This read will enlighten your thinking when it comes to consuming protein. Vegetable protein is incomplete when it comes to amino acids. A complete protein source is a food that contains all nine essential amino acids in the right amounts that our body needs. Some sources say that seitan only has eight of those nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. While your body can make some of them, nine must be obtained through your diet. These are referred to as essential amino acids and include histidine.
Animal products like beef, fish, dairy, and eggs contain enough of every one of these essential amino acids. Thus, they’re considered complete proteins. However, many plant sources of protein are too low in or missing one or more of these essential amino acids. They’re considered incomplete protein sources. Still, given that plant foods contain varying amounts of amino acids, you can manage to get enough of each essential amino acid throughout the day by eating a varied diet and combining complementary plant proteins. Yet, experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan meal plan can provide you with well-balanced protein.
Here are 13 nearly complete protein sources for vegetarians and vegans
- Quinoa. Quinoa is an ancient grain that looks similar to couscous but has a crunchy texture and nutty flavor. …
- Tofu, tempeh, and edamame. …
- Amaranth. …
- Buckwheat. …
- Ezekiel bread. …
- Spirulina. …
- Hemp seeds. …
- Chia seeds.
Here are some plant-based foods that contain a high amount of protein per serving. They may not be a complete protein but with proper planning all these protein sources can be combined to create a balanced protein meal.
Seitan is a popular protein source for many vegetarians and vegans. Since it is low in lysine, an essential amino acid that humans must get from food, seitan is not considered a complete protein. But many vegans and vegetarians easily solve this problem by eating lysine-rich foods, such as beans, in order to meet their needs. Seitan is gluten. But with as much protein per calorie as chicken breast, it’s also a top source of muscle fuel. Textured and robust, it’s the ‘meatiest’ of the meatless, says award-winning vegan chef and author Tony Bishop-Weston. Seitan is textured wheat protein and is what makes up a lot of the “fake meats” on the market. … This food is usually processed, and it’s not for anyone who’s gluten intolerant, wheat sensitive or bent on consuming only whole foods. Known as wheat meat or wheat gluten, it contains about 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). This makes it the richest plant protein source on this list. You can find this meat alternative in the refrigerated section of most health food stores or make your own version with vital wheat gluten. Seitan can be pan-fried, sautéed and even grilled. Therefore, it can be easily incorporated in a variety of recipes.
Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame
Tofu, tempeh and edamame all originate from soybeans. Soy, it turned out, contains estrogen-like compounds called isoflavones. And some findings suggested that these compounds could promote the growth of some cancer cells, impair female fertility and mess with thyroid function. Soybeans are considered a whole and complete source of protein. This means that they provide the body with all the essential amino acids it needs. Edamame are immature soybeans with a sweet and slightly grassy taste. They need to be steamed or boiled prior to consumption and can be eaten on their own or added to soups and salads. Tofu is made from bean curds pressed together in a process like cheesemaking. Tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans prior to pressing them into a patty. Tofu doesn’t have much taste, but easily absorbs the flavor of the ingredients it’s prepared with. Comparatively, tempeh has a characteristic nutty flavor. All three contain iron and calcium including 10-19 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). Edamame our also rich in folate, vitamin K and fiber. Tempeh contains a good number of probiotics, B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus.
At 18 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), lentils are a great source of protein. Lentils are rich in fiber (50% 0f your recommended daily fiber intake.) They also contain folate, manganese and iron including a good number of antioxidants and other health-promoting plant compounds. Consuming a wide variety of plant foods such as legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains daily will allow for you to get the complete protein you need. These foods also provide additional benefits in the form of vitamins and minerals. The fiber in lentils has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon, promoting a healthy gut. Lentils may also help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, excess body weight and some types of cancer.
Varieties of Beans
Kidney, black, pinto and most other varieties of beans contain high amounts of protein per serving. These are incomplete sources of protein. Classic vegetarian meal pairings that do add up to complete proteins are red beans and rice, corn tortillas and pinto beans, couscous and lentils, and hummus and whole wheat pita. Other plant foods that are high in protein and considered nearly complete proteins are hemp and the grain quinoa. For example, both brown and white rice are low in lysine but high in methionine. In contrast, beans are high in lysine but low in methionine. As such, combining them allows you to get enough of each, as well as the remaining seven essential amino acids, to count as a complete protein. Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are another legume with a high protein content. It should be emphasized that chickpeas are a “complete protein” meaning that they contain all 9 Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s) which is one of the many reasons they have become a such a valued food ingredient for vegetarians and vegans across the globe. Both beans and chickpeas contain about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml). They are also excellent sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, folate, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and several beneficial plant compounds. Studies show that a diet rich in beans and other legumes can decrease cholesterol, help control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and even.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, sold commercially as a yellow powder or flakes. It has a cheesy flavor, which makes it a popular ingredient in dishes like mashed potatoes and scrambled tofu. This complete source of plant protein provides the body with 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber per ounce (28 grams). Fortified nutritional yeast is also an excellent source of zinc, magnesium, copper, manganese and all the B vitamins, including B12. Manganese is considered a trace element or a micromineral — you only need it in small amounts. Magnesium is a micromineral. Daily, your body needs hundreds of times more magnesium than manganese
Spelt and Teff
Spelt and teff belong to a category known as ancient grains. Other ancient grains include einkorn, barley, sorghum and farro. Spelt is a type of wheat and contains gluten, whereas teff originates from an annual grass, which means it’s gluten-free. Spelt and teff provide 10–11 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), making them higher in protein than other ancient grains. Both are excellent sources of various nutrients, including complex carbs, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. They also contain good amounts of B vitamins, zinc and selenium. Spelt and teff are versatile alternatives to common grains, such as wheat and rice, and can be used in many recipes ranging from baked goods to polenta and risotto.
Hempseed comes from the Cannabis sativa plant, which is notorious for belonging to the same family as the marijuana plant. But hempseed contains only trace amounts of THC, the compound that produces the marijuana-like drug effects. Although not as well-known as other seeds, hempseed contains 10 grams of complete, easily digestible protein per ounce (28 grams). That’s 50% more than chia seeds and flaxseeds Hempseed also contains a good amount of magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium. What’s more, it’s a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the ratio considered optimal for human health. Interestingly, some studies indicate that the type of fats found in hempseed may help reduce inflammation, as well as diminish symptoms of PMS, menopause and certain skin diseases. You can add hempseed to your diet by sprinkling some in your smoothie or morning muesli. It can also be used in homemade salad dressings or protein bars.
The little green peas often served as a side dish contain 9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), which is slightly more than a cup of milk. What’s more, a serving of green peas covers more than 25% of your daily fiber, vitamin A, C, K, thiamine, folate and manganese requirements. Green peas are also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and several other B vitamins.
This blue-green algae is definitely a nutritional powerhouse. Two tablespoons (30 ml) provide you with 8 grams of complete protein, in addition to covering 22% of your daily requirements of iron and thiamin and 42% of your daily copper needs. Spirulina also contains decent amounts of magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium and small amounts of most of the other nutrients your body needs, including essential fatty acids. Phycocyanin, a natural pigment found in spirulina, appears to have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Research link consuming spirulina to health benefits ranging from a stronger immune system and reduced blood pressure to improved blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Amaranth and Quinoa
Although often referred to as ancient or gluten-free grains, amaranth and quinoa don’t grow from grasses, for this reason they’re technically considered “pseudo cereals.” They can be prepared or ground into flours like more commonly known grains. Amaranth and quinoa provide 8–9 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml) and are complete sources of protein, which is rare among grains and pseudo cereals. Amaranth and quinoa are good sources of complex carbs, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.
Ezekiel Bread and Other Breads Made from Sprouted Grain
Ezekiel bread is made from organic, sprouted whole grains and legumes. These include wheat, millet, barley and spelt, as well as soybeans and lentils. Two slices of Ezekiel bread contain approximately 8 grams of protein, which is slightly more than the average bread. Sprouting grains and legumes increases the amount of healthy nutrients they contain and reduces the amount of anti-nutrients in them. Studies have identified that sprouting increases their amino acid content. Lysine is the limiting amino acid in many plants and sprouting increases the lysine content. This helps boost the overall protein quality. Sprouting also seems to increase the bread’s soluble fiber, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene content. It may also slightly reduce the gluten content, which can enhance digestion in those sensitive to gluten.
Milk that’s made from soybeans and fortified with vitamins and minerals is a great alternative to cow’s milk. Not only does it contain 7 grams of protein per cup (240 ml), but it’s also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Yet soy milk and soybeans do not naturally contain vitamin B12, so picking a fortified variety is recommended. Soy milk is found in most supermarkets. It’s an incredibly versatile product that can be consumed on its own or in a variety of cooking and baking recipes.
Oats and Oatmeal
Oats and steel cut are an easy and delicious way to add protein to any diet. Although oats are not considered a complete protein, they do contain higher-quality protein than other commonly consumed grains like rice and wheat. Half a cup (120 ml) of dry oats provides you with approximately 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. This portion also contains good amounts of magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and folate.
Wild rice contains approximately 1.5 times as much protein as other long-grain rice varieties, including brown rice and basmati. One cooked cup (240 ml) provides 7 grams of protein, in addition to a good amount of fiber, manganese, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and B vitamins. Unlike white rice, wild rice is not stripped of its bran. This is great from a nutritional perspective, as bran contains fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals. Arsenic is a toxic trace element that may give rise to various health problems, especially when ingested regularly for long periods of time. Washing wild rice before cooking and using plenty of water to boil it may reduce the arsenic content by up to 57%.
Chia seeds are derived from the Salvia hispanica plant, which is native to Mexico and Guatemala. At 6 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber per 1.25 ounces (35 grams), Chia seeds deserve their spot on this list. What’s more, these little seeds contain a good amount of iron, calcium, selenium and magnesium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and various other beneficial plant compounds. They’re also incredibly versatile. Chia seeds have a bland taste and can absorb water, turning into a gel-like substance.
Nuts, Nut Butters and Other Seeds
Nuts, seeds and their derived products are great sources of protein. One ounce (28 grams) contains between 5–7 grams of protein, depending on the nut and seed variety. Nuts and seeds are also great sources of fiber and healthy fats, in addition to iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin E and certain B vitamins. They also contain antioxidants, among other beneficial plant compounds. When choosing which nuts and seeds to buy, keep in mind that blanching and roasting may damage the nutrients in nuts. Consume raw, unblanched versions whenever possible.
Protein-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables contain protein, but the amounts are usually small, and they tend to be incomplete protein. Vegetables with the most protein include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. They contain about 4–5 grams of protein per cooked cup. Although technically a grain, sweet corn is a common food that contains about as much protein as these high-protein vegetables. Fresh fruits generally have a lower protein content than vegetables. Those containing the most include guava, cherimoyas, mulberries, blackberries, nectarines and bananas, which have about 2–4 grams of protein per cup.