup has 1 gram of protein.
- Mung sprouts: 1 cup has 2 grams of protein.
- Lentil sprouts: 1 cup has 7 grams of protein.
- Kidney sprouts: 1 cup has 8 grams of protein.
Soy, Edamame, and Tofu
- Soy Nuts: One cup of dry roasted soy nuts has 68 grams of protein.
- Soybean Cheese: One cup of soybean, curd cheese has 28 grams of protein.
- Edamame: A 3.5-ounce serving of edamame provides 11 grams of protein.
- Tofu: Tofu is made with bean curd and soy. Tofu is versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways. 3 ounces of tofu contains 9 grams of protein.
- Dried Tomatoes: A 1/4 cup serving of sun-dried tomatoes provides 2 grams protein.
- Mushrooms: A 1/2 cup of cooked mushrooms has 2 grams protein.
- Spinach: A 1/2 cup of cooked spinach contains 3 grams of protein.
- Broccoli: A 1/2 cup of broccoli provides you with 2 grams of protein.
- Brussels Sprouts: A 1/2 cup of brussels sprouts provides you with 2 grams of protein.
- Corn: A 1/2 cup of sweet yellow corn will give you 3 grams of protein.
- Artichokes: A medium artichoke contains 4 grams of protein.
Nuts, Seeds, and Spreads
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are an amazing source of protein. They are great as a snack or as a salad topper. You can even add them to your oatmeal, granola or smoothies. Although nuts and seeds can be high in fat they are not usually the dangerous heart clogging animal fats found in beef.
Grams of Protein in Nuts and Seeds
Nut Butters and Spreads
- Peanut Butter: 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter provides you with 8 grams of protein.
- Nutella: 2 Tablespoons of Nutella® contains 3 grams of protein.
The beauty of the foods listed above is that they can be combined and used in multiple protein-rich recipes. Soups, salads, sandwiches, and wraps can become wonderful sources of protein. Get creative and stay healthy.
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares