Proteins are an essential part of your diet, but it's important to choose healthy, lean proteins to keep your body going strong.
Protein-rich foods are high in nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. They serve as building blocks for blood, muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, hormones and enzymes, and they provide needed calories. In addition, B vitamins found in proteins help the body release energy, boost a healthier nervous system, and create red blood cells and new tissue. Iron in proteins helps the blood carry oxygen.
Here are a few interesting facts about some of the top sources of vegetarian and vegan protein. While most grains contain a small amount of protein, quinoa (a seed) is unique in containing 9 grams per cup, including the nine essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair but cannot produce on its own.
Plain soy milk contains about 100 calories per cup — comparable to the 80 calories in skim milk. Soy milk has the most protein (4 to 8 grams per 8 ounces), while almond, hemp, and rice milk contain about 1 gram per cup.
Sesame and sunflower seeds are high in protein and healthy fats. Sunflower seed kernels contain the most protein — 7.3 grams per quarter cup — followed by sesame seeds and poppy seeds (5.4 grams).
Finally, a tip chocolate enthusiasts will appreciate: unsweetened cocoa powder contains about 1 gram of protein per tablespoon.
Following are some of the top nutrient-dense foods with a high protein content.
• avocado (one) - 10 grams
• broccoli (1 cup) – 5 grams
• spinach (1 cup) - 5 grams
• kale (1 cup, cooked) - 2.5 grams
• peas (1 cup, cooked) - 9 grams
• sweet potato (1 cup, cooked) - 5 grams
• soybeans (1 cup) - 28 grams (1 cup tofu - 22 grams, 1 cup tempeh - 30 grams)
• lentils (1 cup) - 18 grams
• refried beans (1 cup) - 15.5 grams
• garbanzo beans (1 cup) - 14.5 grams
• pinto, kidney, black beans (1 cup) - 13-15 grams
Nuts and seeds
• cashews (1 oz.) - 4.4 grams
• sesame seeds (1 oz) - 6.5 grams
• walnuts (1/4 cup) - 5 grams
• pistachios ( 1 oz.) - 5.8 grams
• almonds (2 Tbsp.) - 4 grams
• peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter (2 Tbsp.) - approx. 8 grams of protein
Non-dairy milk - Soy, almond (1 cup) - 7-9 grams
• quinoa (1 cup) - 9 grams.
• seitan (flavored wheat gluten) (1 cup) - 52 grams
• oatmeal – (1 cup) - 6 grams.
• sprouted grain bread products - buns, tortillas, bread (per slice) - 7-10 grams
Sources: HealthDay news; The U.S. Department of Agriculture; Health.com; NaturalNews.com