5 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein

5 Best Vegetarian Sources of Protein

There’s no denying that our culture is obsessed with eating protein. So it should come as no surprise that vegans and vegetarians are constantly questioned about going meat-free—despite the fact that neither diet by definition is lacking in the muscle building nutrient. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you know exactly what we’re talking about—and you’re tired of getting asked questions about the sources and quantity of your protein intake.

Here’s what you need to know: Incomplete proteins—like whole grains, nuts and produce—can join together and produce a complete protein, packed with all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own, so as long as you consume various sources throughout the day, you’re all good! To help you stay healthy and strong, we’ve compiled a list of the best vegetarian proteins for weight loss below. Incorporating them into your diet will ward off symptoms of protein deficiency—like low blood sugar and weakness—and fuel that flat belly fire!

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1 Chia Seeds
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Protein, per tablespoon: 2.5 grams
Though chia seeds don’t contain that much protein, they do contain all nine essential amino acids. Thanks to the seeds’ blood-sugar stabilizing ratio of satiating protein, fats and fiber, they’re the perfect hunger-busting addition to your diet, and can help you lose inches. But that’s not all: ALAs, the specific type of omega-3s found in chia seeds, can decrease the risk of heart disease, according to a Pennsylvania State University study.

EAT THIS! Add chia seeds to yogurt or a homemade vegan smoothie to keep your energy levels soaring all morning long—or try any of these 50 chia seed recipes for weight loss!

2 Soybeans & Soy Products
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Protein, per ½ cup: 2-21 grams

So many ways to eat soybeans, so little time! To get the most bang for your buck, make tempeh, a traditional Indonesian fermented soy product, part of your weekly lineup. A mere half-cup of the stuff packs in 21 grams of protein. Another solid bet: dry roasted soybeans. With a half-cup serving up a whopping 18 grams of protein, it’s one of the best snacks around. Steamed soybeans (4 g protein/0.5 cup), tofu (10 g protein/0.5 cup) and soy milk (2 g protein/0.5 cup) also provide a solid hit of complete proteins and magnesium, a mineral that’s essential to muscle development, energy production and carb metabolism.

Eat This! Eat roasted soybeans solo as an on-the-go snack, or add them to homemade trail mixes. Slice and pan-fry tempeh and use it in lieu of meat on a sandwich, order edamame (steamed soybeans) as an appetizer next time you’re at a Japanese restaurant, or add soy milk to your oatmeal.

3 Hemp Seed
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Protein, per tablespoon: 3.3 grams

The hemp seed — marijuana’s edible, non-intoxicating cousin — is gaining recognition as a nutritional rock star—and for good reason. Studies suggest that hemp seeds can fight heart disease, obesity and metabolic syndrome, likely because they’re rich in fiber and omega-3s.

Eat This! Simply sprinkle the hemp seeds into salads and cereals, or add hemp protein powder to your post-workout shake.

4 Quinoa
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Protein, per ½ cup: 4 grams

With more than 1,400 quinoa products currently on the market, it’s safe to say that the ancient grain is here to stay. Quinoa is higher in protein than most other grains, packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and is also a great source of fiber, a nutrient that can help you feel fuller, longer. It gets better: The mild-tasting grain is also a good source of the amino acid L-arginine, which has been shown to promote muscle over fat gain in animal studies, explains Gina Consalvo, RD, LDN, Eat Well with Gina. Though we can’t be sure findings will hold true in people, it can’t hurt to add more of this healthy grain to your plate.

Eat This! Give quinoa bowls a try or pair the ancient grain with veggies beans to create a well-balanced meal, use the grain to make a veggie burger or up the flavor and nutrient content of a green salad with a scoop.

5 Ezekiel Bread
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Protein, per slice: 4 grams

“Made with sprouted grains, wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet and spelt, [Food for Life’s] Ezekiel Bread contains 18 amino acids—including all of the nine essential amino acids,” says Consalvo. That’s something most other bread products can’t claim. Making this your go-to sandwich base ensures you get at least 8 grams of complete proteins every time you sit down to lunch.

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