Protein is the most important part of your diet– considering that every cell contains protein, it’s clear that it is important to our entire system. Our hair and nails are made of it, it’s used to build and repair tissues, and it makes up all of the most important pieces and processes of the human body. When we choose to commit to a diet free of animal products, it can certainly become a daunting task to figure out how to most effectively maintain protein in our regular intake.
Fortunately, nature has a lot of protein-rich foods that have no effect on animals.
Beans and Legumes
Garbanzo beans (chick peas) and lentils have 17 grams of protein per cup, and are great in soups and stews, and of course the beans make up the main ingredient of the wonder food that is hummus. Add kidney beans, black beans, and black-eyed peas to hearten up those soups, stews, and chilis, at 15, 14, and 13 grams of protein per cup, respectively. Green peas are a delightful side dish or addition to salads and pasta dishes, and each cup packs in 7 grams of protein. Everyone’s favorite snacking legume, the peanut, has 5 grams of protein per ounce!
Cooking with vegetables is this writer’s favorite way to eat. I can’t get enough of them, and that’s okay because they are the healthiest way to eat! Collard greens and spinach add 5 grams of protein per cup to a dish, and throwing in a cup of mushrooms or corn will add another 4 grams. One artichoke has 3.5 grams of protein, and broccoli not only adds deliciousness to literally any meal, but also comes with 3 grams of protein per cup.
Nuts and Seeds
For protein-rich snacking and baking, hemp seeds have a whopping 10 grams of protein per ounce! A cup of almonds or pistachios will yield 6 grams per ounce, while cashews and chia seeds hold 5 grams per ounce. Why not eat a handful of each when you’re feeling peckish?
Soy is the most popular method of protein replacement, and with its flavor-absorbing properties and various textures, it’s not hard to see why. But how much protein are we truly getting? Per 4 ounces, rich, nutty tempeh adds 21 grams of protein to your meal. Edamame is a fantastic appetizer or stir-fry addition, and brings 12 grams per cup to the table. Tofu livens up your dinner with 9 grams per 4 ounces, and if you have a cup of soymilk with it, you’ve added another 7 grams. Enjoy 8 ounces of soy yogurt dessert for an additional 6 grams of protein.
Breads and grains are the stuff of life. Spelt and amaranth contain 11 and 9 grams of protein, respectively. Serve your soy and vegetables on a bed of 1 cup of quinoa for 8 grams, a cup of brown rice for 5 grams, or in a whole wheat tortilla for 5 grams per piece. A slice of whole wheat bread has the same amount as a tortilla. For breakfast, why not try rolled oats oatmeal or shredded wheat cereal for 6 grams per cup?
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