The belief that we need enormous amounts of protein to be healthy and strong is one of the most pervasive myths in America. In fact, overdosing on protein is one of the reasons we’ve become so unhealthy. Studies show that as protein consumption goes up, so do the rates of chronic disease. Someone being treated for a protein deficiency that isn’t a malabsorption issue is basically unheard of yet millions of people are treated every day for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases directly resulting from consuming a diet “trying to get enough protein”.
Is protein important? Absolutely!
But as you just read, in large quantities and or sourcing it from animal products, it could actually harm your health.
We are all aware of the most well-known protein-rich foods, including beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, tofu, quinoa, avocados, you name it. You can find a fuller list with recipes here.
I am always looking for ways to bring variety and excitement to my diet, though, both by introducing new foods as well as finding new ways to combine and prepare them. I hope this list will give you a fresh view on how you can cover your protein needs as a vegan and leave you with joyous anticipation to try them out!
Guavas are one of the healthiest foods that you’re probably not eating. In just one cup, you get 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fiber, and more than 3 times the vitamin C of a large orange. This tropical fruit is also rich in lycopene, an important phytonutrient that’s linked to a decreased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even hypertension. To pick the perfect guava, first test for ripeness. If your fingernail can easily slide through the skin, you’re good to go. To eat, just wash off and devour, skin and all (even the seeds are edible)! Guavas are also an excellent addition to fruit salads or paired with ice cream. And if you love a sweet and salty combo, try sprinkling guava with salt and pepper or dipping it into soy sauce.
2. Asparagus (1 Cup Raw): About 2.95g of Protein
Believe it or not, asparagus has nearly 3 grams of protein per cup (raw). This tasty veggie also provides folic acid, an important B vitamin, as well as vitamin C, iron, and more than 2 grams of fiber per cup.
3. Dried Chia Seeds (2 tbsp): About 3g of Protein
Chia seeds are gaining a lot of attention lately, becoming a superfood among the health conscious. Most of the focus has been on chia seeds’ fatty acids — namely omega-3, and omega-6—essential fatty acids (meaning they must come from the foods we eat) and their potential many health benefits. However, chia seeds are also a great source of protein. With 2 tablespoons you can add up to about 3 grams of protein to any meal. Their mild, nutty flavor makes them a perfect addition to many dishes (including oatmeal and muffins) and even beverages such as smoothies. Toss chia seeds into smoothies, over salads, cereal and yogurt, or even use them as an all-natural gelling agent to help make puddings and jams.
4. Wakame Seaweed (1 Cup Raw): About 2.42g of Protein
Seaweed is quite tasty, and it’s a staple of Japanese cuisine. Seaweed offers many key nutrients including folate, magnesium, and manganese. It’s also a source of protein, boasting more than 2 grams in just one cup (of the raw wakame variety). In the U.S., you’ll see wakame seaweed in Japanese restaurants as part of seaweed salads and miso soup (which is not always vegan – you must check). You can also purchase it dried, in which case you’ll need to rehydrate it first for about 15-20 minutes before making your own salad. Or you can just sprinkle some dried wakame flakes into your soup and give it a few minutes to expand.
5. Regular Quick Oats (½ c Dry or 1 Cup Cooked): About 5.33g of Protein
Oats pack a big nutritional punch. As a whole grain, they’re an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, making them a perfect “energy” food. But they also contain a surprising amount of protein. In fact, a cup of cooked oatmeal has more than 5 grams of protein. And if you’re looking for dairy alternatives, try oat-based options as they contain more protein than many grain-based non-dairy beverages. For example, Pacific Organic Oat non-dairy beverage is rich and creamy and packs in 4g of protein per cup.
6. Baked Potato (1 large): About 6.28g of Protein
Potatoes have more to offer than most people expect. They are not just carbs – a large potato has about 6 grams of protein. One medium potato contains more vitamin C than a tomato and more potassium than a large banana! Be sure to eat the skins for extra fiber and B vitamins. Potatoes are perfect as a side or main dish. Try a low-calorie, vinegar-based potato salad, bake your own fries or potato curry. If you’re having a baked potato as a main dish, keep calories under control by loading up with healthy veggies like broccoli or chard.
7. Cooked Buckwheat (1 Cup Groats): About 5.68g of Protein
Not familiar with buckwheat? You should be! Often used as flour for pancakes or crepes, buckwheat also comes in kernel form and is actually not a wheat at all. It isn’t even a true grain – it is the fruit of a leafy plant that belongs to the rhubarb family. From a nutrition standpoint, buckwheat is a standout. One cup of cooked buckwheat “groats” (the raw kernels) contains almost 6 grams of protein, 4.5 grams fiber, and other important nutrients like iron, magnesium and potassium. There are many ways to incorporate buckwheat into your diet. Try adding buckwheat flour to soups as a thickener or serve buckwheat in place of rice.
8. Wheat Germ (2 Tbsp): About 3.33g of Protein
If you’re looking for an easy way to boost protein in your diet, look no further than wheat germ. The “germ” of the wheat kernel is the most nutrient-dense part of the wheat plant, and contains more than 3 grams of protein in just two tablespoons. In addition to being a sound source of protein, wheat germ is rich in fiber, potassium, minerals, and important B vitamins like folate, thiamin and vitamin B6. It also provides vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Try adding wheat germ to your baked goods or mix them into breadcrumbs. Your taste buds won’t notice but your body will thank you for the extra protein. For some extra texture, sprinkle some on cereal or oatmeal.
9. Pistachios (1 Ounce): About 6g of Protein
You might think that all nuts contain protein in roughly equal amounts, however not all nuts are the same. Pistachios have 6 grams of protein per serving, more than most other tree nuts.They’re also a good source of fiber. Some dieters believe they should avoid eating nuts because of the high fat and calorie counts, however, frequent nut‐eaters have been found to be thinner and have less abdominal fat compared to those who don’t regularly eat nuts. In addition, snacking on a handful of nuts is one of the best ways to satisfy a craving for something savory and crunchy. When eating in-shell pistachios people tend to consume less, because the de-shelling process slows them down.
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