Oftentimes, it is assumed that all vegetarians eat healthfully just because they omit meat from their diet. With meatless options like macaroni and cheese, pizza, and french fries, this isn't always the case. It is very easy to eat an unbalanced vegetarian diet, which is why it is extremely important for vegetarians to ensure that they are meeting their body's daily needs.
Generally speaking, the importance of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in our diets has, thankfully, become common knowledge. Produce is the largest source of the vitamins and minerals known to be vital to our health. Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale provide high levels of Vitamins A and K as well as iron and calcium, while brightly colored carrots, peppers, and strawberries provide beta carotene, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, and barley are important sources of fiber and magnesium.
That said, protein is still seen as the one macronutrient that vegetarians are unable to consume in adequate amounts. While it does require some effort and thought, it is by no means impossible for vegetarians to meet their daily needs in terms of protein intake. The following examples are just a few of the many protein rich food sources available to vegetarians.
Avocados: Due to their high levels of monounsaturated fats, avocados are very filling and have a slow release of energy, making them particularly good for athletes. Avocados are a better source of protein than cows milk, with one average sized avocado containing about four grams.
Almonds: Almonds are the only source of protein that is also considered to be an excellent source of Vitamin E. Just 1/4 cup of almonds contains seven grams of a highly absorbable form of protein.
Beans and Lentils: Beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent and versatile vegetarian source of protein, with one cup of kidney beans racking up over 13 grams of the macronutrient.
Tofu: Half a cup of tofu contains 10 grams of protein and you can add it to just about anything you cook. Include tofu in stir-fries, pasta sauces, and salads and it will take on the flavor of whatever seasonings you are using.
Quinoa: Quinoa contains every single essential amino acid, making it a "complete protein." Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein, as well as nine grams of fiber.
Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps in promoting fullness and satiety. Depending on the brand, a six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein, the amount found in two to three ounces of lean meat.
With all of these excellent sources of protein and many more available as well, it is delicious and easy to incorporate high levels of this important macro-nutrient into a well-balanced and sustainable vegetarian diet.
What is your favorite source of vegetarian protein?